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Escaping the Silos

Advertising is most successful when it is designed to achieve a specific task, but the battle of media belief systems often undermines ad effectiveness. To get the most from media budgets, advertisers must align media strategies around their advertising goals.

The Four Silos of Media Planning

The differing media camps can be thought of as four distinct planning silos, each with specific advertising paradigms and measures of success. Advertisers may embrace one approach to the exclusion of others, or they may adopt different approaches simultaneously. This can lead to conflicting strategies and undermine the effectiveness of each silo.

There has always been tension between emphasis on delivery versus engagement. The increasing complexity of the media landscape means that the management and control favored by traditional approaches may give way to more automation or abdication of control inherent in the more radical camps.

The Exposure Silo

The exposure silo's approach gets the right message to the right people at the right time—as cost efficiently as possible. Agencies typically use industry data to identify which types of media are used by target audiences to "fish where the fish are. "However, there is often lack of clarity concerning the role of media—are we trying to deliver more reach by using more media, or are we trying to increase frequency of exposure against the same people?

Getting it right

A successful media approach would be measured by a well-audited plan with good cost efficiency. The role of additional media channels is to extend exposure beyond that of the dominant or first-deployed media channel. Knowledge of diminishing returns will inform the laydown of media, and the synergistic effect of combined exposure to different media should be taken into account.


If consumers see advertising but are not paying attention, then the exposure is wasted. Similarly, if consumers are exposed too many times, then further exposure may not have any impact or evoke a negative response.

The Creative Silo

We have evidence that creative has nearly five times the power of media delivery—the challenge is to get the creative to the target audience. To engage the consumer, creative content must tell an interesting story or deliver value, and in a multimedia world, it is increasingly important that the "creative idea" can be delivered in any medium.

Getting it right

Today we expect that all media channels could be used to convey the big idea. At best, this means having an idea that works to the strengths of the medium without undermining the narrative. At worst, this means that some content may be well-designed, but everything else is a bit of an afterthought. In the absence of demonstrable sales effects, awards and acclaim can sometimes count for success, but in the longer-term ROI is still important—even though an award-winning ad can survive long after its sell-by date.


Strong content is fundamentally important; the right creative can cut through clutter and grab attention. However, marketers can't expect solid results if the content doesn't reach the right people when they are willing to pay attention, and just because an ad is noticed does not mean its impression will have a lasting effect.

The Receptivity Silo

With increasing media proliferation, we are encouraged to believe that the consumer is in control and choosing what to consume—consequently, receptivity becomes key. We tend to see two opposite strategies. The first maximizes receptivity at the expense of reach. This can lead to media plans that are dominated by social media or lots of high-receptivity, lowreach touchpoints.

The second accepts that we cannot control receptivity, so media planning focuses on distributing various branded content relevant to people in different decision states, regardless of the distribution order.

Getting it right

A moderate approach seeks to improve receptivity to advertising by increasing relevance through better consumer targeting or by encouraging transference from associated content. Creative ideas need to work with differing levels of channel engagement. While coordination and consistency of total communications solutions may be difficult—particularly with respect to synergies and phasing—media should be optimized for receptivity.


The pitfalls of this approach include maximizing engagement but losing scale, being seduced by new media or technology, or ultimately deciding that it's all too difficult—and thus lapsing into inertia and failing to innovate.

The Behavioral Silo

While efficient media buying underpins this silo, the primary strategy flexes creative and media to use more of what works. Originally, Direct Marketing Agencies used mailing cells to evaluate successful combinations of creative and target selection. The approach evolved with the adoption of other direct-response media and has arguably reached its zenith in the digital advertising world, where computers monitor behavioral response.

Getting it right

Different channels are selected largely as a result of the targeting opportunities they provide or because they are inexpensive; other media channels or format features may be used including contextual targeting, "viewability", and availability of metric/measurement information. Typically this silo is limited to short-term behavioral measures of success, and improving cost per response is more important than worrying about how advertising works.


The behavioral silo is the most difficult approach to reconcile with other approaches, and it is difficult to account for attitudinal responses, which may be negative.

A Balanced Approach

It is entirely possible for an advertiser to "employ" elements of all the approaches outlined above, sometimes unknowingly. It may be that the strategies or tactics used by one camp are at odds with those used by another. For example the programmatic buying of digital inventory may undermine brand building efforts employed elsewhere. The quest for high engagement might mean that your campaign lacks necessary scale.

We advocate a balanced approach that starts with a brand agenda and draw on the disciplines and methods used in all camps. The below lists some of the strategies and tactics favored by different camps.

What Should Advertisers Do?

Which silos are at work? What strategies and tactics are being employed within each silo? What are the risks of focusing on one camp? Advertisers should identify and work with the varied approaches and tactics to minimize conflict and ensure that each supports overall campaign objectives. While each media silo offers potential advantages, advertisers should first have a clear idea of what their advertising needs to achieve, and then they must align strategies and tactics to ensure it will do so.

John Svendsen
SVP Global Brand Director, Media
Millward Brown


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