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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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The country is reconsidering the value and potential benefits of different forms of products derived from Marijuana or Cannabis. Since this is a state issue and not necessarily a federal issue, lets focus on the states, and which states have laws in favor or against the differing degrees of legality for cannabis. To be clear we are not taking any sides in this debate, but simply highlighting the potential for growth of the industry and how the different states will need to determine how cannabis companies will be allowed to promote and advertise their products and services.  

They breakdown to the following categories this way. Legalized, Medical & Decriminalized, Medical, Decriminalized, CBD only, and Fully Legal.

The industry seems to be taking several cues from the Beer/Liquor & Wine industry and how it has negotiated and determined what rules and restrictions each media channel will follow. The long standing “Alcohol Industry” standard for advertising was that 70% or more of an ad medium’s viewership had to be 21 or older. That was recently revised to the new standard that 71.6% of the audience must be 21 or older. Additionally, alcohol advertising’s creative messages should not be designed to target or appeal to people under the age of 21. Using cartoon characters etc. is discouraged. The advertising cannot promote brands based on alcohol content or its effects. Lastly, the ads must not encourage irresponsible drinking.

As an example of how states are applying a similar line of thinking with regards to its regulation of cannabis advertising, Colorado law states that cannabis companies cannot advertise on television or radio without “reliable evidence that no more than 28.4% of the publication’s viewership is reasonably expected to be under the age of 21.” This rule is also applied to print and digital media. Of course, some digital properties can add “age gating” to help enforce this.

Cannabis advertising has various levels of censoring by social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok.

One example to consider is the city of Denver. The city at first, was not allowing billboards, except for company store signs. Any advertising visible from the streets, sidewalks, parks, or other public places within the city limits was prohibited. Thanks to changes to a 2019 bill overhauling the marijuana industry regulations, restrictions were eased. Those same businesses may now utilize outdoor advertising if it is placed at least 500 feet away from schools, playgrounds and churches. This is similar to the restrictions billboards must comply with regarding Alcohol.

In the lead up to these easing of restriction, several dispensaries skirted the laws by sponsoring sections of the “Adopt-a-highway-Program.” This secured the companies name on signs along highways as partners with the state DOT, which maintained regular clean ups of 2 mile stretches of the highway in CO. More than 48% of the programs 248 miles of highways in 2018 were sponsored by marijuana companies.

One of the key concerns, most often cited as reasons for restricting advertising methods, are based upon a myriad of studies about how cannabis products can alter the developing mind of younger people, who have not reached adulthood yet. Despite society’s declining concern over the risks associated with cannabis use, neuropsychiatric conditions, automobile crashes and substance use disorders are often sited in studies as negative outcomes more associated with teens than with adults.  In 2019, the Surgeon General’s report warned, “Cannabinoid receptors are crucial for brain development, which is why cannabis use during adolescence carries special risks.”.

A recent study was published in the “Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs” led by Dr. Pamela J. Trangenstein, Associate Professor of Health Behavior at the UNC-Chapel Hill Gilling’s School of Global Public Health. The research of 172 teens, ages 15 to 19, who lived in states with legal recreational marijuana and who used the drug at least once, reported that compared with those that never saw a billboard or storefront ad, those that said they saw them “Most of the time” or “Always” had seven times the odds of frequent cannabis use and nearly six times the odds of having Cannabis use disorder. Ironically, Teens who occasionally saw some form of cannabis ad on Instagram were 85% less likely to use marijuana frequently compared to those that never saw such promotions.

So is a takeaway from an advertising perspective, that outdoor advertising is more effective at promotion of certain products, than other forms of advertising like social media? Or is it that that some limited and defined parameters modeled after the Alcohol industry, like the distance from schools, playgrounds and churches should be strictly adhered too?

Who is ultimately responsible for cannabis advertising? The “Advertiser” or the “Vendor” that owns the platform. It seems to be a mix of responsibilities based upon the type of media. With OOH, the largest player Lamar, has published a slightly more restrictive policy directive than the state, at least in Colorado. Lamar’s rules for Cannabis ads include the Minimum of 85% of the targeted audience must be 21 or older, vs the state rule of 71.6%.

It’s other guidelines mirror much of the Alcohol and Cannabis laws currently in place.

