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12 Essential Media Planning Tools



12 Essential Media Planning Tools

Your customers are consuming messages in more ways than ever before — online, in publications, on TV, the radio, and on their phones — to name a few.

For companies hoping to reach their audiences across multiple channels, engaging in media planning is a must. However, it’s almost impossible to pull off without media planning tools that give you insight into your efforts.

To help you with your media planning efforts, we’ve compiled a list of the essential media planning tools, templates, and software to use this year.

Your customers are consuming messages in more ways than ever before — online, in publications, on TV, the radio, and on their phones…to name a few.

1. HubSpot Media Planning Template [Featured Resource]

media planning tool: HubSpot's media planning template.

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HubSpot’s paid media template will help you keep track of how much you’re spending on paid media, where your messages have gone out, and how much attributable revenue has been generated from each source.

You’ll also gain access to charts that automatically adjust when you add your spend and ROI. This resource is free — click here to get your copy now.

What we like: This template lets you compile data from your media buying efforts on a monthly basis. With it, you can determine which paid media channel works best for your company and yields the best results for your bottom line.

2. Bionic Media Planning Software

media planning tool: bionicImage Source

Bionic prides itself on its media plans, flowcharts, RFPs and IOs, trafficking, reporting, and client dashboards.

It has an average of 3.1 software updates on a monthly basis, meaning agencies using the software are provided with up-to-date planning tools to run and organize their campaigns.

What we like: Unlike other tools, Bionic is cloud-based — meaning you’ll be up and running in minutes. You also get unlimited training, support, and data backups at no extra cost.

3. Kantar SRDS Media Planning Platform

The most valuable resource for media planners is data. To feel confident promoting media on a specific platform, media planners need to know who is on each channel, in addition to understanding their target audience.

What we like: SRDS gives media planners access to extensive datasets on audience statistics and demographics so media planners can choose the right platform, message, and audience to target.

4. Media Plan HQ

media planning tool: media plan hq

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Not a fan of spreadsheets? No problem. Media Plan HQ’s got you covered. The tool tracks dates, placements, and budgets in real-time over an organized interface without having to deal with Excel. The tool is also collaborative, allowing you to work alongside your team members without the headaches caused by back-and-forth emails.

What we like: This tool gets a gold star for its collaboration capabilities. You can work alongside your team members (or share your plan with stakeholders) without the headaches caused by back-and-forth emails.

5. BluHorn

media planning tool: bluehorn

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Promising easy media planning and buying, BluHorn integrates with Nielsen and Comscore to provide users with instant access to data-rich insights. The tool is rich with useful features, such as post-buy, a vendor database, and data filters.

What we like: BluHorn is integration-rich. Connect with Nielsen & Comscore for easy planning; Google Analytics and Facebook for better tracking; and programmatic for seamless digital buying. And here’s the icing on the cake — BluHorn also integrates into Amazon AWS.

6. Quantcast

media planning tool: quantcastImage Source

Quantcast is an audience insights tool with data from 100 million websites. Quantcast uses AI so users can “better predict and influence [their] desired audience,” which is especially useful in an era where consumers are showered with ads wherever they go.

What we like: If you’re looking to dig into your audience’s behavior, look no further. Quantcast provides real-time insights into your ad campaigns, empowering you to better understand your audience and drive results.

7. Basis Technologies

media planning tool: BasisImage Source

Rated the #1 demand-side platform on G2 Crowd, Basis “addresses your direct, programmatic, search & social through a single interface.”

The software gives users access to 9,000 vendors and 11,000 publishers and informs them with more than 180 unique data points. It also contains a messaging tool for seamless team communication.

What we like: Running multiple ad campaigns can sometimes feel like an unorchestrated chaos. But with Basis, you can integrate all your advertising (including programmatic, direct, search, and social) in one central location.

8. Comscore

media planning tool: comscoreImage Source

Comscore is an essential tool for “planning, transacting and evaluating media across platforms.” Best known for providing data for digital platforms, film, and television, Comscore provides audience measurement metrics for companies looking to promote their products on a visual medium.

What we like: With Comscore, you can access data to determine the true impact of your media plan. Then, you can optimize your plan across a variety of media and screens in one place.

