Is the “Price” of Excel Media Planning Worth It?

Is the “Price” of Excel Media Planning Worth It?

It happened again…you noticed that your client-approved Excel media budget has an error.  You inadvertently omitted a sub-total in the formula that calculates the grand total on your media plan spreadsheet.  This annual plan is ordered, and that calendar is short the totals from some high-priced, yet extremely valuable, media placements.  It is only after the ads have run and the station invoices arrive that you realize your expensive error.  So now you have a choice to make.  You can beg for mercy and additional budget from the client to cover the omission, or just eat the expense to hide the mistake.  Either way, this can be hard to swallow for both you and your agency.

This and similar scenarios happen every day at advertising agencies across the nation. And it’s all because Excel does not understand media buying or media planning.

When you start any new project in Excel, it is a blank spreadsheet.  There is a lot of programming and detailed work to complete in order to create a working media document.  There is no GRP calculator built in, no CPM function, not even a broadcast calendar selection or default.   Layouts must be made to accommodate all the ins and outs of your media details, your client’s budget needs, and your weekly and monthly costs to stay on track.  This makes mistakes inevitable.

With Excel, you are responsible for producing all of the formulas and each calculation with precision. A typical media plan has hundreds of calculations crossing many fields. Even the most diligent media professionals will eventually fall victim to some computation error or malfunction.

Making matters worse, most media planners work within an environment that is filled with interruption and near chaos at times: text messages, instant messages, mobile alerts, emails, telephone calls, meetings, and co-worker intrusions name just a few. Getting five to ten minutes of uninterrupted time is a luxury and a rarity.  This means the concentration to ensure every calculation has been accounted for is not likely.  Relying on such a volatile document is not a solution, it’s a problem.

Enterprising media directors mitigate the dangers of Excel by creating and attempt to enforce the use of templates. It is a constant battle to force media planners to use a standard template. These templates are inherently flimsy and lack the flexibility to work for all client verticals.  They often break the moment you begin adding placements into the media plan. It is not your fault, as this is the nature of Excel. It simply invites mistakes.

Even if an Excel media plan is perfect, you still have a high chance of a costly error because Excel does not assist you in properly executing your media plan/budget.  With orders to create, media consent required, avail lines to populate, invoices to create, etc, you cannot afford to miss a beat.  Every piece needs to be perfectly executed.    This requires further transfer of data from one planning document to another in order to complete all functions of a media buyer.  Copying, re-keying, and re-programming sheets only invites further errors and possible omissions.

If your media planning procedures are locked up in an Excel spreadsheet it’s time to reconsider the value of your time and data security.  Smart media directors have ditched Excel, and realize that creating a media plan is only the first, albeit critical, piece of the media planning process. When looking at the full scope from strategy to implementation, implementation to billing, and billing to tracking, it is clear that using Excel for media planning is a terrible idea for all the afore-mentioned reasons as well as countless others.

Consider a switch to an affordable and professional media planning and buying solution.  BluHorn allows media buyers and planners to breathe easy, not having to double check countless formulas before producing an order or report.  For as little as $199/month, agencies have a solution that will not only take the time away from double checking countless totals – but will produce professional orders to be sent to vendor representatives for authorization and placement, will incorporate calculations of important efficiencies like GRPs and Reach/Frequency, and acts as a database for clients and vendors.  Remove the possibility of costly errors.  Add a media buying solution that is user friendly and efficient.  BluHorn offers 14 days risk free – try us today!

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