Square Peg, Round Hole

We spoke with a Private Equity person a few days ago about a potential brand acquisition from a large multi-national company. This brand had reported spending of over $30MM in AdIntel, most of it in national cable TV. The potential buyer wanted our opinion on their media spend, tactics and how we would approach supporting the brand.

This brand is a victim of a larger multi-national diverse portfolio company who uses a mega media agency to manage their media placement. I’ve worked in those agencies on such brands and media buying takes precedence over media strategy. The situation is a match for both organizations. The agency is tasked with managing multiple brands media needs from a corporate media buy and allocate inventory accordingly. If a new brand’s launch is delayed another brand has to assume the inventory. If creative is delayed, another brand assumes the inventory. The approach here, that works for both companies, is buying the least objectionable inventory that can satisfy any broad-based demographic target. The agency applies this strategy to all of the clients, many of which being large multi-brand portfolios, making negotiating upfront media packages a simple process for the agencies.

When we looked at the actual schedules (from AdIntel) we saw a rotation from amongst over 60 cable networks with inventory running throughout the day, and most heavily in the cheapest programs/dayparts. We saw every cheap Judge show and scandalous talk formats in daytime syndication along with a vast array of other programs. This is a typical large company/large agency media buy.

But that’s not what I’m writing about today. We “get” the need for these companies to work with these agencies on these portfolios and to approach media from this perspective. We don’t agree with it, but we understand why. This is the only way the mega agencies can afford to operate and the marketers can control the process. What we don’t understand are single brand marketers, or companies with more modest budgets where making every dollar count is critical, using these large media agencies getting the same process and the same outcomes in their media buys.  

Smaller brands or simple portfolio companies should be focused on growth, not costs. Their media buys should be curated to their unique targets. The easiest thing in the world for a media agency to do is to define a target based on broad demographics and using no other basis for which media to buy than the cost to reach that demographic. It requires no real strategy, no level of media expertise, nor attention to any unique aspect of the brand and its buyers.

To that end, we recently looked at a TV schedule for a much smaller company with two items supported in TV. AdIntel suggests that the total spend for these two brands was about $6.5MM and both are still in their growth stage, not mature brands.  This marketer uses a big media agency. We see many things we would not do. Here are four callouts from a cursory analysis:

  • Daytime and Overnight cable each had more GRP’s than Prime—not a way to build awareness for growing brands
  • Schedule ran on 30+ cable networks for each brand—too many for the budget (between $3MM and $3.5MM)
  • By using such a vast array of networks and programs, they delivered a broad-based target, resulting in tremendous waste amongst less viable consumers
  • Their commercial clearances were heavily driven into daytime (dramatically over-delivering the older consumer segments) and overnight (limiting overall reach potential).

Why would such a small brand use this approach? It hinders their growth.

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