9. Nielsen

A household name, Nielsen is synonymous with audience measurement. Known mostly for TV viewership metrics, Nielsen’s global strategy also provides users with metrics for podcasts, streaming services, and social media. This gives users an all-encompassing view of where their audience is. It’s no wonder media planners and sellers have relied on Nielsen for nearly a century.

Fun Fact: Nielsen is considered to be the first company to offer market research and is responsible for the term “market share.”

What we like: Along with advanced audience segmentation, Nielsen also provides competitive intelligence that paints a complete picture of the media landscape — which helps you identify ways to differentiate your brand from competitors.

10. HubSpot Social Media Software

media planning tool: HubSpot Social Media Software

Looking to keep things just to a social media audience? HubSpot’s Social Media Software allows for easy publishing and audience analysis for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram on a single platform.

Plus, you can measure how your audience converts from social media in your CRM on their journey to becoming a customer.

What we like: Are you constantly refreshing your social media to monitor interactions? With this tool, all your social media interactions link back to your CRM — which saves you time and effort.

11. Scarborough from Nielsen

Another appearance from Nielsen on this list, Scarborough is a media planning tool for companies looking to get more local, hyper-focused audience insights. This tool is great for region-specific messaging or promotion and can facilitate a more systematic rollout of the word you want to spread.

What we like: With this tool, you can profile consumers beyond standard demographics — such as their lifestyle, shopping behaviors, and media consumption. You can also narrow in on specific audience segments, like sports betters or streamers.

12. MRI-Simmons

media planning tool: mri-simmonsImage Source

Marketed as “The Essential Consumer Truth Set,” MRI-Simmons provides both national and regional focus studies to those looking to learn more about their audience and plan media more effectively. Its clientele includes companies spanning multiple industries like Dell, Spotify, Coca-Cola, and Men’s Warehouse — which makes sense, given the massive amount of segmentations available to users.

What we like: As I mentioned above, MRI-Simmons is a powerful tool for segmentation. Why is this important? With segmentation, marketers can identify new audience trends to anticipate their behavior, attitudes and preferences and reach them in the most effective way.

Bonus Resource: HubSpot Academy’s Paid Media Course

HubSpot Academy’s course on How to Build a Paid Media Strategy is the perfect introduction to media planning. Whether you have a generous budget or none at all, this course provides marketers with the fundamentals of developing a paid media strategy, utilizing media throughout the buyer’s journey, and finding the ROI of your efforts. Click here to take the free course.

Media planning is an essential task for marketers. But doing it alone, or with disconnected software, will make it unnecessarily difficult. That’s why it’s important to look at the available tools and use ones that make sense for your goals.

paid media template

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Comparing Credibility of Custom Chatbots & Live Chat



Building Customer Trust: Comparing Credibility of Custom Chatbots & Live Chat

Addressing customer issues quickly is not merely a strategy to distinguish your brand; it’s an imperative for survival in today’s fiercely competitive marketplace.

Customer frustration can lead to customer churn. That’s precisely why organizations employ various support methods to ensure clients receive timely and adequate assistance whenever they require it.

Nevertheless, selecting the most suitable support channel isn’t always straightforward. Support teams often grapple with the choice between live chat and chatbots.

The automation landscape has transformed how businesses engage with customers, elevating chatbots as a widely embraced support solution. As more companies embrace technology to enhance their customer service, the debate over the credibility of chatbots versus live chat support has gained prominence.

However, customizable chatbot continue to offer a broader scope for personalization and creating their own chatbots.

In this article, we will delve into the world of customer support, exploring the advantages and disadvantages of both chatbots and live chat and how they can influence customer trust. By the end, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of which option may be the best fit for your business.

The Rise of Chatbots

Chatbots have become increasingly prevalent in customer support due to their ability to provide instant responses and cost-effective solutions. These automated systems use artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) to engage with customers in real-time, making them a valuable resource for businesses looking to streamline their customer service operations.

Advantages of Chatbots

24/7 Availability

One of the most significant advantages of custom chatbots is their round-the-clock availability. They can respond to customer inquiries at any time, ensuring that customers receive support even outside regular business hours.


Custom Chatbots provide consistent responses to frequently asked questions, eliminating the risk of human error or inconsistency in service quality.


