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We are bold strategic advisors

Obvious answers usually aren’t going to Fast-Forward things, so we go deep to find the correlations and opportunities that can help us drive better results.


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Our business intelligence group mines your data and ours, not simply to plan, but to adjust in real time as market conditions evolve.


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We make it simple for brands to drive results regardless of the selling environment and company marketing structure.


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We don’t work in a traditional media hierarchy. We’re organized in communities of experts that create a virtuous cycle of improvement and position us to swarm to client opportunities.

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We invest over $1 million annually in the media industry’s best research tools, which help to define and drive our media recommendations.

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The agency landscape has changed dramatically as a result of numerous challenges across the marketplace. Learn more about how we’re filling the gap for agency partners that have found themselves with limited media and research capabilities. In this episode of Fast-Forward the Conversation, VP of Business Development Fabio Ramos and Planning Strategist Misty Castellanos join President Zac Keeney to discuss the value Mindstream can provide not only to agencies but to their clients as well.



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[Video]: Influencing the Customer Journey

In this episode of Fast-Forward the Conversation, Director of Digital Investment Chris Hunt explores how we move from theory to application in leveraging paid media to influence the customer journey for our clients.

Fast-Forward the Conversation

We believe the daily pressure on CMOs to move their business forward is real, intense and not going away. Join our media practitioners, as we discuss the HOW behind making meaningful progress, on well-defined targets.


Catch the Highlights

  • The customer journey is at the forefront of conversations with every single client we work with, especially given the unique time we’re in. In theory, the journey is laid out in a clear linear fashion, but in reality, it’s much more complicated.
  • Times have changed. Just a few short years ago we used data like Experian Mosaic® segments to help bucket audience attributes and transported them to various digital platforms and identified traditional parallels as well.
  • We now know the journey is more like a zig-zagging path of multiple touchpoints, moving through all sorts of media depending on where consumers are, what they’re doing and what device(s) they have in front of them.
  • The consumer journey is dynamic. It’s constantly changing. People change. Brands must dynamically be part of that journey. As players in the media game, we’re finding ways to intercept shoppers in the middle of their journey to influence their purchasing decisions.

 The Customer Journey for a Non-Profit Client

  • We partnered with a global non-profit operating in parts of the world struggling with poverty and injustice. They were striving to have a positive impact on children’s lives and in doing so were also influencing the entire community.
  • Non-profits pose a special challenge given that marketing budgets come almost exclusively from donations made by the very people they’re marketing to. This creates a chicken and egg scenario. We need to show the target audience the difference the organization is making in the world, but a budget is required to do so.
  • Creative assets play a significant role in influencing decisions, but the trick is reaching potential donors in the “moment to buy.” In donating, that cycle is much more involved.
  • Real-time data captured by Facebook and Google as consumers moved through the buying journey was used to identify parallels between the current marketing segment of Christian mothers and others. These inputs helped us expand the target audience and shape the points of the customer journey.
  • Insight from the client is invaluable. Through the course of conversation, the client mentioned a desire to target high-wealth individuals at the end of the year, as a tax break incentive. We created a path and inserted the creative at the proper point in the journey to encourage donations from this audience segment.

The Customer Journey for a Mortgage Lender Client

  • The mortgage business is one of the most competitive industries in the country and quite expensive in terms of the competition for lead volume. Our client was successfully reaching their audience through TV and radio, but they were capping out and looking for a way to scale further.
  • We crafted a digital strategy to reach a younger demographic, primarily online to drive incremental lift.
  • The effort paid off. Results coming from that audience were approximately 25 percent greater in terms of house-closing value. Credit scores of borrowers showed that qualitatively, it was a more profitable audience, albeit smaller scale, but incremental to leads delivered via their other tactics.

The Impact of COVID on the Customer Journey

  • Although unfortunate because of the huge, tragic ramifications of the pandemic, it has created an incredible opportunity to analyze data and act on it dynamically and in real-time.
  • The landscape has changed drastically. Consumer behavior is now more addressable than it has ever been. Brands can now engage with consumers that may not have even considered them before.

See the next episode, QSR in a Dynamic Marketplace.

[Video]: Utilizing Data to Gain Efficiencies and Uncover Opportunities

We believe the daily pressure on CMOs to move their business forward is real, intense and not going away. Join our media practitioners as we discuss the HOW behind supporting client growth through media strategy.

Fast-Forward the Conversation

In this episode of Fast-Forward the Conversation, Kimberly Lockett, Planning Director, shares a unique perspective on work we’ve done for a franchise client in the home improvement category with influence across 200 markets.


