In this fragmented media landscape, how can brands ensure they are reaching the right – and the right sized – audiences? Campaign editor Claire Beale looks for answers

One of the great things about Advertising Week Europe is the chance to get together as an industry. In our fragmented world, sharing a moment with a big bunch of other people has become rather special.

Naturally, you don’t need me to point out that the shared consumer experience is becoming harder for media to achieve and brands to exploit. Media channels have proliferated, and technology now allows us to consume our content how, where and when we like. So reaching the right consumers in the right numbers at the right time has become the challenge for advertisers and marketers.

Technology is helping solve the problem. Media agencies are investing in ever more sophisticated tools that unlock new insights into consumers and their content journeys – we know more about them now than we ever have.

Yet if technology allows us to connect with a million individuals in a million different places, where does all this leave the big media players who have traditionally been the gatekeepers of big audiences? Yes, they’ve all made the transition to become digital businesses. And yes, gratifyingly, it’s still their channels that we turn to when we look for those shared experiences around national cultural and news events.

But does the sort of quality content that remains their hallmark still have a significant role to play?

The good news from the experts is ‘yes’. According to Abba Newbery, News UK’s director of advertising strategy (pictured): ‘The traditional channels are still relevant, powerful and connected to consumers. Content and context remain paramount as they determine trust, attention and a resultant increase in advertising impact.’

While no advertiser wants their ads placed alongside unsavoury or unsuitable material, high-quality content on a trusted channel has a halo effect on the advertising around it.

It was always so. But still, big audiences are getting harder to reach in one hit. How can the media and brands work together to deliver the numbers?

The answer, Newbery reckons, lies in smart communications planning – planning that is sensitive to how different platforms can combine to offer breadth and depth. She explains: ‘Programmatic is an exciting form of media planning, but it should not negate the human intellectual approach to the communications planning process.

‘Competition between media channels isn’t a zero-sum game and attention is, in some ways, not a finite resource. The power of cross-channel advertising shows that by understanding the relationship between channels, advertisers and media owners can ensure that all boats rise at once.’

The game, then, is not just about a single masthead brand delivering a large audience – all channels play a role in building that audience. And putting that sort of schedule together, using trusted channels for quality content, is more likely to ensure an advertising response that delivers a real commercial return for brands.

It’s not the communal experience of old, but in our fragmented, digital world it turns out that some things haven’t changed quite as much as we feared.