Media strategy, planning, and ad buying is a science that even the most seasoned marketers struggle with. What’s the best way to allocate the budget? What are the most effective channels? To break through, you have to understand the balance required to get to the desired outcome.
Imani Greene, Founder of Greene Consulting Group, has spent years finding and implementing this balance. She’s transitioned from high-ranking positions at big agencies in New York and D.C. to operating her own consultancy, where she takes a hands-on approach to managing advertising campaigns.
In this episode, she shares how this move has helped her to prioritize what’s important in her campaigns, her business, and her life – and how her start-small, test-and-learn mentality has propelled her and her clients’ businesses forward.
From Madison Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue
Imani’s career started “Madison Avenue style” in New York City. She worked for several agencies, including Saatchi & Saatchi and McCann Erickson, and from there, went to a few smaller firms between Manhattan and New Jersey. During this time, she had “some of the most powerful learning experiences orchestrated by some of the best teachers in the world.” With experience and confidence under her belt, she moved down to Washington, D.C., to serve as Vice President and Media Director at Ogilvy Washington.
Thereafter, she went to a social media shop called New Media Strategies. Then, in 2014, she went out on her and founded Greene Consulting Group.
The big agency portion of her career lasted 16 years, during which time she was working long hours and managing ad budgets up to $10 million dollars. At one point, she worked a six-month stretch working 16-17 hours days, six to seven days a week. While she doesn’t regret being pushed to her limits, she says this was the beginning of the end of her agency tenure. Now, operating her own business, Imani has full reign over her hours, clients, and portfolio, which has propelled her into being a master of prioritization.
Finding the Balance - Business Goals, Messages and Media Mixes
For Imani, success comes down to finding the right balance, or finding the right mix to optimize her outcomes.
Understanding what’s most important in her day helps Imani create a schedule that lets her get work done, spend time with her family, and find time for herself. This approach to finding balance is mirrored in how she handles her clients’ challenges. She works to understand the breadth of business goals the brand has that the advertising campaign can fulfill upon. This helps create the appropriate measurements and appropriate management of outcomes, as compared to evaluating performance in a narrow manner. And whether it’s creating brand awareness or inspiring a vote, the key is prioritizing the right messages and finding the mix of channels to cut through the noise and reach different segments.
Challenging Media Buying Misconceptions to Managing the Right Outcomes
Getting your message heard is even more challenging today than ever before. As Imani tells us, “A brand's challenge is to figure out how to make their way through that whirlwind of information, create that meaningful connection, and then move a current or potential customer, or supporter, or advocate, or what have you down the continuum of engagement essentially.”
One of the biggest misconceptions brands have about advertising is that they should go out with a big bang campaign. This hardly ever works to actually connect with audiences in a meaningful way.
And there are some that “spray and pray” and hope that something just sticks. Of course, that’s not an efficient approach. Improving efficiency requires measuring the performance of your campaign to learn what works and what doesn’t.
To help determine the balance of efficiency and effectiveness, brands should start small and iterate. Prioritize your parameters and test potential outcomes that you might not have even known that could benefit you.
Your messages should be segmented, tested, and evolved – and make sure you have really know your audience(s) on a deeper level in order to understand how to best reach them.
Working any sort of very lean operation when applying a small iterative testing approach requires more organization and structure than bigger organizations. It helps to set a lot of deadlines and checkpoints to keep progress on track.
In media planning, there needs to be a continuous commitment to trial and error. It takes spending the most money where you're getting the best outcomes, while still utilizing a separate budget to explore new opportunities and reach new audiences.
Don't be afraid to measure the outcomes from audiences differently. Everything is not going to be measured on a cost-per-click basis. Maybe you're reaching fewer people who have more powerful influence or who might be a better customer – it's worth spending a little bit more for those people. So, keeping people off of the same yardstick of measurement is a good idea.
Advertising can be used as an isolated expense to create visibility for PR hits, and it's not measured on the click – it could be measured by views, scrolls through to the bottom, video views, shares, etc.
So, look at advertising in a different way. Recognize that just because a product isn't running off the shelf, or someone is not clicking on a banner, it doesn't necessarily have to be the end of the story for the ad campaign.
Perfect is the enemy of the good. Often big brands miss out on the opportunity to claim a point of view because they waited too long for it to be "ready" rather than starting off small and creating ownership that can grow.
Make sure that you have certain basic audience engagement capture opportunities in place before you're willing or ready to go out with anything.
For example, you want to make sure you've got a good, user-tested website that is not just communicating what you think you want to communicate but is also driving people to an outcome.
For a brand to really create a product that its audience is compelled by, it needs to understand its audience on a deeper and more personal level than demographics.
Understanding your audience takes keeping the dialogue open. Create the infrastructure within your organization to constantly make sure that you're hearing what people are saying and deciding to apply those insights or those learnings.
The real goal in media planning is not to determine how much you're putting into it, but how much you need to get out of it. For example, $100,000 should be spent differently if you’re trying to reach 100,000 people versus selling 10,000 units of product.
Not everything is best if it's cheap. There will be some outcomes that will be best because they're efficient. There will be some outcomes that are best because they're effective. There are some outcomes that will be best because they have long-term potential. So, be mindful.