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How Benchmarking is Crucial to Effective Media Planning

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With Black Friday behind us and the new year just around the corner, attention is no doubt turning to finalizing media plans for 2023. Despite the importance of this effort, for some that’ll likely involve little more than a percentage lift on last year’s targets. While quick and easy has its benefits, what it’s lacking is some sincere post-mortem of the previous year’s efforts. You may have hit a targeted 10% lift… but if there was a 25% lift there for the taking that competitors capitalized on, then it has to be marked as a missed opportunity, not a success. While you won’t find this sort of information within the ad platforms, the importance of benchmarking your industry when planning your efforts is ever more crucial. 

However, effective benchmarking is not a straight-forward endeavor. It is one thing to get a hold of the data, whether that be via benchmarking tools or white-papers. It’s another thing to make that data applicable to your situation and use it to refine your strategy. It’s vital to know how to move beyond the “huh, that’s cool” moment. Here’s a few guiding tips for the insights you can pull out of benchmark data:


It is notoriously difficult to break out of a month-to-month mindset when it comes to digital marketing spend. The reality of its hyper-flexibility when it comes to investment (compared to traditional OOH placements) tends to translate into last minute on-the-fly planning. Drawing seasonality data out of benchmarks can be the first step in establishing a longer view of your digital marketing investment. See where your industry is weighing their spend over the course of the year, what are the natural peaks and troughs? Are there opportunities you’re missing out on? And while the moment has just passed in 2022, if you’re a D2C brand, how much of your budget should you be setting aside for the peak retail moment in BF/CM? Use this data to evaluate your plan and continue to evaluate those benchmarks over the course of the year – spot the trends as they’re happening.

Areas of Investment

Once you’ve established when to spend, it’s a good time to decide where to spend. While Google and Facebook still dominate the ad dollars spent online, there has been a trend of fracturing over the past few years that’s seeing more and more brands step into platforms like TikTok and Pinterest with indications that they’ll continue to increase spend. Exploring new platforms can be a timely and costly exercise, so utilize benchmarking to get insight into how much others in your industry are investing, and (where you can find it) how much they’re getting in return to determine whether it’s time to broaden the suite of digital ad platforms you’re investing in. Drilling down to the network or objective within those platforms will also allow you to determine the split of investment between brand building and straight-acquisition. 

Identify where you need to improve performance

Arguably the most obvious point to be made about utilizing benchmarks is the ability to compare your performance across KPIs with your competitors. While any data presented as an average is going to be lacking in some nuance, benchmarking across metrics like CPC and CTR are important to understand if your budget could be working harder. When optimizing campaigns it is easy to have a very limited view and only consider comparisons with historical performance. Broadening your assessment to include benchmark data will ensure an accurate assessment of your performance.

Benchmarking is becoming a must-have feature among digital marketers looking to get the edge in terms of insights, but having the data and using the data well are two different things. If you’re not already utilizing benchmarks then it’s time to start thinking about it – use the tips above to start using that data to lift your performance.

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