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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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Hand holding megaphone with the words "Prove it"

Part III: Proof of Performance (POP)

Media planners and buyers spend hours, days, weeks and sometimes months, crafting and planning the perfect buy to maximize impressions within a client’s given budget. It is important to monitor the buy to ensure the plan matches the reality and you get what you paid for. Some advertising mediums are easier than others to monitor and measure effectiveness.

Generally, Out of Home (OOH) advertising is the most difficult form of advertising to measure effectiveness. It is hard to determine the actual impact of the billboard or how many people saw it. For these reasons, it is extremely important that media buyers require proof of performance for all out of home advertising purchases. At A3 Media, we believe a well-thought-out buy deserves effective post-buy monitoring to ensure the buy runs as designed, that is why we require and review proof of performance reports for all out of home advertising.

Proof of Performance, also known as POPs, is a certificate sent to advertisers by the outdoor vendor that contracted services were rendered. POPs reports, usually include the vendor and advertiser name, installation date, flight dates, photos of the actual ad on the specified board, and in the case of digital spots, number of times played. POP reports are usually required from large and national advertisers/agencies, but because of the important role they play, they should not be overlooked by regional media companies and advertisers.  

Requiring proof of performance is one way to ensure that the advertising plan matches the reality of the delivery. As soon as the contracts are signed, our traffic team confirms creative and flight dates with the out of home company. Then, once the posting period begins, photo proof of installation is required. These photos serve several purposes. 

  • One, they confirm that the billboard or other out of home advertising was installed on time.  This may be extremely important if your campaign is of a time sensitive nature. If installation was delayed beyond acceptable or contracted terms, then request the posting period be extended to compensate for the delay.  
  • Two, the photos will show actual visibility. Many out of home companies will provide the billboard’s ‘glamour’ shots during the contract process. These glamour shots are designed to show the billboard in the best possible way. Some of these glamour shots might be outdated.  The POPs photos will bring to light visibility issues including obstructions like taller trees, or poor lighting.   
  • Three, the POP photos will confirm the correct creative spot is posted in the correct location. Often, out of home advertising campaigns include multiple creative pieces which are specifically geographically placed for greatest impact. Despite previous confirmations, installation mistakes can happen. It is important to confirm that the out of home advertising is installed where it was planned.

There is an added element to Proof of Performance required when digital advertising is part of your advertising plan. At the end of posting period, the OOH vendor needs to provide a digital play report for agency or advertiser review. The digital play report should summarize the number of times your ad(s) was shown on the billboard (or other structure). If you have multiple creative spots running, the digital play report should include the number of ads shown for each creative spot so traffic rotation can be verified.

Whether you use a service or verify internally, it is important to monitor and require Proof of Performance and Proof of Play Digital reports for every out-of-home advertising campaign to ensure that the media plan is delivered correctly. Do not hesitate to ask for POPs from your vendor, Proof of Performance should be stipulated in the contract and verified prior to invoice payment. 

Effectively monitoring Proof of Performance is one way to ensure that the planned buy is executed as designed. Without regular observation adjusting the buy is impossible and the monetary investment as well as the time planning and strategizing for a successful campaign is wasted. 

Click on the following links to read part one and two of this three-part blog series:

Part I: Impression Pacing

Part II: Tracking Rotation

Written by:
Jennifer Vanisko
Reconciliation Specialist

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We at A3 Media never stop looking for better ways to place and monitor media for our clients. We make it part of our daily routine because when you find a truly innovative partner with real accountability, the benefits for our clients can be the difference between failure and success, theirs and ours. And, while we haven’t heard them all we’ve heard hundreds of pitches claiming they have, “the most advanced system on the market for your needs.” In reality, newer and more advanced isn’t always better.

United States advertisers are projected to spend more than 289 billion dollars in 2022. Roughly 54% of those ad dollars will be allocated to digital advertising. More than 11 billion of all the digital dollars is projected to be wasted due to the widespread fraud in the digital space. This is out-and-out fraud, money spent that will never actually reach a single human. But it doesn’t stop there.

Digital media has always had its own standards. A “try to keep up with tech, as you go model,” in my opinion. There are many facets to placing a successful digital buy: the budget, the creative styles available, the creative quality, available inventory, and the list goes on. One facet – acceptable viewability standards – is the most baffling to me.

Nearly seven years ago, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Media Rating Council (MRC) created a standard definition of ad viewability – at least 50% of an ad must be in view for a minimum of one second for display ads and two seconds for video ads.

Compounding the IAB/MRC guidelines is the acceptable industry standard of 70% viewability! Seven of every 10 ads placed need to be at least 50% in view for ONE second, or TWO seconds for digital video. How much of an ad’s message can be gleamed by reading 50% of a digital ad in one second or watching 50% of a digital video for two seconds? Is producing an entire video that can deliver the brand’s message in two seconds possible? Does the agency ever explain this to their clients?