  • Copy must not appeal to minors
  • Slag words like “Weed” or “Pot” cannot be used
  • No images of the plant or leaf
  • No mention or image of ingestible products or paraphernalia
  • No false Health Claims
  • No images of any product that is ingestible or edible
  • All copy must first be approved by Lamar and is subject to state and local authorities.
  • Disclaimers may be required in select markets

It should be recommended that the Cannabis industry continue to take their lead from the alcohol beverage industry. They should pool their resources of the different advocacy groups, to focus efforts now to study, establish, and publish guidelines of “best practices” for the nation, as it relates to advertising of Cannabis products. Codify the restrictions intended to keep the products out of the purview of children. Distinctions should be drawn that better define the right-minded promotion of legal Cannabis products. Early adoption and codification of the standards pre-emptively should head off government intervention and potential heavy handed crushing regulations that can often follow.

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U.S. Ad Spending: According to Magna Global, the U.S. ad market will rebound in 2021 with ad dollars growing year-over-year by an estimated 25%, totaling $284.3 billion.

What is Data-Driven Advertising?

Data-driven advertising helps brands understand the customer journey and provides insights that allow for a “personalized” experience. It helps brands reach the right audience on the channels they use.

Data-driven advertising isn’t new, but it is increasingly the deciding factor in advertising planning as well as the measurement of a successful campaign.

Does data provide valuable insight into a potential consumer? Sure.

Does data allow an advertiser to follow the consumer across multiple touchpoints, across multiple devices, bordering on creepy? It does.

Does data driven advertising have a place in the strategy of your media campaign? It absolutely does. Should it be the only factor in your media strategy and determining a campaigns success? Not a chance.

One facet of the work we do at A3 Media is constantly vetting new companies. Is every company we vet a perfect fit for our client’s needs? No! However, we have found and established invaluable relationships and implemented many new and unique tools through the process. This process helps enable us to be more versatile and better informed, which, in turn, allows us to provide better service to clients.

Enter Converged TV – the blending of linear, connected and addressable TV.

Converged TV measurement is a blended measurement of the effectiveness of linear and digital TV.

Linear TV

Linear TV has been measured historically by rating points, the percentage of viewers of the total possible audience. More recently there has been a shift to view linear TV by impressions (putting it on a more equal scale to digital properties). Linear TV, ratings or impressions, at best represent an estimate of the audience.  If this isn’t murky enough add to the equation, the leading source of TV ratings is also establishing the statistics for TV households as well as the potential audience size.

Reviewing the intricacies of linear TV measurement could lead to an ongoing series, the topic at hand is converged TV measurement. To make a long story short, an analysis of predictive modeling based on estimated ratings, or impressions, for linear TV should be viewed as marginally accurate. If this isn’t convoluted enough, add the manual steps and time delay necessary to secure the final modeling. These additional steps can require enormous man-hours and can take anywhere from several days to several weeks to complete.

Does this “data” allow for optimization of your linear TV schedule with all these obstacles? Next, add the associated costs for this service – six figures a year.

Connected and Addressable TV

Connected and addressable delivery and engagement truly is much more measurable using household and device data, delivery and conversion measurement capabilities. This, almost, real-time analysis does lend itself to campaign optimization. The fees for this type of data are typically calculated as a percentage of the media cost.

The final blended summation is still at the heart of the issue.

  • Is it data? Yes.
  • Does it contain a substantial amount of inference? Absolutely!
  • Is this the type of data you want to hang your hat on to dictate your media plans? Uhm…..no.
  • Is this a sound foundation to determine the course and success of your media campaign? Not completely.

There may never be an end to the search for more and better data but until something better comes along, this is it. So, in the rush for data always ask for a clear explanation of the source, calculations and accuracy of the information presented – all data is not created equal!

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Did you ever wonder, if Times New Roman is the standard font that everyone uses, what on earth are all these other fonts for? Imagine what a bland world it would be with just one standard font. Take the Netflix logo for example. If it was just in Times New Roman typeface in black, it wouldn’t be memorable, would it? That’s where Typography comes in! Typography is important in everyday life. Without it we wouldn’t be able to communicate messages effectively!

So, what is Typography? “Typography is the strategic arrangement of type in order to make written language readable and visually appealing.” Some may think typeface and font are the same thing but they’re not. Typeface consists of a family of fonts that express different styles for that typeface. Some styles are bold, italic, regular, etc. Using features like Contrast, Hierarchy, Color, Alignment, and Consistency, we see elements of typeface design. With Contrast, a designer will change or work with various typeface styles and color to make the design stand out.

