How To Produce A Great Media Plan (Part 1)

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

We get asked this a lot – what are the key steps to producing great media planning work. As it’s a hugely complex area, we’ve simplified and codified the process.

N.B. This guide was first serialised on our social channels (please follow us on your preferred channel to get the latest updates and news).

Listed in running order, and in order of impact:

1. Inputs – the hard yards: the research, the audience work, the brand work, the analysis, the competitive reports, the numbers.


2. Knowledge – how well do you know your brands, your clients, their sector. And how you apply that knowledge.


3. The method – the discipline of comms planning. Insights, deductions, source of growth, and cutting strategy to gain advantage. Think Sharp, Ritson, Binet & Field et al.


4. Scheduling – media implementation, tactics, media firsts and innovation. The execution of the campaign - unfortunately the bit most people concentrate on.


5. Outputs – media delivery as measured by media outputs: cover and frequency, buying audiences, impressions, clicks, likes, etc. All maximised and focussed on the campaign tasks and objectives.


6. Outcomes – the sharp end. Your media investment exists for only one reason – to grow your business. How well focussed and aligned is the media plan to your business objectives?

Inputs - The hard yards

The research, the audience work, the brand work, the analysis, the competitive reports, the numbers, the reading. Arguably the most vital part of the journey, this is often the unglamorous side of advertising that few out with agencies and marketing teams ever see. It is a cliché to say a house needs to be built on strong foundations, but it’s a cliché for a reason – it’s true.

· Do your leg work: more is more - right now you just want to know as much as you can about the market, consumers, and brand

· Don’t worry about finding the right insights, that comes later

· Do look at, consider, and interrogate what you’ve done before – previous results and learnings are the best predictor of future performance

· Do study and understand what other players in the market are doing and why, consider the true alternatives your consumers have competing for their £££’s

· Do challenge everything (now is your opportunity) but don’t let challenging become your aim

· Finally, once you’ve done your research move on (Ritson)

The Knowledge

In much the same way a London cabbie has to work hard to learn the knowledge: spending hours, days, and weeks, on the streets learning where every road leads to, where the choke-points are, the obstacles, and the short-cuts. So to the media planner and agency. The Knowledge is what we define as the innate and deep understanding of the clients brand, consumer, and organisation. Here’s how to get better knowledge:

· Product and service sampling – when did your media planners/agency last experience your product or service? Spend time in your store (bricks & mortar, or web), in your call centres, on your delivery trucks? The experience and insight gained – that most marketing teams take for granted – is essential for a media planner/agency living in their agency bubble. The empathy and understanding gained will transform their ability to successfully plan a media campaign that is expertly tailored for your business.

· Go beyond research and TGI – how well does your planner/agency really know your consumer? This can be a real challenge: London bubble, agency bubble, under-30 bubble, educated middle-class bubble, etc. Be aware that conformation bias often gets in the way, as does doing too much research.

· Knowledge and understanding of key stakeholders (within and out with marketing depts) – a good agency will know what the CMO is looking for, do they also know what the CFO, CEO, COO are looking for? What about the NED’s or any of the other important voices that need to be considered and brought along?

· Quality, honesty and robustness of the relationship – our personal favourite. There is an entire industry devoted to client/agency relationships – rightly so, a positive relationship is a game changer, a negative one a game killer. Honesty, desire and passion are key. Ego and arrogance are the killers.

The Knowledge is a performance multiplier - a strong relationship, where the agency is deeply imbedded with the brand, will over-come any deficiencies in the inputs stage. Best of all, it’s free to access, requiring effort and willingness, but nothing more.


Continue reading our How to Produce a Great Media Plan guide here.