Media planning is crucial to achieving results with your digital marketing in Japan. A lot goes into successfully building a brand in Japan, and there are various activities that businesses must juggle in order to operate in this fast-paced market. While many organizations tend to be exceptionally good at one or two aspects of their core business, for any company that is actively engaging in paid promotion, especially advertising, proper media planning ensures that you are getting the best results out of your investment and should not be overlooked. When done correctly media planning in Japan can deliver not only short-term results, but also help to strengthen your brand equity.
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What is Media Planning
Media planning, simply stated, is the process by which advertising objectives are stated, target audiences are defined, types of media to be used are decided, resource allocation is determined, and timelines are established. The end result of these activities is the creation of a media plan.
Developing Your Media Plan
Media planning provides your team with a roadmap that plots out your strategy and highlights the actions you need to take in order to achieve your business objectives through advertising. As media spend is often one of the largest expenditures for a business it’s important to have a proper strategy in place.
In order to develop your media plan the following questions should be answered:
What are your objectives?
Who are your targeting?
Where should you focus your advertising?
What is an appropriate budget for your media spend?
How long will you run your campaigns for?
Any media plan or strategy must begin with defining your objectives. You may in fact have multiple goals that are all separated into various campaigns, but the fact remains that without clearly establishing goals the media planning process cannot begin.
Once you have defined your objectives the other questions about your target audience come into play. A good planner or strategist will already possess a deep understanding of the Japanese media landscape as well as the overall Japanese market and Japanese consumers.
Market research also plays a major role in media planning. Things that you may wish to research to develop your media plan include answers to questions such as: How big is your audience? What are their specific pain points? What differences exist between your Japanese customers and those in other markets? These are just a few examples of the kind of information on your target customer which you will need to identify for your media plan.
Where Should You Focus Your Advertising
Deciding which channels to use, and how much of your media budget should be allocated to each, is one of the hallmarks of media planning. Besides traditional media (TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, outdoor) digital media planners will focus on things like search, display, video, and programmatic. The specific allocations and the decisions on which channels to utilize is where the creative side of media planning comes into play, as there are numerous possibilities and combinations for any given advertiser. Based on your target audience, where they spend most of their time may also be different.
Demographics Play a Big Part in Designing a Media plan
Both traditional media and digital media make use of demographic variables, such as age and gender, and are incredibly important items to keep in mind when creating your media plan.
Understanding Japanese consumer behavior, such as lifestyle and habits, things that motivate purchase decisions, culture, trends, so much is built upon demographical insights that depth of knowledge is often a deciding factor in the performance differences between market leaders and challengers.
Formulation of Your Unique Media Strategy
Media planning is most closely aligned with top of funnel activities and traditionally involves careful consideration of metrics like reach, frequency, and CPM (cost per mille). Media planning’s primary concern, however, is on delivering your brand’s messaging and marketing communications in the most effective way possible, so it is not necessarily only limited to the top of the sales funnel.
As mentioned earlier, a media plan must consider where a target customer is most likely to see an advertiser’s ad and provide guidance on what format is best to deliver that message. This is where having a firm grasp of the customer journey comes into play. Knowing the type of path that a customer is likely to take before making a purchase decision or becoming a lead is critical to good media planning, as opportunities to engage with customers exist at all stages of the customer journey.
For every business this strategy will be different and is why knowing your target customer and their customer journey is so important to creating the right media plan.
Media Planning is Channel Agnostic
It is entirely possible to build a media plan specifically around something like PPC (pay-per-click) or search. One could also choose to go all in on social media advertising, and create a plan that only utilizes Facebook or Instagram. But when we talk about media planning we are not talking about any specific platforms, instead we are talking about identifying all of the possible solutions we have at our disposal and determining the best use of those mediums and channels in order to achieve set marketing objectives.
In other words, media planning requires one to be channel agnostic and a good media planner will prioritize your marketing goals, rather than pushing their own preferred mediums in every scenario.
Evaluate and Iterate
Digital media planning places a great deal on evaluating, testing, and iteration. Thanks to built-in or complementary analytics within many platforms, advertisers have a great deal of data at their disposal.
Additionally, given the ability to run multiple variations of a given ad (i.e. A/B testing) directly within some of the most popular advertising platforms, it’s become much more accessible for businesses of all sizes to conduct tests that help improve their advertisements.
Using data and results from your campaigns not only enables you to refine your messaging but also helps inform your creatives for future campaigns. With more and more advertisers looking to digital mediums to promote their products and services, brands must continue to update and refresh their advertising in order to be heard above the noise.
