Marginal gains and effective media planning in 2023

If media planning is about marginal gains then TouchPoints data should be the baseline of your planning

Simon Crunden, Managing Director at Republic of Media and CEO of The Freethinking Group breaks down the findings of the IPA's latest Making Sense: The Commercial Media Landscape report and why diversity in consumption of commercial media means diverse media planning is needed.

The release of a new wave of TouchPoints data is an exciting moment for media planners as we explore a regularly updated, gold-standard dataset on GB media habits. It also, crucially, gives us a perspective of time spent and attention, rather than reach alone.

Simon Crunden Managing Director, Republic of Media & CEO, The Freethinking Group

In 2015, while reach held relatively steady, TouchPoints analysis by our planners was signalling the shift in time spent amongst young viewers from linear TV to online and social video. That trend is now reflected in diverse media plans which combine multiple video channels for broad reach. So, what can we learn from the 2022 data to make our 2023 media plans more effective?

It’s now clear that the pandemic period sits apart in terms of consumer behaviour. Rather than permanent shifts, much of what changed reverted back to pre-pandemic consumption as life returned to normal – a lot of people still consume radio and OOH during the day, then turn to video in the evening to relax and be entertained. The proportion of those working from home at least once a week, which even today feels like a revolutionary movement, has only grown by 6% from the 2019 level of 46%.

The power of a video ad delivered on a TV set is still unrivalled, but TV’s consistent share of the media day over the last decade hides a growing gulf between the habits of older and younger consumers. In 2023, most linear TV impacts are delivered to over 55s, while under 35s consume far more online video. Planning for an all-adult audience is pointless because two opposing trends can merge to present a different trend.

The diversity in consumption of commercial media, particularly for younger audiences, means diverse media planning is needed, balancing multiple channels to achieve reach.

Simon Crunden Managing Director, Republic of Media & CEO, The Freethinking Group

For 16-34s, time spent with the box is dwarfed by the mobile phone. Creating ads that work effectively on mobiles has vastly improved in recent years, but privacy and cookie issues mean it’s much harder to serve the right ad to the right person. This puts walled gardens in a strong position, but with daily online hours appearing to have plateaued, any growth from new platforms like TikTok is likely to come at the expense of existing channels like Facebook (which may explain why Meta is one of the biggest spenders on political lobbying in the US).

What is clear is that VOD and CTV – whether subscription or ad-funded – will be a significant element of broad-reach media plans for every brand this year. The price will need to come down for Netflix and online video to compete with linear TV on ROI, but the reach and time spent suggests they have a major role to play in the GB commercial landscape.

If media planning is about marginal gains – the consumer insights that optimise each investment decision – then TouchPoints data should be the baseline of your planning, just as it was in 2015. Consumer-need states may not have changed all that much, but the media plan to get your brand noticed certainly needs to. If your agency or client trading is committing you to a high volume of spend with one channel or sales point, then you’re likely to be at a distinct disadvantage against agile competitors and their freethinking planners.

Simon Crunden is Managing Director of independent media planning & buying agency Republic of Media. He is also CEO of parent company The Freethinking Group which includes data visualisation business Intelligence22 and other marketing services companies, all based in Manchester and Edinburgh offices.

This article first appeared in Making Sense: The Commercial Media Landscape (Fifth edition). The full report and the IPA TouchPoints data is available for free for IPA TouchPoints subscribers, while an eight-page Executive Summary is free for everyone to download.

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The opinions expressed here are those of the author and were submitted in accordance with the IPA terms and conditions regarding the uploading and contribution of content to the IPA newsletters, IPA website, or other IPA media, and should not be interpreted as representing the opinion of the IPA.

Last updated 01 May 2024