HOW MEDIA PLANNERS PUT ADVERTISING IN ITS PLACE
Debby Hartke, Contributing Editor
With apologies to advertising creative teams everywhere (and Duke Ellington), your award-winning print ad don't mean a thing if it ain't got that targeted reach.
Ag marketers, sit up and take note. It's likely more of your advertising dollars go toward running that print ad than creating it, so it pays to make smart media decisions.
Before deciding what publications should carry your products' ad, the first step is creating clear marketing and communications strategies. If strategies determine advertising is the way to go, here enter your agency's media planners, those placement pros who plot print's potential to take your message where you want. Certainly, print publications are but one part of the entire advertising media mix. But since this column focuses on print, the emphasis here will be on ag publications.
"The ultimate goal is to create an integrated plan for the client's products," says Geoff Pickering, media supervisor with Valentine-Radford Advertising, Kansas City. "The advertising and marketing communications strategies should drive the media strategies."
When strategies point to print, media planners scrutinize available ag publications to develop recommendations.
"Two things stand head and shoulders above everything else," says Irene Hindman, vice president, media director with Bader Rutter & Associates, Brookfield, Wis. "No. 1, is the focus of the editorial consistent with the consumers we're trying to reach. And No. 2 is credibility. If the publication doesn't have credibility, the first point doesn't matter."
There seems to be no disputing that print plays a major role in an advertising plan.
"Print is really the backbone of any plan we write in ag," Hindman says. "No media comes close to print in reach. If you're in three or four publications, you've reached just about everybody who can read."
Media planners review audit statements to verify publications' readership claims. They also use tools like Starch FARMS to compare reach and frequencies of a given publication against an audience.
It's important to track circulation and demographics over time and to keep an eye on how frequently the circulation demographics are requalified.
"Anything longer than two years is a red flag," says Vicki Henrickson, media supervisor with McCormick Advertising Agency. Henrickson is based in Davenport, Iowa. "I always do my own circulation analyses. Starch is a good additional source, but doesn't replace my own number-crunching."
Audits and research get you to ýthe cold-hearted numbers side of the equation," says Doug Mertz, senior vice president with Meyocks & Priebe Advertising, West Des Moines, Iowa. "Then you get into the whole issue of readership. Do people read what they say they read?"
With crop and livestock operatons consolidating and growing larger, an increasingly important consideration for both advertisers and media planners is the question of who is really reading that magazine.
"One of the things I'd like to find out, especially in the livestock side of industry, is how deep into an operation does a magazine get," Mertz says. "It used to be that when you got to the owner, you got to the person who's making the decisions. Now, we're looking at many decision makers."
The strength of a publicationÝs editorial and its editorial staff doesnÝt escape scrutiny. There needs to be significant, appropriate editorial to complement the product.
"The only way to evaluate these qualitative factors is to read the publications on a regular basis," Henrickson says. "It takes time, but is vital to understanding the producerÝs relationship with the publication."
An editor's perspective is considered, too. "If an ad should be placed next to a particular editor's column, we want to know what he or she writes about a topic, as it relates to the client," says Jennifer Hinds, director of integrated media with Osborn & Barr Communications, Clayton, Mo.
The added value and extra capabilities publications can bring to the table play a bigger role today.
"Several years ago, you'd just buy an ad in a magazine and you'd call it a day," Pickering says. "Now, accountability and return on investment are the new marching orders. Not only is it an ad, but it's got to be placed next to relevant copy in the first third of the publication on the right-hand side. In terms of added value, we look at whether they are going to give us a belly band or an additional insert."
Publications should be a principal pick for advertising because readers are in a receptive frame of mind when they spend time with a publication, Pickering says.
"The reader is looking in that place for a source of information," he says. "They're always looking for new and useful information to manage their farms better." AM
Debby Hartke is a writer and communications consultant based in St. Louis, Mo.