Media planning: which channels make the cut?

Marketers have a number of key decisions to make when outlining their strategies and upcoming campaigns. Who to target, how to allocate budget, who’s managing what – all of these decisions are dependent on the capabilities of the company and the nature of the product or service being marketed. One of the areas requiring the most consideration and justification is that of media selection.

The choice of media channels is critical to the success of a campaign, but it can often be difficult to identify which are the most relevant, the most effective and offer the best return on investment. There are a number of models and frameworks available, but one key model was developed in 2005 that offers a robust way of analysing media channels using a mix of qualitative and quantitative measures, and ranking them accordingly.

This media selection framework, developed by Coulter & Starkis, makes it relatively easy for expert or novice media planners to assess and rank the relative value of each channel. My team and I tested the model across a selection of eight different marketing communications channels, and came to some interesting conclusions.

The Framework

The model identifies sixteen different factors that each channel can rank for, divided into five sections; quality, time, flexibility, coverage and cost. The factors are listed below:


  1. Attention-getting capability
  2. Stimulating emotions
  3. Information content and detail
  4. Credibility/prestige/image
  5. Ability to cut through clutter


  1. Short lead time
  2. Long exposure time


  1. Appeal to multiple senses
  2. Personalisation
  3. Interactivity


  1. Selectivity
  2. Pass-along audience
  3. Frequency/repeat exposure
  4. Average media reach


  1. Development/production cost
  2. Average media delivery cost

Our Method

We considered eight different marketing channels and allocated them points based on how well they fulfil each of these criteria. Many of these are highly dependent upon campaign context, so a more general approach was taken and of course, results will vary for different marketers depending on their products, aims and approaches.

Channels that fulfilled a factor very well were allocated one point, for example, broadcast media scored one point for average media reach. Channels which went some way to fulfilling the criteria were allocated half a point, and those channels which perform comparatively poorly received no points. Due to the nature of the ‘credibility’ criteria, i.e. that it is entirely dependent on the message and campaign aims, this category was missed out.

Our results

Our results ranked the channels, in descending order:

7= Broadcast media
7= Outdoor media
6. Mobile ads
5. Direct mail
4. Telesales
3. Social media
2. Email

And in first place…
1. SMS!

It came as no surprise to us of course, but it was pleasing to see just how well SMS performed in the comparison. The scores for each channel are displayed in the below chart, so you can see for yourself how we reached these rankings.

Media selection chart

SMS is attention grabbing, it cuts through the noise, it’s interactive, personal and highly targeted. The delivery costs are low, and development costs are practically non-existent. It can be passed along to friends and family, saved and looked at in the future, and the message can be anything you like, especially as the technology has progressed past a simple 160 characters.

What do you think of our results? Are there any rankings you disagree with?