Wednesday, December 3, 2008

OnlineSpin: Media Planning Research In The Coming Months

Last week Cory wrote "Turkey Day Thanks!"

Lauren Moores wrote, "Awesome. Anyone who ends on a music reference, particularly Pearl Jam has just made me a bigger fan. Turkey Day Thanks! PJ got me through my dissertation.

Christel Hall wrote, "Cory!!! Come on, man.

With all that's going on in the world you're thankful for -- gadgets??? Your wife and new baby get mention at the END!!!! and then you use the words 'possibly' brightest spots in your year.

Okay, you're young, but man, take a look at your priorities, would you?

Unless you were just kidding, of course."

Ruth McFarland wrote, "Thanks, Cory!

You are by far one of my favorite bloggers and I always enjoy the knowledge, controversy, opinion, insights or whatever you are in the mood to write about on a particular day."

Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Media Planning Research In The Coming Months
By Cory Treffiletti

What's the state of online research and media planning tools?

For years and years, the two primary tools for media planners to gather site data were Nielsen and comScore, and the primary tools for gathering research data were eMarketer, Jupiter and Forrester (which are all still quite valuable). As we enter the age of digital data streams, we enter an age where there is competition for the industry stalwarts in the form of new, primarily free, tools -- and this competition is being met with a "raise of the stakes," so to speak. Not only are the tools that we have available to us free, but now companies are beginning to truly automate the planning process.

Alexa was one of the first non-standard planning and site data tools and was an interesting alternative for media planners for a number of years. Yet Alexa was typically regarded as a secondary data source and not a reliable means for creating media recommendations. Still, Alexa is a good tool that provides a set of insights into traffic for basic sites, apparently culled together from Amazon cookie data and information gathered through the Alexa tool bar installations. It allows for competitive analysis of traffic flow and determination of trends affecting site traffic. The tool bar is a self-selected installation, which can be unreliable and somewhat outdated, but it's still a strong sample size to work with.

Alexa had a strong idea, which a number of other companies have taken and run with. The two leaders in this respect are Compete and Quantcast. Compete utilizes a tool bar and panel methodology, while Quantcast might be the most impressive, providing data in a number of ways that include panel data crossed with tracking pixels and third-party data integrations. Both Compete and Quantcast offer robust sets of data for the user -- and Quantcast has begun to offer a very detailed set of free media planning tools for agencies and marketers, effectively beginning to squeeze Nielsen and comScore in the marketplace. Recently I sat through a strong presentation on Quantcast's media planning tool that heartily impressed me. I know some of the folks over there, all of whom are very strong thinkers, and I was keenly interested to hear where their tool had gone.

More and more marketers have been accepting all these tools as a source of information -- along with a host of additional research products. Since these tools are typically free, they can be of significant value to agency folks. Of course, if we're talking about tools for an agency media planner to consider, we can't overlook Google's products. Google is offering Search Insights, its TV and newspaper planning tools, and a host of other services that are also helping to make planning a more automated and less costly process. Even MSN has its AdCenter product that helps a search buyer create targeted search campaigns, scaling in an effective manner. The big question in my mind is, when will these tools begin to work together and make the planning process a more efficient one?

It still feels as though we're in the wild West with shoot-outs in the street. The business has matured and we're now in the midst of something of a correction economically, which provides agencies and marketers with an ideal time to evaluate the tools they use and consider the implications of costs. In my mind, running an agency these days is a balancing act of determining your immediate client needs vs. your agency's need to become more efficient with processes and planning models. Media planning in the online space is going to get more efficient, and there's no better time than the present to make that happen. The question is, how many resources do you apply towards reworking the planning process and integrating these tools -- vs. just doing it the same old way?

If you're a marketer, this is a perfect chance to evaluate your agency's process and ensure that they're spending your dollars in an efficient, effective manner. I don't mean you should do a full-scale review, just work with your agency, whom I assume you consider to be a valued partner, and help them manage your business properly! Give them some leeway to identify the time to spend improving their processes -- and their service level will increase dramatically, making everyone very happy!

And thanks to those of you who sent me information about your tools and services over the last few months. I look forward to more as the weeks progress!

Cory is president and managing partner for Catalyst SF.

Online Spin for Wednesday, December 3, 2008:

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