Challenges Media Planners Face in 2021

With so much uncertainty in the world at present, planning a marketing strategy 3-to-6 months in advance is a challenging task. Media buyers must simultaneously continue to build strategies while also considering how quickly they can shift in a few months’ time. With existing challenges also on the table—from wasted impressions to channel integration—advertisers need to turn to data more than ever to drive campaign success.

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Addressing Obstacles in Modern Media Buying

1. Timeliness and Tone

In 2020, the influx of the COVID-19 pandemic caused many brands to shift their ad dollars and rethink their marketing strategies. While 2021 won’t likely upend a media planner’s entire strategy quite as drastically, marketers have learned a lot in the past year about adapting to uncertain advertising periods.

Timeliness in messaging, when it comes to the appropriate tone, has been a particular struggle for brands to account for in their media buys during the pandemic. Early on, the gravity of the pandemic caused a need for assets to shift towards, “We’re in this together,” as well as expressions of empathy in “unprecedented times,” but almost as quickly as the somber tone flooded TV screens, audiences grew tired of the heaviness of brand compassion.

Additionally, OTT platforms saw intense growth over 2020 and between Q1 and Q3 2020, the market also saw 4% of all consumer spending shift toward e-commerce—billions of dollars shifting in a matter of months as online retail jumped from 11.8% to 16.1% of all U.S. retail sales1.

In the wake of such drastic change—some temporary, some permanent—advertisers have had to think differently about their marketing approach than past years. While much of the market remains up in the air as the pandemic continues, the goal brands should have in 2021 is to analyze ongoing trends and continue to think on their feet with their creative assets.

2. Insufficient Audience Information

To deliver a successful campaign, media buyers need to know who they’re talking to with each creative. Understanding a brand’s target customer helps hone, not only what their messaging is, but also where, when, and how it’s presented. If one’s ideal audience is Gen-Z, for example, brands will have the most success marketing to them both online and through OTT platforms, as this is where this demographic will most likely tune-in to their ads.

When a media buyer nails down who their audience should be, data-driven targeting can be an effective tool for finding where to best reach them. First- and third-party data provides anonymized insights on geography, demographics, and psychographics that reach an audience on a granular level. Advertisers can learn anything from viewing trends and hobbies to purchase behaviors and brand preferences to alter their creative assets accordingly and place them in the medium most oriented towards successful conversion.

3. Measuring Effectiveness

Even after an ad goes live, a media buyer’s job isn’t complete. The key to ongoing success in advertising is learning from past campaigns and using this information to dictate future efforts. Without this step, an advertiser’s strategy is half-baked, only predicting what success looks like without confirming that their hypothesis was true in action.

This post-campaign work leans on attribution metrics, which helps gain deeper insight into the impact of the campaign. Not every advertisement has the same goal, so data insights that marketers track varies from asset to asset.


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For brand awareness campaigns, a media buyer can run a brand health study report, which surveys the ad’s effectiveness in raising awareness, familiarity, and consideration for their products or services among the target audience. If conversion is the goal, brands can measure ROI against campaign exposure with an attribution report. They can even track the correlation between ad exposure and website or brick-and-mortar visits through website visitation and location data reports.

4. Wasted Impressions

For traditional TV advertising, the biggest concern for media buyers is wasted impressions. With traditional marketing tactics on this platform, the educated guessing of where target audiences would be inevitably resulted in advertising to uninterested households. Digital advertising has had a competitive edge on this front for the past two decades, as marketers pay per impression, which eliminates wasted impressions.

Addressable advertising is TV’s answer to this issue, making investment and impressions a 1-to-1 pursuit. Addressable advertising designates a specific number of minutes per hour of TV to truly targeted ads. This innovation allows brands to deliver ads to the specific households they want to reach—and only them. Media buyers can target based on thousands of segmentation variables available through anonymous first- and third-party data, resulting in reduced waste of ad spend. By adding attribution into the mix on the tail-end of addressable campaigns, advertisers can maximize their ad budgets on this platform and help future campaigns run more effectively, addressable or otherwise.

5. Channel Integration

Now more than ever, brands need to have a multi-platform approach with their ad campaigns, reaching customers wherever they’re watching. However, with different means of targeting and media buying on different platforms, advertisers feel limited by the inherently siloed approach to multi-platform advertising. With OTT breaking onto the scene quicker than expected due to the pandemic, overcoming this disjointed approach is crucial and immediate.

If done effectively, though, integrated campaigns can have enormous impact. When TV works collaboratively with digital for advertising, ROI increases 60%2. Plus, TV influences brand search by up to 80%3, particularly when advertisers include a call-to-action, such as a website link.

To make multi-platform marketing campaigns achievable, NYI has Audience One to help. Our holistic marketing platform allows advertisers to reach their audience wherever they’re watching, utilizing anonymized data and attribution metrics to fuel marketing tactics at every step of a campaign. To learn more about NYI’s Audience One platform and how it can work for your brand, visit our Solutions page.



2. Analytic Partners, 2016; Analysis based on over 3,200 campaigns from 2010-2015. Digital includes video and display advertising on desktop and mobile devices. Study presented at the 2016 ARF Conference.
3. FastCasual, 2017.