With Hierarchy, Graphic Designers arrange typefaces and use font sizes to create dynamic designs that grab the viewer’s attention. Color helps establish the tone of the message and helps it pop. Alignment helps make sure there is the same amount of space between fonts and images to create a neat design. Consistency between your typefaces ensures a clean and messy-free design and helps create a visual pattern for viewers.

In Typography we use typefaces to convey different ideas, feelings and emotions. For example, the Serif family of typefaces conveys respectability and reliability, the Sans Serif family conveys stability and clarity, the Script family conveys elegance and creativity, the Modern family conveys strength, and the Display family conveys friendliness and expressiveness. Picking your typeface is an important part of the design in creating your message.

Typography is important for Media and Marketing whose primary function is to communicate, advertise and sell to consumers. It helps to build brand recognition, show personality, deliver an effective message, and make an impact. Helping to build brand recognition is a vital component of Typography. Using the appropriate typeface helps to convey a mood or tone for that brand that is memorable and conveys what the brand is about. As a consumer you are attracted to a brand without realizing what got your attention. Consistent use of a typeface in logo design helps to reinforce brand identity. “The Coca-Cola typeface script for example is instantly recognizable because they have been so consistent in applying it for so many years.” If you consider the Disney logo, it’s memorable because it’s playful and friendly. They want to appeal to young children and adults alike. That’s the power of Typography!  

There is more to typography than just choosing a font. Typography teaches us how to arrange type in order to make written language readable and appealing. With all the tools available to us today, we have the ability to create messages that create an emotional connection to the consumer to make the consumer interested. Typography is essential to Media and Marketing because it helps build a brand. Without Typography building brand recognition with a clear, concise message would be very challenging.

Written by:
Shavonne Stellato
Development & Graphics Team Member

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True collaboration happens when each team member stays in their own lane. According to research done by the Harvard Business Review (as noted in an article by Project Risk Leader), clearly defining people’s roles and responsibilities matters more when determining a team’s success. When working on a plan for each of our clients or even on our own internal materials, we all have our place to take and it’s crucial that we each focus on what our individual jobs are to get things done.

By concentrating on what we’re individually responsible for, we avoid redundancy and doing excess work. This saves time and money.  According to a recent survey done by Zapier, people spend approximately four to five hours a day on core job functions. That won’t cut it when there are deadlines to make and projects to complete. There is only so much time in the day and in our industry, you can’t waste a minute of it.

With tasks assigned, teams set, and targets to hit, we ensure that everything gets done in a timely manner. This works especially well when those assigned to a task are experts in their field. While we ensure that cross training happens in our office, so that there is always coverage, we still consider the lead person in each department, whether that be a digital specialist, social media specialist, OOH specialist, etc. as the one taking charge on their share of the project we are working on.

Focusing on specific assignments lowers the risk of missing important tasks. We’ve all worked with someone who feels they need to jump in on a task that wasn’t theirs to begin with and inevitably they end up not getting their own work done. By keeping focused on each of our jobs and goals, we eliminate delays and missed opportunities in our own work.

It’s also good to point out that moving into someone else’s lane and stepping on their toes can create unhealthy competition between colleagues. No team works well when there are people on it that feel angry or frustrated. A study was done by Oxford University’s Saïd Business School that showed that workers are 13% more productive when happy. Teams that work well together are made up of happy employees. Happy employees are pleased with their jobs and in turn produce better work.

Having each member of the A3 Media team focus on their department, allows us to get more done in less time, bring additional attention to details, and work smarter not harder. After nearly 30 years, we pride ourselves on being a well-oiled machine. That doesn’t happen by chance.

Our teams work as individual spokes in the wheel. Each person has his or her own responsibilities and understands what to focus on to keep things rolling. We’ve even taken classes and received certifications in our own various fields of expertise. Whether it be business development and client relations, to various levels of media planning for TV, radio, OOH, digital and so on, to trafficking and accounting, we are all growing and moving in the same forward direction. And with that, we guarantee our focus is on what’s most important to our clients… their media goals and campaign success.

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Employees heading up and down stairs showing replacement

Today in an age of large masses of people coming and going from job to job or retiring, it’s hard on those of us who remain in place just trying to do our jobs.

