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Regional Buying on a Budget

Your agency better be prepared to keep a watchful eye! It’s easier to blanket areas than it is to break them apart. There are many ways to carve out and divvy up your media spend. Maybe you want to focus your spend on your top performing markets? Maybe you want to focus your spend on the least performing markets? Maybe you are opening new location(s) and you want to spend a portion of your dollars in those areas? Is your agency prepared to execute this type of buying? Is your agency prepared to watch over that campaign and treat your money like it’s their own? Will your agency watch over the buy to make sure that those portions stay in those areas? This takes an enormous amount of planning, reporting and time. If left unattended, your money could end up in areas you did not want to focus on and possibly in another time zone. And yes, that happens more often than you may think.  

Here are a few items to task your agency to get the biggest bang for your buck.

Negotiate with your Vendor

Your company’s media budget seems to be cut from last year, and of course everyone wants more of everything than the last campaign. How are you going to get that done with less money? Does your agency negotiate with their vendors? Or do they just buy close to rate card and commit? This should be your first question to your agency. Let’s be honest, the easiest thing for the agency would be not to negotiate on rate. They bill off your total spend!

Check Impression Delivery and Pacing for your Digital Campaigns

Is your agency checking that the impressions placed are delivered in the scheduled territories? Or are they just checking to see if the number of impressions were delivered so they can bill you for them. This is the top area where you can get some added value for sure.

On a recent campaign we requested delivery by zip code and found that roughly 20% of their spend delivered into unapproved zip codes. That is not good news for anyone, but it periodically happens.  Those of us in the reconciliation department know this means “Free Ads”. That incorrectly placed 20% will be coming back to the client and back into the approved areas. That 20% is voided from the invoice becomes added value impression.

We require weekly reports that shows us delivery by the hour. Pacing is extremely important for all our campaigns. Are your impressions being delivered while people are awake? Are the relevant times to sales cycles or just wasteful placements?

Out of Home Billboards

You might think, what is there to watch? The billboard goes up, then it comes down. That would be terribly naive. There are many things that you should be watching for. Typically, there is an acceptable window “posting period” that as the agency along with the vendor agree upon. Meaning, they typically have a few days from the proposed start date to post the board. Expecting them to post possibly hundreds of boards on a Monday because that is when it supposed to start is not possible. Over a few days, yes. If we come across, that every board posted 5 days late and you have 50 boards, that is 250 days of lost advertising time. Which equates to nearly 9 months of lost exposure! This is unacceptable and we either get that lost time reinserted on the back end or take credits.

Multiple Creatives Pieces

Frequently in out of home and digital there could be multiple creative pieces that are running at the same time, and you scheduled equal rotation for each. When the digital play report comes in you find that one of the creatives ran 80% and the other 2 ran at an equal 10%. Again, not something the client or us want to hear. On the other hand, for those of us in the accounting department, we know this means “Free Ads” or “Added Value” to our client. That mistake is removed from the invoice, and you get those additional ads for no cost and the contract is reloaded until fulfilled.

At A3 Media, we do everything possible to always ensure that there are no mistakes made on all our campaigns. It’s this detail that you want to make sure you’re getting from your agency. Are they watching these things? Honestly, it would be easier and less time for the agency not to get so granular, but then the client is really the only one who loses!

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A resume is typically crafted to highlight a person’s skill set and positive attributes. It is written to present that person’s “Best Version” of themselves to prospective employers. 

Billboards have a similar document used much like the human resume. Different outdoor companies call those documents by different names, from “Ride Sheets” to “Photo Sheets” to “Location Sheets” to the less frequently used name today, “Photo-liths”.  No matter what you call them, they function much like a human’s resume. They are intended to provide background information about that unit, its location on the road, the direction it is facing, side of the road it is located, the interesting destinations people travel to nearby as well as the weekly impressions it is rated to deliver.

Most importantly, and thankfully unlike most humans resumes, these come with pictures. For buyers that may have geographic obstacles preventing them from doing a traditional “pre-ride” physical inspection of billboard locations, these pictures serve as a surrogate solution. Most have multiple views of the board. Some from down the sightline or “contact zone” and some up close called “beauty shots”. These pictures are intended to sway media buyers to select these boards for OOH campaigns. The photos are also the outdoor companies’ way to present the best version of that board for buyers to view.

Not All Photos Sheets Are Created Equal

The job of the photos is to deliver the best views of the board. We have seen some pretty tricky photos taken from angles that often require a photographer with a risk-taking persona and the flexibility of a contortionist. My point is, if the photo’s look good, that is great, and some buyers will accept the location and the photo at face value.

Unfortunately, not all photo sheets are created equally, and some photo’s do not represent an accurate view of what potential viewers might see. When the Outdoor Media buy requires maximizing impressions quickly and the product or service is less specific, random locations may work. On the other hand, if the client has a more constrained budget and is focused on reach, frequency, and more dispersed engagements, then it becomes all the more important to take a closer look at those “Photo Sheets” when selecting boards.

Inspect What You Expect

In conjunction with overview maps, “Photo sheets” are a helpful starting point in the billboard selection process.
We have found it helps to try to envision yourself in the shoes of the viewer.
    * Is the photo taken at an angle that most people would view it?
    * Is the image or images unusually close to the board or does it only provide a close-up “beauty shot”?
    * What time of year was the photo taken? Summer growth often obscures board views.
    * Is the board located in a busy business boulevard?  Store signs can block a board’s view from the road.

Any of these red flags are usually worth a buyer’s drive down the street on Google Map view or a search on Geopath’ s platform to view the boards from the street level. Once found, the secondary perspective can provide the ability to virtually drive down the road (with your mouse) to see the board as a person in a car would. It can help determine the approximate dwell time and distance the board might be viewed in the contact zone. Very often you will find out that the board has a sign, a building, a tree or other vegetation blocking the boards view from the road. Check your “Weekly Impression” levels as well and consider if the calculation included a secondary road in their “Likely-to-see” measurement. That can sometimes skew the accuracy of the impressions reported.

Its ok occasionally to “take peoples word” for the veracity of a presented board. My advice to those looking to buy a campaign utilizing out of home, do your due diligence. If you don’t “Inspect, what you Expect” you could be doing your client a disservice. So just like that resume, if a “Photo Sheet” has any “red flags” it’s always worth checking a few of the board’s “references”, with Google maps or Geopath to make sure you are getting what you expect.