Implementing chatbots can reduce operational costs by automating routine inquiries and allowing human agents to focus on more complex issues.


Chatbots can handle multiple customer interactions simultaneously, making them highly scalable as your business grows.

Disadvantages of Chatbots

Limited Understanding

Chatbots may struggle to understand complex or nuanced inquiries, leading to frustration for customers seeking detailed information or support.

Lack of Empathy

Chatbots lack the emotional intelligence and empathy that human agents can provide, making them less suitable for handling sensitive or emotionally charged issues.

Initial Setup Costs

Developing and implementing chatbot technology can be costly, especially for small businesses.

The Role of Live Chat Support

Live chat support, on the other hand, involves real human agents who engage with customers in real-time through text-based conversations. While it may not offer the same level of automation as custom chatbots, live chat support excels in areas where human interaction and empathy are crucial.

Advantages of Live Chat

Human Touch

Live chat support provides a personal touch that chatbots cannot replicate. Human agents can empathize with customers, building a stronger emotional connection.

Complex Issues

For inquiries that require a nuanced understanding or involve complex problem-solving, human agents are better equipped to provide in-depth assistance.

Trust Building

Customers often trust human agents more readily, especially when dealing with sensitive matters or making important decisions.


Human agents can adapt to various customer personalities and communication styles, ensuring a positive experience for diverse customers.

Disadvantages of Live Chat

Limited Availability

Live chat support operates within specified business hours, which may not align with all customer needs, potentially leading to frustration.

Response Time

The speed of response in live chat support can vary depending on agent availability and workload, leading to potential delays in customer assistance.


Maintaining a live chat support team with trained agents can be expensive, especially for smaller businesses strategically.

Building Customer Trust: The Credibility Factor

When it comes to building customer trust, credibility is paramount. Customers want to feel that they are dealing with a reliable and knowledgeable source. Both customziable chatbots and live chat support can contribute to credibility, but their effectiveness varies in different contexts.

Building Trust with Chatbots

Chatbots can build trust in various ways:


Chatbots provide consistent responses, ensuring that customers receive accurate information every time they interact with them.

Quick Responses

Chatbots offer instant responses, which can convey a sense of efficiency and attentiveness.

Data Security

Chatbots can assure customers of their data security through automated privacy policies and compliance statements.

However, custom chatbots may face credibility challenges when dealing with complex issues or highly emotional situations. In such cases, the lack of human empathy and understanding can hinder trust-building efforts.

Building Trust with Live Chat Support

Live chat support, with its human touch, excels at building trust in several ways:


Human agents can show empathy by actively listening to customers’ concerns and providing emotional support.

Tailored Solutions

Live chat agents can tailor solutions to individual customer needs, demonstrating a commitment to solving their problems.


Human agents can adapt to changing customer requirements, ensuring a personalized and satisfying experience.

However, live chat support’s limitations, such as availability and potential response times, can sometimes hinder trust-building efforts, especially when customers require immediate assistance.

Finding the Right Balance

The choice between custom chatbots and live chat support is not always binary. Many businesses find success by integrating both options strategically:

Initial Interaction

Use chatbots for initial inquiries, providing quick responses, and gathering essential information. This frees up human agents to handle more complex cases.

Escalation to Live Chat

Implement a seamless escalation process from custom chatbots to live chat support when customer inquiries require a higher level of expertise or personal interaction.

Continuous Improvement

Regularly analyze customer interactions and feedback to refine your custom chatbot’s responses and improve the overall support experience.


In the quest to build customer trust, both chatbots and live chat support have their roles to play. Customizable Chatbots offer efficiency, consistency, and round-the-clock availability, while live chat support provides the human touch, empathy, and adaptability. The key is to strike the right balance, leveraging the strengths of each to create a credible and trustworthy customer support experience. By understanding the unique advantages and disadvantages of both options, businesses can make informed decisions to enhance customer trust and satisfaction in the digital era.

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The Rise in Retail Media Networks



A shopping cart holding the Amazon logo to represent the rise in retail media network advertising.

As LL Cool J might say, “Don’t call it a comeback. It’s been here for years.”

Paid advertising is alive and growing faster in different forms than any other marketing method.

Magna, a media research firm, and GroupM, a media agency, wrapped the year with their ad industry predictions – expect big growth for digital advertising in 2024, especially with the pending US presidential political season.

