Planning for Change

Planning for Change: The Ins and Outs of Flexible Media Buys

Written byFIG Team
July 21, 2020

The reputations and capabilities of media platforms can change overnight, and brands need to be able to pivot their dollars at any time. Here’s how to stay adaptable in our ever-evolving media climate.

If your 2020 media buy included your first big spend on movie theater ads, or an enormous billboard on a main road that people won’t be driving much for the time being, you’re likely already retooling your strategy — and rather frantically at that — and probably don’t even have time to be reading this.

But if you’re not in this extreme scenario, you’re still not off the hook. This isn’t the time to proceed with literally any part of that sparkly spreadsheet you created for your 2020 brand strategy — including your media buying. Because as much as you thought it through, it’ll need an overhaul to adapt to a level of unpredictability that wasn’t thought possible just six months ago.

Flexible media buying (along with simplified storytelling and uninterrupted listening) is one of the pillars of FIG’s Dynamic Storytelling™ strategy, meant to help brands respond to, and successfully weather, the current landscape of uncertainty. Though we’ve always believed in fluid media buying, recent events have propelled the approach from a nice-to-have to a must-have. With the cancellation of virtually every tentpole media event — the Olympics, the Oscars, countless music festivals, and all major sports seasons, to name a few —marketers can no longer rely on their traditional safety nets for getting eyes, ears, and consideration. 

Marketers can no longer rely on their traditional safety nets for getting eyes, ears, and consideration. 

What’s more, in the wake of large-scale Facebook boycotts, campaigns against misinformation on Twitter, and a growing digital detox movement, consumers and brands alike are increasingly wary of the social media giants that once made up the lion’s share of digital media placements. While there is no overnight solution to becoming more nimble, here are four brief tips to help you make the pivot:

  • Buy quarterly. This is perhaps the most important. Even if it costs more than a yearly buy, it’s worth it to buy in quarterly increments or even less, in the face of a yearly deal being offered. (We actually predict that quarterly will become the new yearly, but until then, avoid being strong-armed into a yearly commitment.) While it’s important to plan for the full year as always, this helps ensure that within that year, you can pivot with the culture and stay relevant amid an ever-shifting media calendar.

  • Rethink social media. The set-it-and-forget-it Facebook strategy is just not viable anymore, largely due to wavering consumer trust in social media behemoths for all sorts of reasons, from lack of transparency to excessive sharing of customer information. (Then there’s the whole political-ads-in-an-election-year thing.) That’s not to say you should pivot from social media entirely: People are home, they’re more connected than ever, and that isn’t changing anytime soon. So how do you avoid investing in a platform that may fall out of favor? Diversify your placements, consider alternatives to Facebook and Google (think: LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit, and more), and heed the above note on quarterly buying.

  • Buy smarter. Your media budget has likely dropped, but don’t just leave it as it was and adjust every line item down proportionally. Instead, start from scratch and optimize your budget for efficiency. First, embrace digital media contracts — all channels, including TV, can be purchased digitally, which offers more addressable opportunities to reach audiences and, crucially, more flexible contracts. Also, now’s the time to rethink your fixed budget allocations. You can be sure that target audience habits, economic factors, and related marketing objectives will change quickly, so roll out pre-approved tiered budgets to allow for quick turnarounds when media consumption patterns shift.

  • Be flexible with KPIs. Considering the alarming rates of unemployment and widespread financial anxiety among Americans, your 2020 conversion rates will likely not meet projections. In place of revenue- and growth-focused KPIs, lean into monitoring customer-centric outcomes: time saved, convenience, ease of use, and simple communications. Though customer loyalty won’t necessarily track with hard sales, those who might not have as much to spend now will keep you top of mind for when they recover. 

For many brands, the compounding crises of 2020 have thrown business-as-usual operations into serious question — and the year isn’t over yet. Amid untold uncertainty, it is not enough to simply pull back on media spend or pause a campaign launch: you must restructure your approach from the ground up, injecting flexibility into every strategic decision and public communication. With a nimble, tiered, and digital-first media plan, you can quickly pivot dollars towards new opportunities and stay relevant with core audiences as behaviors and culture shift.

To learn more about Dynamic Storytelling™, see our holistic strategy deck and accompanying articles on simplified storytelling and uninterrupted listening.

© FIG Agency 2020 All Rights Reserved

Privacy Policy | Terms of Use