Oops… you accidentally omitted a sub-total from the formula that calculates the grand total on your media plan. Then your client authorized the media plan and issued a purchase order based on this faulty spreadsheet. Unfortunately, that newly minted PO is missing some expensive placements. It’s only after the advertisements have run and the vendor invoices arrive that you realize your costly mistake. At this point, you have a choice: beg for mercy and more budget or eat the cost to hide your mistake. Either way, this is a costly – not to mention humiliating – mistake for you and your agency.

This and similar scenarios play out every day at advertising agencies everywhere. Why?

Excel doesn’t know anything about media planning

When you open Excel, it’s a blank spreadsheet. You have to do a lot of heavy lifting and programming to create a media plan. Excel doesn’t have a CPM function or a broadcast calendar option. It doesn’t know about the dozens of ways of pricing out media, nor does it know how to deal with packages and flighting. Trying to build a flowchart in Excel? Good luck. Let’s face it, Excel doesn’t know anything about the needs of media planners.

With Excel, media plan mistakes are inevitable

With Excel, you are responsible for creating all the formulas and getting every calculation exactly right. A typical media plan has hundreds of calculations. Even the most diligent media planners will eventually fall victim to a computation error.

To make matters worse, most media planners work in an environment that’s hostile to diligence: constant interruptions from text messages, instant messages, mobile alerts, emails, phone calls, meetings, and co-worker intrusions. A media planner is lucky to work for five minutes straight without a disruption.

Flimsy Excel templates don’t solve the problem

Enterprising media directors mitigate the risks of Excel by creating and attempting to enforce the use of templates. It’s a constant battle forcing media planners to use a standard template. Plus, these templates are inherently flimsy and lack a modicum of flexibility. They frequently break as soon as you start adding placements to the media plan. It’s not your fault because this is the nature of Excel.

Excel invites implementation errors

Even when an Excel media plan is perfect, you still have a high probability of a costly mistake because Excel does not help you correctly execute your media plan.

You have to issue a media authorization. You have to issue insertion orders to each of the vendors on the plan. You have to traffic tens, hundreds, or thousands of lines to your ad server. You have to issue invoices. All of this relies on the accuracy of your media plan and has to be executed flawlessly.

With an Excel media plan, you have to re-key everything into each of the other systems or, worse yet, other Excel spreadsheets to execute your media plan. All this re-keying virtually guarantees at least one error or omission.

Excel hobbles advertising performance

If your media plan is on an Excel spreadsheet, optimizing marketing performance is hobbled. There’s no easy way to compare your plan to the actual performance of your advertisements. So, there’s no way to know whether your advertisements are achieving your business objectives or not.

Most modern marketing platforms provide a steady stream of marketing performance data. For example, Google AdWords will tell you how many impressions and clicks you get every day. But Google AdWords will not tell you if you if you are on pace to hit your marketing objectives. To do this, you need to compare your media plan’s goals to the actual results in AdWords and the rest of the marketing platforms on your media plan.

If your media plan data is locked up in an Excel spreadsheet, performing this comparison requires a lot of manual effort. This makes it difficult to get it done regularly and can often fall into the “we didn’t have time to do it” bucket. As a result optimization opportunities run unnoticed, poorly performing placements continue wasting money and advertising performance is sub-optimal.

Smart Media Directors have ditched Excel

Smart media directors know that creating a media plan is only one piece, albeit a critical piece, of the media planning process. When looking at the entire process from strategy, to plan, to execution, to optimization, to invoice, to payment, it’s clear that media planning in Excel is a bad idea for the reasons mentioned above and many others.

Despite the withdrawals and growing pains associated with switching away from Excel, smart media directors have ditched Excel to eliminate costly mistakes while streamlining their media buying operation.

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