But the bigger, more unexpected news comes from the rise in retail media networks – a relative newcomer in the industry.

Watch CMI’s chief strategy advisor Robert Rose explain how these trends could affect marketers or keep reading for his thoughts:

GroupM expects digital advertising revenue in 2023 to conclude with a 5.8% or $889 billion increase – excluding political advertising. Magna believes ad revenue will tick up 5.5% this year and jump 7.2% in 2024. GroupM and Zenith say 2024 will see a more modest 4.8% growth.

Robert says that the feeling of an ad slump and other predictions of advertising’s demise in the modern economy don’t seem to be coming to pass, as paid advertising not only survived 2023 but will thrive in 2024.

What’s a retail media network?

On to the bigger news – the rise of retail media networks. Retail media networks, the smallest segment in these agencies’ and research firms’ evaluation, will be one of the fastest-growing and truly important digital advertising formats in 2024.

GroupM suggests the $119 billion expected to be spent in the networks this year and should grow by a whopping 8.3% in the coming year.  Magna estimates $124 billion in ad revenue from retail media networks this year.

“Think about this for a moment. Retail media is now almost a quarter of the total spent on search advertising outside of China,” Robert points out.

You’re not alone if you aren’t familiar with retail media networks. A familiar vernacular in the B2C world, especially the consumer-packaged goods industry, retail media networks are an advertising segment you should now pay attention to.

Retail media networks are advertising platforms within the retailer’s network. It’s search advertising on retailers’ online stores. So, for example, if you spend money to advertise against product keywords on Amazon, Walmart, or Instacart, you use a retail media network.

But these ad-buying networks also exist on other digital media properties, from mini-sites to videos to content marketing hubs. They also exist on location through interactive kiosks and in-store screens. New formats are rising every day.

Retail media networks make sense. Retailers take advantage of their knowledge of customers, where and why they shop, and present offers and content relevant to their interests. The retailer uses their content as a media company would, knowing their customers trust them to provide valuable information.

Think about these 2 things in 2024

That brings Robert to two things he wants you to consider for 2024 and beyond. The first is a question: Why should you consider retail media networks for your products or services?   

Advertising works because it connects to the idea of a brand. Retail media networks work deep into the buyer’s journey. They use the consumer’s presence in a store (online or brick-and-mortar) to cross-sell merchandise or become the chosen provider.

For example, Robert might advertise his Content Marketing Strategy book on Amazon’s retail network because he knows his customers seek business books. When they search for “content marketing,” his book would appear first.

However, retail media networks also work well because they create a brand halo effect. Robert might buy an ad for his book in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal because he knows their readers view those media outlets as reputable sources of information. He gains some trust by connecting his book to their media properties.

Smart marketing teams will recognize the power of the halo effect and create brand-level experiences on retail media networks. They will do so not because they seek an immediate customer but because they can connect their brand content experience to a trusted media network like Amazon, Nordstrom, eBay, etc.

The second thing Robert wants you to think about relates to the B2B opportunity. More retail media network opportunities for B2B brands are coming.

You can already buy into content syndication networks such as Netline, Business2Community, and others. But given the astronomical growth, for example, of Amazon’s B2B marketplace ($35 billion in 2023), Robert expects a similar trend of retail media networks to emerge on these types of platforms.   

“If I were Adobe, Microsoft, Salesforce, HubSpot, or any brand with big content platforms, I’d look to monetize them by selling paid sponsorship of content (as advertising or sponsored content) on them,” Robert says.

As you think about creative ways to use your paid advertising spend, consider the retail media networks in 2024.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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AI driving an exponential increase in marketing technology solutions



AI driving an exponential increase in marketing technology solutions

The martech landscape is expanding and AI is the prime driving force. That’s the topline news from the “Martech 2024” report released today. And, while that will get the headline, the report contains much more.

Since the release of the most recent Martech Landscape in May 2023, 2,042 new marketing technology tools have surfaced, bringing the total to 13,080 — an 18.5% increase. Of those, 1,498 (73%) were AI-based. 

Screenshot 2023 12 05 110428 800x553

“But where did it land?” said Frans Riemersma of Martech Tribe during a joint video conference call with Scott Brinker of ChiefMartec and HubSpot. “And the usual suspect, of course, is content. But the truth is you can build an empire with all the genAI that has been surfacing — and by an empire, I mean, of course, a business.”

