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Reassessing media planning with The 4R’s

The principle is simple. For advertising to be effective we must determine the optimal blend of Reach, Resonance and Relevance to stimulate a desired Reaction.


Ben Cunningham



The Four R's.png

Every agency has a ‘media planning process’ of sorts.

They vary in complexity and terminology, but the process tends to follow a similar path. Once the client objectives are defined, the process begins with an insight gathering phase. This informs a media strategy which is expressed through paid, owned and earned media and then evaluated in terms of effectiveness… And back around we go again.

###But do these media planning processes consider what is needed to be fit for purpose today?

Possibly not. Reports from the IPA show that despite these processes, campaign effectiveness has been on the decline since 2008. So, there were cracks appearing even before Covid-19; that just accelerated the need for media planners to think differently.

The reasons for decline are numerous, but there is a clear correlation between declining effectiveness and short-term thinking. The increased focus on short-term outcomes has been fuelled by easier access to fast data which helped us to make decisions quickly, but was focused on short-term impacts as opposed to brand building for the longer-term, which in hindsight appears to impact longer-term effectiveness negatively.

Understandably, media budgets started moving in great numbers into digital media due to its ability to offer cost effective reach and immediate results, but questions have started to be asked about the quality of the inventory or the validity of the metrics we were measuring. Are the ads really being seen? Is a low CPA that includes post view data a true reflection of campaign effectiveness or a sustainable road to business growth?

###Finding the moments that matter

At IMA-HOME, we are keen not to overcomplicate matters when it comes to media planning and our ‘moment mapping’ planning process has served our clients well. Moment mapping identifies when our target audience will likely be open and receptive to advertising in whatever form. We then target media directly at that moment with a message to gain the user’s attention and stimulate an action. The principle is simple yet effective, as it helps us prioritise client’s resources and target fewer but more powerful points along the consumer journey.

Talking to audiences at the right time with the right message is nothing new to marketing folk, but it may have been lost in the shuffle somewhat. Instead, agencies often try to cover the entire paid, owned and earned ecosystem with relevant content, capturing as much data as they can along the way.

Our moment mapping process is built for the digital future, focusing on context rather than cookies, but we still felt that we needed to evolve the process further due to key trends we were seeing in the market. Research conducted by the IPA and The Attention Council has highlighted just how important ‘attention’ is to campaign effectiveness; which is not a metric that is typically used to buy media or to optimise towards.

The battle for attention by advertising execs has been fought since the dawn of time, but it is having somewhat of a renaissance due to concerns around transparency, ad fraud and viewability. Not to mention the general race to the lowest price due to the way the real time bidding function underpins the way programmatic trading desks operate. Studies by The Attention Council show that both quality of environment and the time spent with advertising play a big role in the ability for advertisers to gain attention and achieve effective outcomes over the longer term.

Based on this theory, we have introduced a new planning process at IMA-HOME called ‘The 4 R’s’. True to form, the principle is simple. For advertising to be effective we must determine the optimal blend of Reach, Resonance and Relevance to stimulate a desired Reaction.

###The 4 R’s


Our starting point for campaigns is to look at overall Reach through comparative analysis. We always seek to find a common currency against which to view the comparative contribution of each channel side-by-side. Dividing the total number of impressions (for the target audience in question) into the total cost for each channel gives us an apples for apples comparison.


However, we know that all impressions are not created equal, and Resonance is essential for influencing opinions, attitudes and actions. The subjective experience of viewing a 30’ ad in the cinema is vastly different to seeing the same thing on YouTube. We therefore rank our media based on the relative levels of noticeability and attention they generate.


Context and mindset contribute towards resonance, so we further refine our planning by overlaying the moments that matter for each target audience. Relevance means both appearing in contextually relevant spaces and being relevant to the consumer based on consumer journey, moment and mindset.


The reaction we are seeking is for people to think, feel, or do something. Understanding what we are trying to achieve helps us to know which R needs to be prioritised over the others.

Each media channel or format is then scored against how effective they are at delivering Reach, Resonance and Relevance, with a weighting applied to the ‘R’ that is most important based on which Reaction we are aiming to achieve, thus giving us an R Score.

Whilst good media planners should be considering these points as standard, they can often get lost in translation between planners, buyers and trading desks. By introducing The 4 R’s planning process, our clients can be reassured that our entire team are carefully planning their budgets in a rigorous and consistent manner, taking into account the latest research to help them grow, both today and in the longer-term.

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