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Talon: back to Old School: media planning lessons post-Covid

New work by JCDecaux and Clear Channel reflects changing times, deeper thinking and wider implications for media planning.

By Nick Mawditt

We’ve seen audiences return to most places now (with the notable exception of offices and football grounds) and the ad industry is making, placing and promoting ads to help get brands back on their feet.

In our space in Out of Home, we’ve delivered creative and contextual messages to relevant audiences where they are needed by brands and institutions. The industry, its players and its data have shown incredible resilience in delivering strong targeting, planning and outcomes that meet the conditions of the past eight months.

The application of insight, data, creativity and smart execution – past and present – also points towards a genuine reset in thinking about media planning, maximising audiences in a changed mindset, confidence and location, for brands beset by uncertainty.

Old school thinking and terminology is resurfacing quicker than a Michael Palin documentary series from the 80s. But concepts like attention, priming and integration – channels working together – are a sensible way of navigating the complexities of the current consumer experience.

P² + C = 5

JCDecaux launched a new book last week with Cool Hunter and Media Strategist Justin Gibbons. Justin’s insight and marketing heritage means that his “new formula for media planning post-Covid” is worth a look – even for those put off by the title – and it didn’t disappoint.

P² + C = 5 is an invitation to rethink planning with a new formula for 2020 and beyond. Looking beyond the formula itself, it’s a straightforward and clear interpretation of how channels work together to serve brands. A well-documented over-investment in the bottom of the marketing funnel (activation and the performance misnomer) in recent years have weakened brand performance. BrandZ’s top 75 brands have declined in value. Like so many things pre-Covid, this was a signal of change already evident.

P² represents public and private marketing, working in tandem. Collated evidence shows how these elements should work together more than they do, and also that they are more closely integrated than ever. The mobile device brings channels like OOH, TV and radio closer to our personal media experiences. For brands, tapping into both sides is paramount to reach a rounded connection with audiences.

Post-Covid, the public media domain is a showcase for truth and trust, where brands can project reliability and stature. For the Out of Home industry, this is the effect of the improvement in the channel fuelled by investment, reaching audiences in the right places, data, technology, aesthetics and delivering outcomes.

Brand messages in the public domain can prime private marketing to work harder. A theme proven in the early work of Ocean Outdoor’s neuroscience, this is something brands are coming to realise; Facebook for example has reported similar outcomes. The value of reach and activation in combination is now demanded universally in our industry, even if we sometimes lose sight of how we get to the right outcome. According to the book, this reframes us away from brand response/performance measures, which haven’t served the marketing industry that well.

Back to the formula. C is for creative. Not lost in the equation, we know from any ad performance metrics (and frequently overlooked in econometrics) is the importance of getting the creative message right. Never has context been more relevant than now, for advertising cut through. Never have media assets been easier to channel and apply across format. In Out of Home, digital certainly means digital, with fully integrated outcomes that are both seamless and effective.

The 5 solution references outcome-based planning and the growing importance of multiple factors here. Trust, attention, awareness, consideration – and activation – drive most relevance across the communication spectrum.
Trust because it’s 2020 and we’re just more cynical about everything. From institutions, to advertising per se and, yes, to brands. More brands will likely demand trust KPIs and finding a balance in brand communications is paramount. Attention is a concept that’s regaining traction (there’s an Attention Council) and something that’s again become more viable than viewability metrics.

Awareness, consideration and activation are outcomes that brands need with different strategies. “Brand response is not just about one metric” says Gibbons. “Getting it right will rebalance the funnel,” mindful that – as featured in Marketing Week – for “two thirds of customer journeys that involve a search click, the ad didn’t actually generate the sale, it acted as a signpost, helping someone who had already made their decision to complete their purchase.”

Brand Stories

The work resonates strongly with Clear Channel’s latest initiative, a project to Big Up Your Brand Stories. Insight into two key, albeit broad, target groups, Gen Z and Millenials – responsible for a third of UK earnings, but influencing and activating significantly more spend – shows how trust and quality are replacing price as relevant metrics.

It seizes on the P² element by highlighting that the purchase journeys of these audiences show the digital blending with the physical, with offline experiences the driving force and inspiration for most online purchases. There remains a real desire to see and hold products before buying and in experiencing the retail space.

Audiences are still buying in this way post-Covid and have returned to the high street and shopping arena, but are now going shopping to go buying – i.e. with more intent than previously, combining safety concerns with the relief of a leisure activity they enjoy above most.

As Justin Gibbons concludes in the book, the current environment offers a real “chance to rethink and reinvent how we think about deliver more effective and more balanced communications.” Now is the time to really reappraise how we are communicating. Defining channels into public and private, and allocating strategies accordingly seems incredibly logical.

There’s now an increasing body of evidence to suggest it’s a good idea.

Nick Mawditt is managing partner of Talon Outdoor.

About Talon: Talon Outdoor is an independent Out of Home media specialist and a significant player in the Out of Home agency sector with a focus on delivering smarter, creative, technology-led and integrated OOH communications. Combining independence with a collaborative approach, Talon promotes open working between agencies, clients and media partners.

Talon has achieved the Campaign Best Places Number 1 Medium sized UK Company to Work For and has also featured in the Sunday Times Fast Track 100, as No. 1 in Best Companies and in LSE’s 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain.

Talon handles the Out of Home media for several of the UK’s leading advertising brands through Omnicom Media Group UK agencies, along with other agencies including AMS Media Group, JAA, Havas Media Group, Goodstuff, Ptarmigan Media and Republic of Media.

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