[1994] Seven Strategies for Media Success

by Bethany Adams on Aug 6, 2015 1:58:00 PM ERA 25th Anniversary

moneyThe media buying landscape has dramatically changed in the past 20+ years. Technology has improved so that marketers can more easily identify target audiences, there are more options than ever for media placement, and big data allows us to analyze every piece of the puzzle so spending can be optimized. 

But how have the strategies behind successful media buys changed? This throwback article from 1994 identifies seven strategies for media success. Take a look!

This article by Lee Fredericksen originally appeared in the 1994 November issue of NIMA News. 

Probably the single biggest threat to the health of the infomercial industry is escalating media prices. The effect is that perfectly good products are being prematurely withdrawn… and shows that should be successful are needlessly failing.

Strong demand for the time has set the stage where a volatile combination of greed and naiveté has resulted in an “OPEC” like price run up. Ultimately, relief will come in the form of increased supplies as well as increasing sophistication on the part of purchasers. And of course there will be an involuntary thinning of the ranks as some learn the hard way.

But what to do until this happens? Here are some proven media survival strategies that can help you prosper. Some may seem obvious, but we’re including them because we see folks who ought to know better who are violating them every day.

1. Manage profitability on a broadcast by broadcast basis.
Everyone tracks profitability by broadcast, but many only manage it in the aggregate… either out of laziness or a belief it will all average out. It doesn’t. If a time slot isn’t working renegotiate it or get out. Rotating unprofitable shows through a poor time period is no solution.

2. Don’t overpay.
The most obvious strategy but too often ignored in an ill-conceived rush to buy at any cost. We have been preempted by people paying three times as much for a time period. Will it pay out? No way. Did they need to overpay by three times to get the time? No. A calm hand on the tiller and a knowledge of what a show can handle can make all the difference.

3. Test different buyers.
That’s the beauty of direct response. You can evaluate the performance of your primary agency or in-house buyers. It’s as simple as assigning a subset of your media to a competing agency. The result is increased focus (nothing like a little competition), and usually an improved cost per order. It’s not uncommon to see a 20-30% difference in performance.

4. Add flexibility.
The more degrees of freedom in your buying, the better the negotiation position you are in. If your buy does not need to be constrained to a particular city, time period, station type, etc.., you can be free to follow the best CPOs. Without alternatives there is no negotiation, only begging. Some folks put artificial constraints, for example, “no late nights” in the absence of test results. The unfortunate result is usually an unnecessarily high cost per order. Also, last minute “fire sales” are a great way to reduce media costs.

5. Add downside protection.
By using guaranteed payout, per inquiry (or per sale) deals and other forms of risk sharing you can put a floor in performance. Sometimes even the modest use of these techniques can rescue a marginal show.

6. Test smaller markets.
It’s easier to place one $5,000 buy than to place ten $500 buys. Therein lies your advantage. With a bit more work you can find better payout where others “can’t be bothered” to tread. Does this always work? No… but for the right product it can be a lifesaver.

7. Concentrate on telemarketing.
We are constantly amazed that people don’t focus more attention here. A simple script change can improve closing percentage by 20-30%! That translates directly into an improved cost per order. Changing an upsell can improve margins by several dollars on each order. On one recent project, a series of inbound telemarketing script changes cut the cost per order in half… at virtually no cost.

These strategies may seem modest or even obvious. But when implemented well, our experience is that it is reasonable to expect fairly significant improvements in cost per order… typically in the 25-50% range. And in these days of sky high media prices that’s welcome news to most marketers. 

A lot has changed in the media buying landscape since 1994, but the some of the same strategies ring true today. What would you add to this list in 2015? Which of these have become outdated? Consider all of your options when buying media and the results could be pleasantly surprising! 


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