Adrenalin rush associated with overnight responses to competitor initiatives is the stuff that marketing legends are made of. Nobody can deny the critical need for strong tactical responses to competitor initiatives, especially when the battle lines are clearly defined. However, short term tactical responses become an issue when they start to dictate strategy itself. One of the soundest tests to gauge this is the level of compliance to the strategic plans of the brand and to the gate-keeping processes laid down by the organisation even for tactical moves. If the marketing spend process compliance is not very high, then either the processes themselves need to be restructured or there is a need to reinforce the need for compliance. In many cases we observe, that the rigor of challenging media planning and buying decisions is not formalised through standardised guidelines or documentation. While in some cases, a lot of data is accessible and a lot of presentations are made, robust decision making frameworks are still not available to the marketing teams. Is there a standard checklist which marketing teams can access to check if “Weeks on Air” (WOA) and Frequency recommendations are logical for the category? Is there dynamic buying framework which allows for channel wise spend plans to be reviewed based on leading predictive variables? Is there sufficient analysis to justify the impact buys? Players who are able to develop and constantly stick to process guidelines and strategic plans utilize their marketing rupees significantly better. Some relevant indicators tracked regularly in form of CMO level spend efficiency dashboards can help estimate the magnitude of the issue – number of unplanned ‘additional’ campaigns launched, number of campaigns with budget overruns, number of campaigns with success rate in terms of reach and frequency , etc. Best practice companies adopt process frameworks even for tactical initiatives which can have built in flexibility to ensure spend optimisation without compromising time to market.
Building internal media capabilities:
Marketing teams have traditionally focused on activities that are generally considered to have a significant bearing on top-line such as consumer insights, market research, innovation channel / distribution management and the like; media is viewed often as a ‘cost’ item that needs to be optimised, but not necessarily as a lever that can actually improve returns based on micro-targeting of the consumer. Hence, marketers today may not necessarily understand the intricacies of media industry and its business models. With an increasing focus on micro-targeting the consumer in the media clutter, it is imperative for the marketing team, the owners of the brand, to strengthen their internal capabilities. The added complication in the Indian market place as compared to developed markets such as US is the lack of transparent and third party data around cost benchmarks and actual performance in a medium like OOH. Hence there is a high reliance on the media agency in India to provide the baseline for any such analysis resulting in a high dependence on them for media ideation, campaign planning and post buy analysis. Marketing teams who understand their target audience’ media consumption habits, competitive benchmarks can contribute to evaluation of media mix choices and brand led media innovation. In fact experience shows that the marketing team can contribute significantly to media buying negotiations along with the agency. Ability to go beyond discounts on “inflated” rate cards will require marketing teams to develop knowledge about media at par with their suppliers – best-practice Indian companies have already started the process of investing in internal capability building.