Business leaders have never had more opportunities available for them to promote or advertise products and services. On the flip side, they have never had to market their products and services to an audience that has to deal with so many distractions.

When devising a media or branding campaign, today’s marketing geniuses have a full tool box at their disposal: traditional methods, such as print advertising and direct marketing; email marketing; Web-based advertising; and multiple social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, as well as mobile marketing.

So how do you juggle and weigh all the available options?

“When determining what mix of media channels are best, the following variables determine our media recommendation and media mix for an effective media campaign,” says Betsey Griffin, media director for LAVIDGE.

•  Competitive analysis: Number of competitors, how much they spend and where they are advertising.

•  Target analysis: What is the target’s media usage and is there a secondary audience to consider?

•  Goals: Reach vs. frequency. Minimum recommended media levels. Should there be more emphasis on upper funnel or lower funnel tactics?

•  Geography

•  Seasonality. Concentrated time frame or continuity campaign?

• Budget priorities

“The most important elements of any media campaign are the questions you ask before you even start,” says Fraser Elliott, senior vice president and media director at LaneTerralever. “What’s the problem we’re trying to solve? Not just the business challenge, but the behavioral change required to achieve the business result. What are the audience’s inflection points and influences at each stage of their journey to conversion? What’s the role of each channel at those different stages?  What are the best messaging opportunities with every channel and stage? What are the key performance indicators and how will we measure them? When we answer these questions, we can design a plan that addresses the challenge at hand.”

Impact of technology

With technology and constantly evolving social media platforms today, business leaders have amazing opportunities at their fingertips when it comes to their media campaign, according to Dawn Webley, senior director of media services at OH Partners.

“We have all heard it: Attribution modeling,” Webley says. “It is not easy, but it is possible. Today, we have the ability to more clearly track the effectiveness of an all-encompassing media campaign across all media. With the information available, a media campaign can more clearly line up with the results the business leaders are looking for, whether it be sales, phone calls, web forms, clicks, or more.”

The digital and social landscape also gives business leaders significant advantages in terms of targeting, efficiency, reporting, optimization and measurement, says Karen Rulapaugh, corporate media director for R&R Partners.

“With search, Facebook and Instagram, businesses can reach a highly targeted audience on a neighborhood, city, regional or national level, and optimize the campaign in flight to ensure overall campaign effectiveness,” Rulapaugh says. “A social or search campaign can be executed with minimal costs (as little as $5, depending on the overall audience and geography), which allows anyone to create an effective media campaign.”

But Elliott says marketing in 2018 hasn’t gone completely to the techies.

“There are two big opportunities: Machine and human,” Elliott says. “On the machine side, automation is driving better-than-ever efficiencies in the pay-per-click and programmatic display spaces. If you’re still doing it all manually, you’re doing it wrong. Let the machines do the work while you supervise, strategize, and adjust. On the human side, we’re finding better and more authentic ways to build clients into content. Whether it’s tailoring or creating programming with media partners, or working with influencers and content creators, there are clear opportunities to build business that go well beyond advertising.”

Planning ahead

With all the options available — print, TV, radio, digital — how does a business leader know what will boost her or his business?

“There is no magic formula for the perfect media plan, no silver bullet media channel,” Griffin says. “All mediums have their strengths and weaknesses and all work better with support of other media channels.”

While well executed and on-target media are necessary, Griffin says business leaders must remember the importance of the message. Creative, clear communication of that message is vital.

“Although humbling for media planners and buyers to admit,” Griffin says, “the creative message is a more critical factor than the media selection in a successful campaign.”

Webley agrees.

“Making sure that a message is in front of the right target, at the right time, for the right price is what planning a media campaign is all about,” she says. “With the research, technology and tracking abilities in 2018, this is possible more now than ever before.”

But Elliott says that our modern obsession

with results often leads to focusing exclusively on things that are easy to measure – and the channels that produce them – but at the expense of options that aren’t as quantifiable, but may be just as critical to success.

“‘Action’ metrics, like visits and conversions, tell us almost nothing about ‘Think’ metrics, like awareness, consideration and purchase intent,” Elliott says, “but these metrics eventually impact ‘Action’ success. The trouble is, measuring ‘Think’ metrics is harder and costlier. There’s a tendency to abandon their measurement and the channels that drive their success in favor of the bottom of the funnel.”

Elliott says that’s a mistake in the long run.

“Fertilizer’s effects are hard to measure, but if we stop investing in fertilizer to buy more harvesting equipment because the harvest is easy to measure,” Elliott says, “we’ll eventually learn that we don’t have good fruit to harvest anymore.”