Does anyone still do media evaluation?

After 43 years involved in selling various B2B and Consumer media, I have come to the realization that while logic and facts have always taken a back seat to assumptions and preconceived notions….they are now moving out of the back seat and into the trunk.

In the old days, there were media professionals who were trained by wise mentors who knew how to evaluate media in a given market. BPA statements were laid out side by side, and all numbers scrutinized from the first page to the last. Editorial was read, and ranked by relevance, staff vs. contributed, fluff vs. exclusives, and various other measures. If available, independent and publisher provided readership studies were taken into consideration.

These were both numeric and subjective decision points that had to all be sorted and sifted to find the ranking of the best media for a campaign.

To be fair, we were only talking about print media, but the process of evaluation seems to be lost as this manual process has given way to the spreadsheet. The Excel spreadsheet is a great invention, but it can only work with numbers. That is, comparing circulation, CPM and cost. So, what often happens is products who are not directly comparable are forced into a grid, and compared as if they were. Both a semi-trailer and a pick-up are trucks that can carry a cargo, but certainly not comparable. Media products whose names are not self explanatory are often overlooked, and books with ambiguous names are added, based upon preconceived assumptions.

Digital media more logically fits a grid, but again the subjective questions on audience, and content do not fit on a spreadsheet.

If you have read this far, you might think I was a little hard on the young media buyers of today, but my beef is really with companies thinking that media evaluation is the same as media selection. Anybody can do it with no training needed. Just picking a few vendors that the boss likes and negotiating good pricing is easy, but assures a poor to mediocre ROI on ever shrinking media budgets.