Catch the Highlights

  • The client’s current media plan was spread a little thin in terms of broadcast and digital campaigns, with a somewhat laissez-faire approach in terms of management.
  • We started with a media audit to assess what had been done in the past in order to determine where we should aim for the future. We discovered previous efforts had been focused more on brand awareness with broad-scale buys in print and broadcast rather than concisely-targeted buys concentrated on specific zip codes within the client’s service areas.
  • Although television viewership has changed, especially in light of COVID, the client had been running the same schedule for a few years.
  • We scratched their whole daypart mix in favor of a more efficient way to reach the target audience of 25-54-year-olds. Our market research and the ratings showed that both the 25-54 and the 55+ buying demos were watching the same programming. Adjusting the purchase to the slightly older demographic allowed us to lower pricing enough to shift 15-20 percent of the budget into the coveted prime-time slot.
  • The client was also overspending in search. Fully-optimized search campaigns require active management on a weekly or even daily basis, but the client was simply letting the campaign run on its own.
  • Our search and broadcast team members worked in tandem to re-piece the media mix puzzle together without increasing the overall budget.
  • Once broad media was covered efficiently with tremendous reach, we utilized data partners to provide better visibility into the true opportunity areas in the marketplace for a digital plus-up.
  • We started by leveraging Simmons data to better understand the target audience. Learning about the behavior, lifestyle and attitudes that impact the purchasing decisions of the target audience helped us determine where to find and target them.
  • Then, we looked at zip codes within the service area and layered on homes that were 20+ years old, since homeowners typically start thinking about home improvement activities when a home reaches 15-20+ years of age. This helped us identify more narrowly defined areas with the most potential for leads and conversions.
  • Reporting from the client’s previous agency consisted of thousands and thousands of lines of data in Excel with no real insights into what it all means. Our goal for the future is to create more valuable reporting that combines sales data with campaign performance to provide a full picture of what’s happening on a day-to-day basis in order to be able to pivot quickly if a tactic is underperforming.
  • Our dynamic reporting creates a much more intimate relationship with the data, making our client’s life easier by providing an immediate connection to KPIs and business intelligence to enable informed decisions.

See the next episode, Influencing the Customer Journey.

Political Advertising Implications for Brands

The pandemic’s impact on advertising budgets and strategy has been significant over the last several months, causing understandable and cautious shifts as brands navigate the evolving landscape. And while COVID continues to disrupt life as we knew it before, we can’t forget about another looming factor that will impact our media and economic climate – the U.S. presidential election.

Now that we’re in the political advertising window (September 4 – November 3, 2020), what do advertisers need to be aware of and consider in regard to their media strategy?

In this article, we’ll provide research and insights from our team on how the next couple of months could be impacted by political advertising.

When approaching this topic, we started with the IDEA framework, as we do with other Mindstream Media Group strategies.

IMMERSE: We looked to the past and what we know about the current climate.

DEFINE: We explored the importance of assigning value to media. If you didn’t measure it, did it even happen?

EXECUTE: We determined how quickly media can be launched or pulled, should an opportunity or threat present itself.

AMPLIFY: We summarized what we believe it takes for brands to win during political advertising season.

The Political Media Landscape

Political investments are expected to surpass $6 billion easily and could reach as high as $10 billion. That means there may be media supply issues, which would likely impact cost and also our decision to pursue certain media channels for our clients.

Let’s talk about what that means for our investment in media.

Digital CPMs

Looking at the last four years of data on digital CPMs – starting with the 2016 presidential election, there’s been a steady rate increase representative of inflation, more advertisers investing in digital and more digital placements and sites available.

2016 Presidential Election Window

During the election window in 2016, the first week of October showed a spike in digital CPMs. That was, of course, the week of the contentious second debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and the same time that a controversial news story broke about Trump. Average CPMs were higher during this week than during the actual election week in November.

Election Year V. Not

Of course, we can’t just look at one year – we have to compare October/November CPMs to non-election years as well. There are certain correlations between CPM and election windows, but why is that? The short answer is, more news drives more consumption, which increases demand, which in turn, increases ad price.

What’s the lesson here? Large news events leading up to the election window itself, even weeks out, have just as much or even more bearing on media impact. We can’t predict when the next leak or big story will happen, but we can prepare for it.

Television is Similarly Uncertain

Similar to digital, we’ve already begun to see political TV spend take off, but spending projections are all over the board. Political spending is always fairly uncertain, which in 2020 will ring especially true.