Does 70% viewability mean that a campaign can’t be successful? No! Does 100% viewability guarantee a campaign’s success? No, but it certainly increases your odds by 30%! However, what possible chance of success can be derived from the 30% of your digital ad dollars never being seen? That’s really easy – NONE! Yet publishers and agencies alike always boast about measuring their success against the industry standard. We often hear from vendors that they will “try” to optimize to 70% viewability. Our response is a resounding, “thanks but no thanks.”

If this is the model used for your media buying, the only potential loser is you – the client. Your agency is billing on a CPM (cost per thousand) impressions ordered, viewable or not. The DSP (demand side platform) your agency uses to place your buys charges on a CPM model – they get paid for every impression. The publishers and suppliers, SSP (supply side platforms) get paid for every impression they sell, viewable or not.

You can stay the course and hope your message reaches your potential consumers or, if this doesn’t sound like the most efficient use of your advertising dollars consider a few options:

  • Add 30% to your media budget to compensate for the nonviewable impressions and hope the additional spend gets the results you need.
  • Lower your bid rate by 30% so that you can increase your number of impressions. Although, this greatly reduces your chances of running and finding quality placements.
  • Ask your agency to look in to vCPM rates. Yes, the digital supply chain has gone so far as to offer a vCPM rate (viewable cost per thousand). The question that comes to mind first is where is the nvCPM rate, non-viewable cost per thousand?

Perhaps it may make more sense to work with an agency that refuses to jump on the bandwagon and work with superior providers. Choices do exist, non-skippable audio and video and above the fold (ATF), static digital ads, verified in demo, and geotargeted placements offer you a much higher chance of success than the current standards.

If your agency and publishers aren’t willing to guarantee nearly 100% vCPM, then ask them if it’s alright for you to deduct 30% of their costs and commissions. After all, fair is fair!

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Part I: Impression Pacing

Media planners and buyers spend hours and days crafting and planning the perfect buy to maximize impressions within a client’s given budget. Often the media buy is placed with a vendor and left to run its course, leaving the media company and client surprised a month or two later to find out that the buy did not run exactly as planned. At A3 Media, we believe a well-thought-out buy deserves effective post-buy monitoring to ensure the buy runs as designed. Monitoring daily impression pacing is one way to confirm that the buy plan matches reality.

So, what is pacing? In short, pacing is matching daily impressions delivered to the average daily goal (total impressions purchased for the flight divided by the number of days in the flight). Just like a runner does not start a marathon with a leisurely stroll or an all-out sprint, we do not want our impression delivery to start too slow or too fast. And like the marathon runner, we need to know when to speed up or slowdown in order to finish the race within our goal. Why? What is the harm of too slow, too fast, or uneven pacing?

If a campaign starts too slow you risk not using your entire impression budget thus reducing reach and frequency. In other words, our marathon runner will not finish the race in time. On the other hand, if a campaign starts too fast, you risk using up all your impressions and ‘going dark’ before the end of the campaign. In such as case, our marathon runner will burn out before reaching the finish line.

In addition, uneven pacing can result in impression peaks and valleys that reduce the effectiveness of your planned strategy. At our agency this typically means syncing up against other media elements at the appropriate time to be effective as possible.

It is important that we monitor pacing because sometimes vendor’s promised inventory availability projections do not match the actual inventory available. If we do not have a firm handle on our daily pacing, under-delivery and inventory issues may not be uncovered until invoice reconciliation at which time it may be too late to make any impactful changes to the buy to fix the low delivery. We monitor our pacing weekly and sometimes daily, depending on the unique particulars of the buy. This ensures that we are always aware of any issues that may be present before we are invoiced and while we still have time to make those impactful changes.

There are many tools available to track and monitor your pacing including vendor dashboards, specialty software, and Excel spreadsheets. Do not be afraid to ask your vendor for more data and ad-hoc reports so you receive the information necessary for you to track impression’s daily delivery. Whatever you choose to use, the important thing is to do it with regularity.

Now that you have a plan in place to track and monitor your daily impressions what do you do with this information? Well, then you make adjustments! If your data shows under-delivery, then reach out to your client and AE – perhaps you can open your demo? If that is not an option, then perhaps, you may choose to utilize a different vendor source. If data shows you are running too fast and overdelivering, then a conversation with the AE is necessary to ensure that the flood gates are closed a little bit, frequency caps are initiated, and remaining impressions are spread out evenly throughout the rest of the campaign.

Effectively monitoring daily impressions pacing is one way to ensure that the planned buy is executed as designed. Without regular observation adjusting the buy is impossible and the monetary investment as well as the time planning and strategizing for a successful campaign is wasted.

Written by:
Jennifer Vanisko
Reconciliation Specialist