A national quick service restaurant chain wanted an independent and objective review of their local market media plans and buys, which were being handled by several regional advertising agencies. The company had established media guidelines. But they wanted to know if their guidelines were up-to-date. The company also wanted an assessment of each agency’s performance in the areas of media planning, buying, and post buying.
We began this project by reviewing all available research to ascertain whether the media advertising guidelines were addressing the correct target audience. This review took into account the geographic similarities and disparities of restaurant locations. We also looked at sales seasonality to see if it was being addressed in the media plans.
We then evaluated each advertising agency’s media plans, media buys, and post buys. We paid close attention to whether the media plans and buys were being adjusted for local market conditions and sales seasonality. We also examined whether any of the agencies were using a “one size fits all” approach.
An additional part of this comprehensive project was to assess the agencies’ media buying and post buy performance. In other words, were the agencies delivering the media on target and cost efficiently. Conducting a comprehensive audit for all media advertising buys in all markets was not financially feasible. So in order to keep our fee reasonable, we recommended and conducted a full audit on a representative sample of each agency’s media buys.
The company had very good research for determining the correct target audience for each of their primary menu items. Our review of the media guidelines was that the guidelines provided up-to-date and very effective direction for maximizing their media advertising. We also found that the regional agencies’ adherence to the media planning guidelines was generally consistent.
However, we found that the regional agencies’ adherence to the media buying guidelines varied significantly. We found that some of the agencies were using a “cookie-cutter” approach with their media buys. In those instances, the media buys generally looked identical from market to market and from promotion to promotion.
We also found that agency post buy performance varied significantly. Our audit determined that not all agencies were recovering the make-goods owed from under-performing media buys.
As soon as we shared our findings with the company and with the agencies, the agencies immediately began making improvements to their media buys. The agency media buyers began making adjustments or local market conditions and sales seasonality. They also started buying more targeted programming based on reaching the specific primary target audience for each menu item promoted, as verified by customer usage research.
In response to our audit of the media buys, the ad agencies became more focused on recovery of make-goods. Within six months, the dollar value of the make-goods recovered exceeded the amount of our fee on the project by a multiple of seven. More importantly, the improvements made to the media buying, and the improved stewardship of the post buys led to better media performance by all regional ad agencies, which in turn, helped fuel an increase in sales.