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"Is Media planning an Art or a Science?"

Media planning is today considered to be one of the most important parts of any promotional strategy. It is a very frequently heard term in advertising circles. A lot of the success of the publicity campaign of both big and small businesses depends on this. Traditionally, media planning meant deciding what kind of media should be employed for the advertising campaign. They would decide where the advertisement would have the maximum impact. Options considered were advertising on hoardings, television, cinema halls, overhead LCD TVs in malls or newspapers. All these traditional avenues of advertising were considered and then their profitability was analyzed. Based on such studies and researches, the final medium for the publicity campaign were selected. The concept of media planning has undergone a difference. It now involves not only selecting a medium for the advertising, but also deep analyzes into the outreach of the ads. Also, media planners will today select unconventional streams of advertising such as mobile vehicles, advertising in small retain stores, etc. Newer options are decided depending on what the product being publicized is. That is why today the 'media planning' concept is slowly waning out, and is being replaced by more expansive terms such as 'media strategy' or 'communications planning'.

Now what is media planning? Is it an art or a science?

The answer to the question lies in the way we think and the way we approach media planning. If it was pure science then anything and everything that the computer, the surveys, the algorithms spewed out - whether they were ratings, optimizers, or indices - were to be followed.  All arguments would be centered on which one was cheaper and more effective and which was delivered the better measurable value. Even when it came to targeting, it was all about identifying the profitable target demographics those who were most likely to buy the product based on research that was conducted by specialists in the field of data-gathering.

But where does that leave creativity?

That "umph" that makes a media plan for a certain brand its own unique property.  After all, media plans and communication plans are designed to address a specific brand problem.

On the other hand...If it was a pure art, then what's the point of subscribing to countless research and validating/cross-validating research on viewing and reading habits of audiences?  What was the point of identifying the "zapping" threshold (a big issue back then - otherwise known as "channel surfing") for consumers?  What was the point of quantifying "involvement" and putting it as a criterion for selection of TV programs?

If it were pure art, then what is the point of understanding the response of consumers to advertising  either in the form of recalling the ad the day after it was first aired and a few weeks after or of actually trekking down to the stores and picking one up off the shelves?

If it were art, then everything becomes subjective...

That's when we think that media planning and communications planning are not pure art neither pure science. It is a careful balance between art and science. Science provides the structure and the discipline - the starting point.  Art provides the weaving of a story out of the numbers. Science provides the "rules" - that once understood can be bent and broken as and when necessary through the principles of art. Art provides the inspiration and the hypotheses - science provides the currency to measure whether a certain hypothesis holds water or not.

A media planner is an amalgam of so many professions and disciplines:  They are psychologists, sociologists, social observers, experimentalists, group therapists, psychoanalysts, storytellers, and design-experience-creators.  At the same time, they ought to be economists, auditors, accountants, statisticians, researchers, and eyeball- and transaction-counters.

The golden mean
The yin and the yang

The balance.

That's where great campaigns come from!

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