There has been a lot of turnover lately, people leaving jobs, moving to other positions, many companies are understaffed and the staff they do have in many cases are pulling double duty. This is happening in most every sector. The overall turnover rate for 2021 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was 57%. Their used to be a time that job hopping was NOT something you wanted on your resume or something you ever wanted to see reviewing an applicant. Times sure have changed!

Fortunately, we are not one of those companies experiencing these problems of in and out. However, we are feeling the effects of this new norm. We work very closely with our outside vendors (some now for decades) and over the last 6 months, it seems we are getting notified weekly of an Account Executive change. 

This constant changing of the guard affects us in many ways, everything from getting reports to receiving our invoices in a timely manner. We have deadlines and are responsible for gathering and submitting campaign data back to our clients. On top of these obvious items there are numerous details about how we do business, intricacies on each one of our buys. Through time, we have developed a nice working relationship with our Account Executives, and they know our procedures and the level of detail we require prior to clearing invoices. We have a signed written agreement with all AE’s that is called “The Procedure letter” that has in detail how we work and what will be required prior to payment. I had previously discussed this letter in detail, so, we’ll stick to the topic.

When a change occurs, there is obviously a learning curve. These new employees need to learn their new roll, get acquainted with everyone as well as the clients they just inherited. They might need to take some training courses and learn their companies’ procedures. All of this could take weeks and, in some cases, months. It takes time to build the right team, even when we all don’t work for the same companies. In many cases, the person coming in and taking over our account is not really focused on our buy and more likely trying to get acclimated.

Shouldn’t we have in place a better system when an important cog is missing? I only think we have two choices; we develop a new position called the “understudy” to help keep up with the everyday details or we all start to cross train people. Here at A3 Media this is always on our mind as we continue to grow and service our current clients. We always need to have a backup for every job mainly due to our workloads change almost daily. We have systems in place and communicate internally about every detail on our buys with all members of our team to ensure that if someone is busy working on another project, someone can step in and take care of our most important asset, our clients.

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Steps on a wall with the words "Follow These Easy Steps"

If I had a nickel every time, I have heard that…

Let me explain. After every buy placed here at A3 Media, our traffic and reconciliation department sends out a brief (one sheeter) “Procedure Letter” to each vendor. This procedure letter details the items we will need from the vendor to help us review and then ultimately approve invoices for payment in a timely manner. Receiving this information is important for us, but it’s also important to the vendor as they all want to get paid.

The most important item on this procedure letter is where and how invoices are to be submitted. In addition, each advertising medium has unique requirements specific to the medium. For example: for out of home, we require proof of posting, for TV/Cable we require programming information, radio we need to see dayparts, etc. We remind the vendor, if there is Added Value on our campaign and it does not run, we will take credits. The point here is that all these requirements are listed and then sent to our vendors for signature prior to the start of all our campaigns. I will also add that our team schedule’s introduction calls with all our new vendors to introduce ourselves and go over these details that are listed on this “Procedure Letter.”

It’s now 6 weeks after this correspondence and the start of the campaign (solely with new vendors) when things can go a little sideways. At this point we have received our first invoice and now our team is looking for the information we had requested in our “Procedure Letter” to reconcile the invoice. We need to make sure that what was contracted, was in fact delivered. We need that information to approve invoices for payment as well as serve as supporting documentation to our clients that what they paid for was received. This might sound weird, but we prefer to pay promptly and not necessarily sit on invoices until the last minute. If we have the information that we need to approve payment, then it gets moved to final processing.

Often after we reach out to these new vendors, we get a response of “What Procedure Letter.” This usually sets off a few emails back and forth of some funny responses like “I didn’t sign any Procedure Letter” or my personal favorite is “O yeah, I remember that, but I didn’t read it.” It’s the ones that don’t read the letter, sign it, and send back that we have growing pains with. This letter is to help them as much as it’s helps us and our client. We have had several cases when a vendor would sign the procedure letter and agree to the terms just to get the buy.

We here at A3 Media have had the privilege of collaborating with some incredible people and vendors through the years. We are always adjusting our procedures to ensure that there are no surprises for both parties. We value our partnerships and want to work together to ensure smooth sailing ahead.

