Thursday, May 31, 2007

Prediction and Media Planning

I had an interesting conversation about 2 weeks ago with my favorite cable rep, Pat. He pulled some rankers of the top cable shows from the past year so we could cherry-pick some good programs for a client of mine. Typically, I don't do this so much for cable b/c the individual ratings are so much lower and I tend to buy based on network rather than program (which is the opposite for broadcast TV).

We got to talking about shows that were doing exceptionally well - Psych (which I knew was gonna rock), The Colbert Report and Beauty and the Geek, for example. And of course, the issue of ratings - and how reliable they are - came up. Both of us questioned how programs like TLC's What Not To Wear and National Geographic's Dog Whisperer had low rank among the ratings. We know they have an audience. It's true. They are out there. And these are the shows that I want to buy b/c I think they will do well. But how do media planners and buyers present that to a client? Besides telling them, "There's a ton of buzz about this program. I think we should get in b/c the rate is low. But technically, it is inefficient b/c the rating is so low and it pushes up the CPP?" I've found that some clients either love this way of planning - or - they just want to see efficient buys with the lowest CPP and programming that is familiar to them.

"Which TV shows will she buy?" wonders hottie James Roday

I know national advertisers get to play in the up-fronts and that involves prediction and confidence, but what about all the rest of us?

My point is that I was never taught to use prediction in planning for television. It's always a historical thing. Look at past ratings. Don't let the reps give you estimates. But it's something I have come to enjoy. It's fun to read Television Week and learn about new programs or to channel surf on Saturday afternoon and find an awesome new show on some random network. It's like digging for gold and finding it. Lately, I've been watching an incredible amount of TV - especially cable and I love feeling knowledgeable about it. It can really give an edge during negotiations.

I know, I know. I'm not supposed to love TV. I'm supposed to love YouTube and Facebook and Twitter and I'm supposed to have TiVo. Next thing you know, I'll start reading newspapers (gasp!). But you know, I am a fan of TV and even though the way we consume is starting to change, I don't think it's going anywhere. And I really hope there is a shift to more prediction-based buys on the local level.