According to Kantar research, Broadcast TV and National Cable projections for 2020 range from $1.5 billion (if following the 2016 trend) up to $5 billion (if following the 2012 trend). That’s a huge projected range, but in general, we can expect a five to ten percent increase in TV CPMs.

2020 Political Spending on Video

2020 spend on TV advertising alone is projected to be 88 percent higher than during the 2016 presidential election and 30 percent higher than the 2018 midterm election.

Streaming video is shaping up to be the future of political advertising. With multiple platforms, better geographic and demographic targeting and huge, consistently growing viewership, 2020 spend has more than doubled since 2018. This year, digital video is on par with the 2016 broadcast level, and we can only expect to see it rise exponentially for the next election year.

A Political Election, in COVID Conditions

Think of all the major events cancelled this year – events that would have drawn media dollars from the world’s largest brands. It’s important to know that the channels with limited availability (like broadcast TV and radio) will be under even more pressure during this window, given the revenue catch-up game in play. Remember that projected TEN BILLION DOLLARS?

Remarkably, our research shows that from a political media buying perspective, only two channels were seriously injured by COVID: out-of-home (OOH) and experiential. This was for obvious reasons, too – we were asked to stay in our homes and of course, not experience anything, with anyone. In a typical election year, OOH and experiential ads are a large part of political campaigns, but since there are less drivers on the road, initially due to shelter-in-place orders and now due to the work-from-home boom, billboards aren’t as much of a priority.

It’s a shame not many will actually see this billboard – that’s good creative!

While OOH also includes bus shelters, benches, elevators, airport terminals, transit stations, cabs, buses, gyms, movie theaters, shopping centers, etc. in addition to billboards – those are also ALL locations where there’s been a huge decrease in foot traffic, and in turn, less eyeballs likely to see the advertising message.

Experiential marketing was the hardest hit, as political events and rallies were postponed or cancelled due to COVID restrictions. And although the candidates have shifted those in-person events to online events, both attendance and audience engagement have suffered tremendously.

What Will We Get for Our Investment?

Sales data is powerful. If you can’t measure it, did it really even happen?

Now more than ever, media must fight harder to break through all the noise, especially during the airing of political ads. It’s critical to measure what we get from that fight. With a hospital client, for example, we developed a growth formula – the “what would have been if it weren’t for COVID” scenario. We couldn’t have arrived at this formula without key revenue data from the client. From this, we developed a strategy to directly target the “backlog,” those looking to have elective procedures performed.

And if that’s not hard enough, per FCC regulations, political ads get precedence, meaning other advertisers could get bumped.

COVID has impacted sales in a huge way for many brands and clients, and this example illustrates a strategy aimed at recovering revenue lost to facility closures – which could not have been enacted without the sales data to inform the strategy.

Agility is Key During a Political Window

The good news is, we have options, but they require an agile planning and buying workflow from the beginning. Select digital tactics offer alternatives in short order. For example, a TV alternative may be connected TV, while for radio it may be podcasts or streaming audio.

As an agency, we have ideal and emergency campaign setup windows outlined, and while more lead time is always better, the takeaway is that we can move fast or shift channels if we need to. Agility is key.

General Election Basics

As we enter the 2020 general election window, keep these political advertising basics in mind. They affect all types of media and all advertisers.

  • Candidates (federal, state and local) can purchase ads at the lowest unit rate given to any political advertiser.
  • Media stations can limit political inventory, but also must provide reasonable access to it.
  • All dayparts must be made available.
  • Stations can limit or exclude inventory in news programs.

How Brands Can Win (or, Not Lose)

With the volatility of the political advertising season, some brands may choose to avoid October altogether. With the right strategy (and media partner) though, the volatility can be minimized and planned around. Some considerations include having one strategy for “toss-up” states versus “safe” states, diversifying the media mix to plan for political preemptions and adopting an agile reinvestment plan to create flexibility.

Takeaways to consider:

  • All media will be affected by political ads.
  • A state-by-state or regional variation in media strategy must be taken into account versus a national campaign.
  • Agility is key in navigating the political advertising season.
  • A media partner with nationwide buying power combined with local market expertise is a brand’s best bet to maximize efforts.
  • Embrace a multi-channel approach to reinforce your message.

In this ever-critical lean-burning time where media is under increased scrutiny, it’s important for us to show that a brand’s media mix is effectively reaching the target audience. Building agility into the strategy will help our clients win.