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Tackling your first professional job can be exciting and overwhelming at the same time. How do people handle the pressure of stepping out into the “real world”? Take it from me, going from a college graduate to an employee during a global pandemic is a challenge! The search for a job right out of college can be touch and go for a little while, add a pandemic to it and you feel like you’ve hit a wall. But eventually your first job will be upon you.

College can help prepare you for your job in many ways. College prepared me for my job in Graphic Design during the course of my study. Specifically, by teaching me how to use the Adobe Suite of programs for design, instructing me in the design process of creating thumbnails of the work I am doing, helping me to understand the importance of creating multiple drafts to show to the client for feedback, and working with the client to choose the design they like, and finally refining it to their specifications. What college couldn’t prepare me for came immediately after graduation. A worldwide pandemic hit and interrupted my job search. This was not the real world I was expecting!

Luckily for me, this delay allowed me to find a really great job! At A3 Media the office environment is new to me, but I find it has a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. There are some similarities between the classroom and the office, such as setting goals for the work assignments and working with teams. On the job I am able to apply my skills sharing my graphic design knowledge with others. With Adobe Creative Cloud I can utilize proper design etiquette, as well as help others understand design elements.  In the work environment I get to work with clients and socialize with my coworkers. I know that if I do my job well, I can look forward to even more exciting projects in the future.

“If you want to get bigger, more exciting tasks to handle at your new job, you need to knock those trivial ones out of the park. Don’t just shuffle through them. Take care of your assignments and maybe even see if there is a better way to do them.” 

In college my grades helped me to understand how well I was doing. Now in the work environment, I will use feedback from my boss and my coworkers to measure my success.

It will be important to ask questions and share ideas, ask for feedback, develop strong relationships with my coworkers and clients, and try to understand the bigger picture. This will help me to deliver the best result.  

Your first job changes your lifestyle. Going from an intense schedule right up to graduation time and then going into a pandemic lull as I searched for a new job was frustrating. Now that I started my career, my daily life is more structured. I have a plan for each day and know what to expect. I know if I maintain healthy habits, such as a routine schedule, good sleep habits, good time management, eat healthy, and remain open to change, it will make my work life and home life less stressful. Transitioning from college to your first job can be a challenge but if you approach it in the right way, you can be successful.

Written by:
Shavonne Stellato
Development & Graphics Team Member

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A3 Media is proud to announce their partnership with Advanced Practice Education Associates (APEA) on a Q4 media project.

APEA is an industry leader in the continuing education and clinical resources for experienced NPs. Since 1997, they have been the trusted source for nurse practitioner continuing education, certification review courses, study questions and practice tests, books, and clinical tools. With their five star rated presenters and instructors, APEA is known for their effective and engaging teaching skills.

Excited by the new challenge, A3 Media coordinated a layered social media plan that involves: Facebook, Instagram, Google Ads, and LinkedIn campaigns that started running this month and is set to run into January of 2022.

“Although our company is well established and successful, we recognized that we needed assistance in increasing brand awareness and purchases.” said Michelle Perron, APEA Director of Communications and Marketing. “We met with several marketing agencies, and each advocated a sweeping cookie-cutter approach. Our business is not a cookie. Upon meeting with the A3 Media team, we quickly saw the difference. From the outset, A3 Media sought to understand our business and our specific needs. They developed targeted recommendations that reflected their expertise, research, and data analysis. But most importantly, their recommendations reflected our company’s unique characteristics. This focused approach has made us more comfortable with our decision to work with a media agency for the first time.”

Michelle Perron, APEA Director of Communications and Marketing

Understanding the client’s audience and goals was the first objective. With a clear sense of APEA’s needs, A3 Media focused on researching the highest quality markets and targeted opportunities. This allowed for their buying team to find the opportunities which would allow for the greatest engagement and response for APEA and their upcoming in-person and online courses.

“We’re extremely pleased to be working with a national leader such as APEA and gratified that they clearly recognized the difference our Micro Market Media® process makes.” ”We look forward to handling all their needs in 2022 and establishing a long-lasting partnership with them.”

Frank Gussoni, President and Owner of A3 Media

Philadelphia based A3 Media, is known for their strategic media planning, negotiating, and buying services for mid-market and regional businesses. Through their use of the registered trademarked Micro Market Media® methodologies, they provide multi-market companies the strength of national media buys with the control of local market pricing. A3 Media looks forward to a continued partnership with APEA and working with them on their future media planning and buying needs.