Relationship Between Media Planning and Media Buying
As explained at the beginning of this article, media planning is primarily concerned with the development of strategy for your advertising campaigns and ad placements. Media buying, on the other hand, is more about the actual implementation of your media plan (i.e. the purchasing of media).
When it comes to digital media buying in Japan, advertisers and their agency partners have a number of options.
Self-Serve Advertising Platforms
For many small and medium-sized businesses self-serve advertising platforms have become the go-to choice for their media buying needs.
Self-serve advertising includes platforms such as Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords) as well as Facebook Ads. As these platforms are able to cover major channels such as search, display, and social media, self-serve advertising can—in some cases—make up the bulk of many small and medium-sized advertisers’ media expenditures.
Google Ads is one of the most popular self-serve advertising platforms in Japan
Self-serve advertising also has a number of other benefits which advertisers of all sizes find appealing.
First off, these self-serve advertising platforms typically offer a great deal of control when it comes to designing campaigns as well as presenting marketers with a number of options to run tests and optimize. Integrations with analytics platforms or other solutions in organizations’ martech stacks are also behind this type of digital advertising’s popularity. Furthermore, as self-serve advertising platforms typically have no minimal spend requirements set by the platform itself—an important distinction—they have helped make media buying more accessible for a larger number of advertisers.
However, all that being said, self-serve advertising platforms, as the name indicates, are self-managed and operated. Not only do these platforms all have their own respective learning curve, which can be difficult for those marketing managers in smaller organizations to properly manage and optimize themselves, but for businesses expanding to overseas markets advertising in a foreign language (such as Japanese) is not something that many are equipped to do in-house.
Programmatic Media Buying
Programmatic is a subject that can rightfully span entire websites dedicated to covering it. We’re here with the Cliffs Notes version. The most important takeaways from a discussion about programmatic media buying are that programmatic is primarily concerned with delivering ads to potential customers through a real-time bidding (RTB) system that happens on an ad exchange in mere milliseconds. Advertisers who utilize programmatic as part of their strategy do so in order to deliver ads to potential customers who may be most likely to purchase their products or services, especially in a given browsing session.
Unlike with self-serve platforms, however, programmatic media can have significant upfront costs, both in terms of setup, resources, and media spend, which creates a high barrier to entry for most advertisers. As with self-serve advertising, implementing programmatic campaigns across borders also adds an additional layer of specialization and complexity with regard to language and culture in your target market.
Direct Media Buying
Direct media buying, the traditional model, is another media buying option for advertisers. When purchasing direct media placements, advertisers, or their agencies, contact either a publisher or seller (i.e. the owner of the ad space) to arrange for their ad to be placed as well as negotiate terms based on things like format and duration of the campaign.
Direct media buying in Japan typically requires a far greater understanding of the market than self-serve advertising platforms in order to properly execute. Unlike with Google Ads or Facebook Ads there isn’t a dashboard or digital platform and you will need to have sufficient Japanese language skills in order to communicate with the publisher or owner of the ad space that you are interested in.
That being said direct media buying does have its own advantages that should not be ignored. If you’d like to learn more about placing direct ad buys and premium placements in Japan you can get in touch with us to talk about the specifics of your campaign.
Things to Keep in Mind
Media planning should be conducted with marketing objectives in mind, however, it’s important to point out that it is only one component of a business’ larger marketing strategy. While an effective media plan will look to address the 5Ws and 1H (who, what, when, where, why, and how) other variables that fall outside of the scope of media planning, such as price and user experience, will also have major impacts on sales and conversions. In order for your media plan in Japan to achieve the best results other topics that might impact the efficacy of your media plan may also require attention.
Bottom Line: Media Planning in Japan
Proper media planning is about optimization; because there is no such thing as an unlimited marketing budget. Companies of all sizes, from conglomerates with global reach to up-and-coming D2C (direct-to-consumer) ecommerce businesses, must devise plans to use their media budgets in such a way that maximizes the impact of their advertising. At times this may require trade-offs to be made and various options to be strategically evaluated. A good media planner will be able to identify and choose the best mix of platforms to achieve your objectives. However, in order to develop a truly successful media plan for Japan, one which hits all the right buttons in reaching your target audience, expertise in dealing with both the Japanese market and Japanese consumers is essential.
At Plus Alpha Digital we specialize in helping global brands craft successful strategies for the Japanese market. If you’d like to talk about your business’ media planning in Japan contact us to see how we can help.