How advertisers and agency planners can successfully navigate their way through the international communications planning process, by Sonia Marguin, head of research at Euronews and a board member of inTV.
Planning the media for an advertising campaign has become increasingly complex as new channels and the rise of technology have shifted the media landscape forever. However, throw in an international target audience across multiple regions and platforms and the international planning process becomes a daunting affair.
Perhaps this is why many global brands plan and implement ‘multi-national’ campaigns across a number of individual countries, but fewer are successfully executing truly ‘international’ pan-European campaigns that take a single, unified brand message across the whole region.
And yet there is a major cost benefit in taking this approach, rather than advertising through national channels, as international channels tend to be much more efficient as you reach the whole of Europe with one TV spot.
In addition, the audiences they offer tend to be more affluent, internationally-minded consumers who are harder to reach through traditional media outlets – so this is a particularly useful route for luxury, finance, automotive, travel and tourism brands.
Not only that, a truly international advertising campaign is also the best way to create consistency with brand messaging, helping to strengthen brand values across a target audience – plus, specifically talking about international TV channels, ad breaks tend to be shorter so impact can be greater.
As many media planners have never implemented a truly international communications campaign, we have created an in-depth ‘Guide to International Communications Planning‘. From this I have pulled out below the six key steps advertisers and agency planners need to take to successfully navigate their way through the international communications planning process.
1. Research your market and media
The majority of international media outlets – international TV, online and print titles – are monitored by audience measurement firms such as Ipsos or Kantar Media. This kind of Advertising Intelligence Data is invaluable for identifying the best international media channels to reach a specific target audience.
Amongst the key information needed for evaluation is how well matched the profile of their target audiences are to an advertiser’s own (in terms of demographics and behaviour) and the size of the audience each channel provides.
As many pan-European media targets are specialists in specific areas (eg sport, nature, business, news) depending on an advertiser’s market sector, smaller channels or titles may actually deliver more of the desired target audience than the bigger ones. Advertising Intelligence Data can also show how much, how frequently and on which platforms competitors are advertising.
2. Create an international media brief
Next create a shortlist of the best media platforms and outlets for an international campaign. Invest time in writing a clear media brief that summarises the communications strategy, objectives and budget spend.
It should include: detailed background to the campaign including information on the client, product and positioning, competitors and previous advertising history; target audience; business and marketing objectives; priority countries and regions; preferred media platforms and any that should be disregarded; creative/content requirements; campaign timing; key performance indicators.
This should then be circulated to the shortlisted media owners to respond with proposals on how they intend to achieve the objectives, including research that demonstrates how well they connect with the audience, any brand exclusivity, promotions, programme sponsorship, conferences etc that they can offer.
3. Position international media appropriately within the planning process
A decision can now be made on which international media outlets are best suited to help you achieve the objectives. When assessing the best media routes for a campaign, think of international media not as an umbrella but as a base.
Having identified the best international channels to reach the target audience effectively with one campaign, it is then possible to ‘top up’ your activity at a local level to plug any gaps, or add market-specific elements to the campaign so that you get the best of both worlds – strong unified messaging and cost benefits for the core international campaign enhanced with geographically-tailored components that build even greater relevance.
4. Decide on single versus cross-platform
It’s worth thinking not only about each international media outlet’s core offering, but also about their online components as well. Most have excellent websites that their regular audiences often value as highly as their TV or print offering and, as international media consumers tend to be frequent travellers, fulfil their need for content as they are on the go.
It should therefore be no surprise that the latest audience figures from the Ipsos Affluent Survey 2015 show that, on a monthly basis, international media’s digital platforms add an additional 43% audience to the live TV reach.
5. Campaign execution
No two media campaigns will ever be executed and booked in the same way. However, typically an international media campaign will be easier to execute as there will be fewer buying points required than for multi-national campaigns, plus there are likely to be fewer creative executions required.
An advertiser may decide to plan, book and implement the campaign themselves or hire a media agency, depending on their experience and resource available. Either way, a detailed media plan needs to be compiled containing timings, expenditure, predicted reach and frequency for the campaign across the various media outlets chosen – and fees and slots negotiated.
At the same time creative material will be produced, either by a creative agency, the advertiser or by the in-house creative team of the media owner, so that everything is in place for the campaign launch.
6. Measure campaign success
It’s essential to decide in advance how you are going to evaluate campaign success so that you can ensure the right measures are in place. The best way of measuring campaigns is through consumer surveys. This is because they enable advertisers to ask people about all the media channels they consume, as well as about the audience itself, its lifestyle habits and product choices.
So, advertisers can identify audience response such as changes in brand awareness, brand attributes and favourability. TV reporting tends to be done at the end of a campaign, but online performance can be tracked on an ongoing basis. This can be extremely useful not just for tweaking digital advertising, but also flagging up early on any issues with campaign messaging overall that might impact activity on other channels.
As with anything in marketing, the key is to test and learn as you go so that you can be better informed for the next campaign.