Using the Computer as a Planning Aid in an Applied Marketing Course


  • Richard Kagel


"Instructors teaching in applied areas, such as marketing planning and strategy, continually look for new techniques that simulate an actual business environment. The case study method is the traditional model used to make the subject matter as professionally realistic as possible. An applied area that we teach is media planning and strategy. We use the traditional case study method. We remain convinced that no other approach provides as good a learning environment for this complex subject. Students in our course must deal with the many planning variables that make up an advertising media plan. Most of these, such as, the reach and frequency goals of an effective strategy, require a great many mathematical calculations that are, normally in professional settings, handled by computers. The computer, in media planning, has created a mini-Industry devoted to analyzing, restructuring and modeling the information provided by syndicated research companies. These service organizations, such as Telmar, Interactive Marketing Systems (IMS), and Marketronics, are becoming very important to media planners. We struggled with the task of introducing the use of the computer to our students as a media planning aid, as it might be available in professional settings. We asked the media service companies for help in terms of on-line computer time. The response was that if we were willing to pay like regular clients, they would accommodate us. Of course, the costs involved precluded following this line any further. We then inquired about the possibility of companies helping us set up our own system on microcomputers. The answer was no, because of the protected nature of the simulations used in media modeling. We then looked at the possibility of finding published software that would provide the models we needed to give our students the hands-on experience that would simulate actual media planning activities. We would be willing to buy the computers to match the software. There was no published software to be found. The only reasonable alternative left was to buy our own microcomputer and program it ourselves. This has proved to be a highly satisfactory solution. We now have the capacity to tailor-write computer programs to match the specifications of our case studies. Writing programs is hard work, involving long hours, but we feel that we have made a successful start. The students seem to respond well to generating their own marketing data and we may even have added some new interest to an old teaching method. At least the students are using the computer in a similar way that professional media planners would. This alone seems to justify the time arid expense involved in the course development process. "