Intermedia Decisions – Stephen King

Stephen King of JWTPaper 11 Intermedia Decisions Stephen King

First published in Admap Oct 1969, ©Warc. Published with permission of the copyright holder. Visit for more articles like this.

Another Stephen King paper from the IPA 1981 collection. First here is how to get hold of the paper: Intermedia decisions Stephen King It’s quite a long paper – you’ll need to settle down to read it.  It makes for instructive reading. What King is objecting to is silo media planning where specialists plan media in one channel only using the data relevant only for that channel. He is pushing back against the focus on process which makes it more efficient to plan media that way. He wants a process which is altogether more messy. Where the planning takes each medium as a medium in its own right (not just a delivery channel). BUT and this is a huge but. Media thinking needs to be integrated around the customer. And the planning needs to reflect that.

If this seems blindingly obvious to you can I ask you what metrics for success you are using for campaigns. If you are trying to use online analytics to assess all of your marketing activity and the effectiveness of your communications then can I respectfully suggest that King would accuse you of working in a Google silo. That’s his point.

And he works through the standard measures of media efficiency:  coverage, impact cost per thousand. To point out that there aren’t easy answers when media channels overlap. The way the channels work is different for each. The way they interact causes unexpected combinations. Some work well others less so. But you can’t control these using calculation. Media planning is a judgement call.

Now you might ask why the father of account planning is banging on about media. Shouldn’t he be talking about research and sticking to basics. What account planners do? Only in J Walter Thompson at the time the media planning WAS being done by account planners.  Read 98% Pure Potato and you will find out!  And they were doing it qualitatively – of course, the numbers had to add up but the interplay was a matter of judgement.  So from a discussion about media planning pulls back to show how planners involve account handlers and the client perspective. AND creatives. The new account team needs to work together to develop a holistic understanding. And King goes on to talk about the skills including the social skills of the planner.

Media planning should not be done in silos

In other words, the development of advertising is not best done as an assembly line where one specialist hands the work on to the next specialist and the media people stand at the end ready to deliver. That way lies mediocrity but that is where our industry has gone in the interests of accountability where you can cost and time the contribution of each serial component.  He even goes on to talk about team motivation and team management when making media decisions and combining different media channels. There still has to be accountability so King breaks down the responsibilities between functions but he still expects them to work together. There is quite a lot of detail here.  When he summarises the process at the end of the paper he mentions the responsibilities of planners bringing it all together. To define the target group. The target responses (not the proposition but what people do with whatever it is you tell them). And the timing – in terms of how the advertising is supposed to do its work.  Interestingly he expects the media channels to be able to deliver specific sensory and emotional messaging.

This is quite hard reading King writes densely – and this is a long paper. You could turn this paper into an entire book.   This explanation for how he thinks media should be planned and bought unravelled when media buying left J Walter Thompson as it did in so many agencies. And media planning became separated from account planning, the two working as layers pointing in 2 different directions.  But it doesn’t always have to be that way. This is an account of how media planning within account planning could be holistic and not process or channel-centric. but customer centric.  This may not have been where the agency world went but it represents an ideal for how agencies should do joined up thinking.

Before I finish I should mention that as one of King’s great papers it can be found printed in The Master Class in Brand Planning where you can find not only all of King’s most important papers but introductory sections written by senior planners. The intro to this paper is written by Marco Rimini CEO of Mindshare.  If you have found the paper useful then do yourself a favour buy the book and read all of them. This is pure gold.

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