How to Select the Best Media Mix

By Andrew Ballard | Guest Contributor 

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Just when you thought the extent of communications channels couldn't get any more confusing — POW! — a new medium emerges. Media fragmentation has made it far more difficult for marketers to generate a positive return on their investment. Holy media plan, Batman, what do we buy now?

In this third installment of my four-part series detailing the four secrets to marketing success, we'll cover the right media. After you target the right market with the right message, you'll deliver your message through the right media.

Countless Platforms

Not long ago, the smorgasbord of media was relatively small. Now marketers must choose between 500-plus TV and radio options, print publications galore and a plethora of other traditional media, not to mention the countless digital channels, e.g. social, organic, paid, mobile, email and other interactive media.

Another challenge is that simultaneous media consumption (engaging with multiple forms of media at the same time) is on the rise, thereby diluting the impact of marketing. One 2016 study by eMarketer reported that nearly 85 percent of adults surf the internet — most often on a smartphone or tablet — while watching TV. That figure is projected to approach 92 percent this year.

Suffice it to say, audiences (and their attention) will continue to splinter. So, how do you choose among the multitude of media to deliver your message? By evaluating both the value and efficiency of each vehicle that reaches your target market.


Different media environments offer different values. A billboard may deliver a heavy traffic count, but you can only convey a short message (which may be all you need). Print, on the other hand, is an excellent venue for detail, but lacks the multi-media allure of television and some digital channels.

Other value factors include the ad itself. A full-page, four-color ad will be noted by more readers than a quarter page black-and-white. You can tell a more in-depth story during a 60-second radio spot than a 30. Plus, some messages produce a better response than others. Based on your marketing objectives and budget, choose the medium (or mix) that is the most value appropriate for your market and message (secrets one and two).


After you've determined the best media environment(s), narrow your list down to those outlets that best target your market(s). Compare them based on composition, coverage and cost. Composition is the percentage that your target market represents of a media outlet's total audience. Coverage is the percentage of your total target market a media outlet reaches.

If you are doing direct-response advertising (sale ends Sunday, Sunday, Sunday) which requires a high frequency of exposure, opt for an outlet with a higher composition. If you are building brand awareness over a longer promotional cycle, lean toward a vehicle with a higher coverage to extend your reach.

There is not a single efficiency formula that levels the playing field for all media, mostly due to the previously cited value factors. However, using a cost-per-thousand (CPM) calculation provides a fair barometer for comparing all media, both traditional and digital.

    • Formula: (Cost ÷ Audience) x 1,000 = CPM 
    • Example: Cost of media is $2,500 to deliver your message, divided by a total target audience reach of 50,000 = .05 x 1,000 = a cost-per-thousand of $50

Of course, a CPM of $50 doesn't mean anything by itself. However, when comparing it to other media outlet CPMs using the same budget, it objectively illustrates which among the outlets being considered is the most cost-efficient (based on the lowest CPM).

You don't need the caped crusader to select the best media mix. You may, however, want to consult a professional media planner. If you don't have a media planner, media outlet sales reps will provide the audience and CPM data you need to make an informed selection at no charge.

The Right Moment

When you target the right market with the right message through the right media, you are in the home stretch. Check out my final post next week to learn the secret to choosing the right moment (timing and scheduling) to increase your likelihood of success in marketing. 


About the Author

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Andrew Ballard is the president of Marketing Solutions, a Seattle-area agency that develops research-based growth strategies. He has over three decades' experience with specialties in marketing research, strategic planning, brand development and advertising, and has helped hundreds of organizations (from startups through Fortune 500 companies) achieve breakthrough growth.>

Andrew is a respected author, educator, keynote and TEDx speaker. His articles on marketing strategy have been published in business journals through all 50 states. His book, "Your Opinion Doesn't Matter," has been endorsed in both corporate and academic circles as innovative and insightful. Andrew is also a part-time faculty member at the University of Washington.

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Published: 02/22/2018

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