Is Media Planning the Driver or the End-Product of Promotional Strategy?

Article excerpt

Introduction

"How empty is theory in the presence of fact" (Mark Twain, 1835-1910). The world is such a complex network of circumstances that people have continuously been developing models and theories in their effort to make some sense of why and how things happen. Unfortunately, as this paper intends to expose, real-life situations rarely take into account the actual theories from which they originate, especially in the fields of media planning and buying, where intuition is still the guiding principle.

The fragmentation and segmentation of media, brands and audiences after the 1980s have created fundamental changes in the advertising industry--the media planning and buying process is increasingly complicated, options are various and constantly changing, and the role of media planners is differently perceived.

The media selection procedure is now suddenly more complex than 20-30 years ago. The new problem is how to creatively use different types of media in order to obtain the desired results. This synergy between the creative and the media planning departments could lead to positive or even spectacular results.

Therefore, the paper explores the areas of media planning and buying through comparing and contrasting theory and practical case studies, in an attempt to demonstrate the relativity of the advertising (and particularly the media planning) industry, its dependability on multiple and fluctuating variables, and therefore its intricate nature.

Review of Related Literature

As defined by the American Marketing Association (cited in Belch & Belch, 2007, p.7), marketing represents "the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion and distribution of ideas, goods and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organisational objectives." Thus, marketing can essentially be understood through the four P's of the marketing mix, namely Product, Price, Place and Promotion, which in turn clearly explains the relation of inclusion, and not equality, as it is often confused, that exists between promotion and marketing.

Belch & Belch (2007) identify promotion as "the coordination of all seller-initiated efforts to set up channels of information and persuasion in order to sell goods and services or promote an idea" (p.15) and describe the promotional mix as consisting of various tools used to accomplish communication objectives (advertising, direct marketing, interactive marketing, sales promotion, PR and personal selling). Figure 1 further demonstrates that the promotional strategy planning process is part of the marketing plan (or at least should be so for all companies that still plan their strategies).

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Similarly, the promotional strategy planning process (or the "Integrated Marketing Communications Planning Model" as conceived by Belch & Belch (2007, p.28)) can be separated into five strategic steps, presented in Figure 2.

[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

Percy & Elliott (2005) sustain that this planning model is what "a manager should take in developing a strategic plan for a brand's marketing communications" (p.49) and that consistency between marketing objectives and communication objectives is impervious for the effectiveness of a campaign. As it can be noticed, Percy & Elliott, together with most theoreticians, propose the model in which media strategy (or media planning) comes at the end of the promotional plan, as a step which is influenced and conditioned by all previous steps, arguably an end product of the promotional strategy.

Media planning is generally accepted as "determining which communication channels will be used to deliver the advertising message to the target audience" (Belch & Belch, 2007, p.32); however, since the 1990's, the position and importance of the media plan in the context of the promotional strategy have been highly debated subjects in the advertising industry. …