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Every medium has its own attributes, its own strengths and weaknesses. Some offer broad-based coverage, while others are very targeted. They may be the bedrock of an advertising campaign or be looked upon for secondary media support. Convergent campaigns including TV, online and radio are more than the sum of their parts; they work together, they create synergies that go beyond their individual components.

Television, for example, is almost always considered a primary medium, with the ability to deliver an advertising message to virtually everyone. However, with careful planning and analysis, television can be used to focus more sharply on specific target segments and particular communications objectives.

Key Questions

To make sure you are considering, and ultimately purchasing, the most effective media to meet your communication objectives, ask yourself:

Whom do I want to reach?

The answer to this question will dictate how your media plan will be developed. It is extremely important to first understand who your target audience is from a marketing point of view. A simple age and gender demographic description does not tell you who your target audience truly is. For example, in the case of occupant protection, the target audience in some cases has been described as “young males who do not wear their safety belts when riding in a motor vehicle, especially those who drive pickup trucks.” This target tends to skew more blue-collar, and the programming selected to reach them can be different than that used to reach a general male 18-34 target.

Many television and radio stations, as well as cable systems, subscribe to syndicated qualitative research (Scarborough, Media Audit) that can be very helpful in identifying the most effective media to use based on your marketing target audience description. They also can supply you with the demographic performance information from Nielsen (TV) and Arbitron (radio).

What’s the budget?

The media budget must be compatible with the objectives. Media plans can be designed to reach broader targets (such as adults 18+) or narrower segments (such as men 18-34). In the case of television, the narrower target description (men 18-34) requires greater selectivity of programming that specifically skews to the target. This is almost always more cost-effective; the extent of the differential is based on audience availability, programming that satisfies the target delivery and marketplace supply and demand. Knowing this, the planner must take a realistic look at the media the budget will afford. A lower budget may require focusing on less expensive — but highly targetable — cable TV programming (Comedy Central, TNT) rather than on broadcast TV outlets (Fox, NBC).

Other Questions

In addition to targeting the audience you want to reach, and knowing how much money you have to spend, the following questions can help you find the most effective media to reach a particular target audience:

What level of communication do you want the campaign to achieve?

Are you looking for higher reach (talking to as many members of your target audience as possible) or higher frequency (talking to members of your target audience as many times as possible)? In the case of Click It or Ticket, the advertising campaign is just two weeks long. Due to this very short advertising period, your strategy should focus on building frequency in delivering your message to the appropriate audience. Remember, we are trying to effect a change in behavior. Repeat exposure to the advertising message is needed to do this.

Will the plan use one medium or several media?

If more than one, do you have a sufficient budget to enable you to use each medium effectively? For example, if your plan calls for building frequency, you do not want to over-commit to prime-time programming with broadcast television, which gives you great reach but is probably too expensive to deliver the frequency you want. Husbanding dollars by using less prime-time programming should allow for a cable and/or radio effort to build frequency on top of your broadcast base.

How long will the schedule run?

A short campaign dictates use of those media that build their total potential audience quickly. For example, TV and radio can achieve a large measure of their total reach potential in two weeks, while a weekly magazine can take as much as 10 weeks.

When do you want it to run?

Local TV viewing levels vary from season to season for most target groups in most dayparts (prime time, late night, etc.). Some of these shifts may be very pronounced, especially in the summer. Therefore, identifying these conditions is critical to choosing the correct medium.

Where will it run?

Knowing where your target audience is physically can greatly affect your choice of medium. If your target is clustered in counties that are part of another state’s designated marketing area (DMA), then a localized cable TV effort may be the best way to geographically target this group as opposed to buying the large-market radio or broadcast TV stations in the adjoining state.