Content tools accounted for 34% of all the new AI tools, far ahead of video, the second-place category, which had only 4.85%. U.S. companies were responsible for 61% of these tools — not surprising given that most of the generative AI dynamos, like OpenAI, are based here. Next up was the U.K. at 5.7%, but third place was a big surprise: Iceland — with a population of 373,000 — launched 4.6% of all AI martech tools. That’s significantly ahead of fourth place India (3.5%), whose population is 1.4 billion and which has a significant tech industry. 

Dig deeper: 3 ways email marketers should actually use AI

The global development of these tools shows the desire for solutions that natively understand the place they are being used. 

“These regional products in their particular country…they’re fantastic,” said Brinker. “They’re loved, and part of it is because they understand the culture, they’ve got the right thing in the language, the support is in that language.”

Now that we’ve looked at the headline stuff, let’s take a deep dive into the fascinating body of the report.

The report: A deeper dive

Marketing technology “is a study in contradictions,” according to Brinker and Riemersma. 

In the new report they embrace these contradictions, telling readers that, while they support “discipline and fiscal responsibility” in martech management, failure to innovate might mean “missing out on opportunities for competitive advantage.” By all means, edit your stack meticulously to ensure it meets business value use cases — but sure, spend 5-10% of your time playing with “cool” new tools that don’t yet have a use case. That seems like a lot of time.

Similarly, while you mustn’t be “carried away” by new technology hype cycles, you mustn’t ignore them either. You need to make “deliberate choices” in the realm of technological change, but be agile about implementing them. Be excited by martech innovation, in other words, but be sensible about it.

The growing landscape

Consolidation for the martech space is not in sight, Brinker and Riemersma say. Despite many mergers and acquisitions, and a steadily increasing number of bankruptcies and dissolutions, the exponentially increasing launch of new start-ups powers continuing growth.

It should be observed, of course, that this is almost entirely a cloud-based, subscription-based commercial space. To launch a martech start-up doesn’t require manufacturing, storage and distribution capabilities, or necessarily a workforce; it just requires uploading an app to the cloud. That is surely one reason new start-ups appear at such a startling rate. 

Dig deeper: AI ad spending has skyrocketed this year

As the authors admit, “(i)f we measure by revenue and/or install base, the graph of all martech companies is a ‘long tail’ distribution.” What’s more, focus on the 200 or so leading companies in the space and consolidation can certainly be seen.

Long-tail tools are certainly not under-utilized, however. Based on a survey of over 1,000 real-world stacks, the report finds long-tail tools constitute about half of the solutions portfolios — a proportion that has remained fairly consistent since 2017. The authors see long-tail adoption where users perceive feature gaps — or subpar feature performance — in their core solutions.

Composability and aggregation

The other two trends covered in detail in the report are composability and aggregation. In brief, a composable view of a martech stack means seeing it as a collection of features and functions rather than a collection of software products. A composable “architecture” is one where apps, workflows, customer experiences, etc., are developed using features of multiple products to serve a specific use case.

Indeed, some martech vendors are now describing their own offerings as composable, meaning that their proprietary features are designed to be used in tandem with third-party solutions that integrate with them. This is an evolution of the core-suite-plus-app-marketplace framework.

That framework is what Brinker and Riemersma refer to as “vertical aggregation.” “Horizontal aggregation,” they write, is “a newer model” where aggregation of software is seen not around certain business functions (marketing, sales, etc.) but around a layer of the tech stack. An obvious example is the data layer, fed from numerous sources and consumed by a range of applications. They correctly observe that this has been an important trend over the past year.

Build it yourself

Finally, and consistent with Brinker’s long-time advocacy for the citizen developer, the report detects a nascent trend towards teams creating their own software — a trend that will doubtless be accelerated by support from AI.

So far, the apps that are being created internally may be no more than “simple workflows and automations.” But come the day that app development is so democratized that it will be available to a wide range of users, the software will be a “reflection of the way they want their company to operate and the experiences they want to deliver to customers. This will be a powerful dimension for competitive advantage.”

Constantine von Hoffman contributed to this report.

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