US Programmatic display advertising spends continue to grow, but do you really know what you’re getting for your advertising dollars?
A3 Media has a traffic and accounting department intensely focused on verifying every media buy placed for our clients are delivered in full. But we are never content, constantly researching options and potential pitfalls. If your media buying agency isn’t constantly looking for better and more efficient options, should they be your media buyer?
We recently completed an audit of a client’s programmatic campaign and found the pacing to be flawless. A series of 30-day campaigns delivered a consistent daily average of impressions that were evenly distributed throughout day.
The urge was to dig a little deeper, so we set out to test restricted hourly delivery over a short test period and found the results to be anything but unacceptable. Without letting our national DSP know, we set up a seven-day test to monitor pacing. This test was agency funded; no client advertising dollars were used.
We started with a very small test budget, an extremely focused geographic footprint, and some dayparting. Sounds reasonably simple right? WRONG!
Our test delivery was to be restricted to a six-hour window. Almost immediately we uncovered flawed dayparting algorithms. With solid results from previous campaign audits, we anticipated an average hourly delivery of approximately 17% of the total daily impressions. After allowing the campaign to run for two full 24-hour cycles we found 100% of the daily delivery in the first hour of the six-hour window. Hmm? Unless there is a specific reason to do so, reaching your entire target audience in one hour is in no one’s best interest!
When questioned, after the usual volley of emails, phone calls, and explanations that just didn’t add up the matter was turned over to the DSP’s CTO for further investigation. The explanation was not acceptable.
We were informed our test scenario uncovered a flaw the DSP was unaware of. They claimed no other agency had previously used or tested dayparted delivery. Really? Huh? While we found that hard to believe, maybe the answer was no other agency was checking hourly pacing and only checking total impressions.
However, within 72 hours the DSP recoded their delivery metrics to accommodate evenly paced hourly daypart targeting. We tested it again and it was working properly. The question is, did they know all along and just wanted to make sure they could clear the money everyday or are other agencies just accepting results and not challenging their vendors?
In either event, the answer isn’t good.
This year, 2022 is projected to see more than $96.5 billion in programmatic display advertising. For DSPs and most agencies this is a win, they’ll get paid as soon as your ad is delivered.
But shouldn’t you know your advertising agency truly has your back and are working as hard as you are for your business?
One would think so…or hope so!Reading Time: 3 minutes
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
Previously, I discussed the importance of checking pacing, a.k.a daily impression delivery (see blog post here), as part of the overall post buy monitoring process. Another part of this process that should not be ignored is trafficking instruction confirmation and creative rotation verification.
The creative and media teams often join forces to craft a complete strategy that delivers multiple creative assets to the maximum benefit for the client. Trafficking is the execution of the planned creative spots and often involves rotating said spots. Basically, rotation is determining the mix of multiple creative assets across an advertising medium. Sometimes rotation is simply spreading multiple creative spots out evenly. For example, spot A and spot B run evenly 50/50 throughout the entire flight or campaign. Other times, rotation is a more complex plan, involving many different creative assets, with different delivery goals and/or over different flight dates. For example, spot A and spot B run 60/40 for the first 3 weeks, then spot B and spot C run 40/60 for the next 6 weeks. As an agency, we never want to be in a position where the vendor does not execute our plan correctly.
Communicating the trafficking instructions to each vendor is key. One of the first steps we do on every buy is to have a conversation with our AE to ensure that all creative assets were received, and traffic instructions are understood. Nothing is left to assumption and a simple email and/or phone call often ‘sets the campaign off on the right path’ and avoids much turmoil later.
Once the campaign begins, it is important to check that the proper creative rotation is executed. Monitoring should begin as soon as possible to make sure spot(s) are delivered as instructed and, if required, any necessary changes are promptly made. From there weekly checking may be necessary to ensure the instructions are being followed or corrective action occurs. Also, anytime the trafficking instructions change, a follow-up conversation with the AE and resumption of the monitoring process like it is a new buy is necessary.
So how is rotation checked? Sometimes, the creative rotation information is available from your vendor’s dashboard, but often, data this granular is not readily available. Do not be reluctant to ask your vendor to provide more information! On numerous occasions, I’ve noticed that even though everything looks good on the surface (i.e., pacing and impressions are good), when you dig deeper you find that your creative rotations are “off”. This is especially true when the campaign is targeting multiple DMAs. The rotation might be fine in one DMA but completely wrong in another. That is why it is important to sift through the data and examine it from various angles. It is often in this process that we find that human error is responsible for the error in rotation instructions. Had we not monitored this information from the beginning, we may never uncover that the trafficking instructions were not followed.
If you determine that the trafficking instructions were not followed and rotation is not as it should be, a conversation with the vendor is required. A new rotation plan, which sometimes may include makegoods from the vendor, needs to be developed and implement to ensure the initial plan is completed as designed.
Effectively monitoring rotation is one way to ensure that the planned buy is executed as designed. Without regular observation, taking corrective action is impossible and the monetary investment as well as the time planning and strategizing for a successful campaign is wasted. At A3 Media we believe a well-thought-out buy deserves effective post-buy monitoring to ensure the buy runs as designed which is why we investigate delivery reports with a fine tooth comb.
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.