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!Reading Time: 3 minutes
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 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!Reading Time: < 1 minute
A3 Media’s new advertising technology, Social Shelf, is specifically built to help educate consumers about small and mid-size brands, enabling them to make smarter buying decisions while shopping in the aisles.
We are excited to announce our second trial began on March 15, 2022, in New Jersey’s Bourbon Street Wine & Spirits chain, with nearly 400 products.
Bourbon Street Wine & Spirits has nine locations and is the first alcohol superstore to use Social Shelf. Using Social Shelf will expand their consumer’s education of products, which Bourbon Street prides themselves on.
With their vast selection of beer, wine and spirits, shoppers are able to learn more with a simple scan of a QR code. A3 Media will be advertising the service and monitoring its usage at all nine locations.
In addition to Bourbon Street, A3 Media is testing the service in grocery retailer Giant Food Stores. Giant recently extended their trial.
A3 will monitor both trials to compare how consumer usage varies between grocery and liquor specific retailers.Reading Time: 3 minutes
Today, many agencies’ AP departments approve vendor invoices for payment as long as the invoice falls within the approved purchase order amount. That is the only parameter used to process invoices for payment. This is called Bottom Lining. The practice of bottom lining may serve the agency and save them vast amounts of time in the reconciliation process, but it is a huge disservice to the client. At A3 Media, “Bottom Lining” is a bad word, well maybe two words!
Media invoices are generally generated after the run, sometimes as long as 6-8 weeks after the conclusion of the flight or billing period. This practice hinders prompt reconciliation and close out. That is one of the reasons why many agencies bottom line their vendor invoices just so they can move things along. Another reason why agencies may bottom line their invoices is that it saves them considerable time and paperwork in the reconciliation process. When you bottom line invoices you are not checking to make sure that you got what you contracted for such things as impressions, pacing and rotation. These agencies don’t check the details, and as we all know, the devil is in the details.
One of the details that is important to review during the reconciliation process is reviewing the invoices to determine if it is based on estimates or actuals. Does the invoice include the real metrics verified by either the spot log affidavit or confirmed via the vendor’s dashboard? A3 only processes invoices based upon actuals, not estimates and there must be supporting data provided to support the charges on the invoice. It’s important to review the backup data prior to payment processing to ensure that spots were run in the contractual places, that pacing is correct, and rotation is right. In one such case for one of our clients, we confirmed that the cable buy invoice was under contract total, but upon closer inspection we determined that the invoice also included line items for paid programming spots (not allowed per our contract) and non-contracted programs. Both of which resulted in credits to our client. An agency that bottom lines their invoices would not uncover these charges and would in fact incorrectly pass them on to their client.
For digital buys, we rely on the dashboard data provided by our vendors. Initial review of the dashboard might indicate that the total impressions served matches the contracted amount for that period, closer inspection might indicate that impressions were not served according to pacing and/or rotation instructions. For example, we had such a case that the impressions on the invoice matched the impressions on the dashboard and the total dollar amount was within the contract specs. However, further investigations showed that there were several days that no impressions were served. In this case, we ended up getting some added value for our client.
If we bottom lined this invoice, this discrepancy would not have been found and our client would not have benefited from the added value received. When you bottom line your vendor invoices you are not verifying that you got what you contracted for, the media plan that was carefully constructed may not be validated, and credits due to the client are not processed. Bottom lining invoices is a bad idea for your agency and a disservice to your client.
A few weeks ago, January 9th to be exact, marked 15 years since Steve Jobs first introduced the original iPhone to the world. It was first billed as three products in one: an iPod with a touch screen, a cell phone, and an internet device to connect to the web. Since then, it has become so much more. It’s an extension of our everyday lives. The iPhone not only changed how we communicate with each other but changed the face of media and advertising all together.
For reference, I was born in 1981 and grew up in an exciting time before the internet and before smartphones. Actually, I didn’t get a phone until I was out of high school, I was maybe 19 or 20 years old. So, I do have some perspective of pre and post internet/smartphone worlds. Having said that, let’s take a quick look at the landscape back when the iPhone was introduced. It was 2007 and the following companies didn’t exist: Instagram, Uber, TikTok, Twitch, Snap, Lyft, DoorDash, Tinder, Postmates, Venmo and Pinterest. Wow, some big changes in just 15 years.
When I think about the impact iPhone has had on media and advertising, I break that down into three categories. Let’s take a look:
- Digital and Mobile Advertising – Back in 2007, mobile advertising spending had an annual total of roughly $1.7 billion. Today mobile ad spending is north of 140 billion annually. Although mobile advertising is just one spoke in the digital advertising wheel, it now makes up about half of all the digital ad spend. That makes sense when you think about the recent growth in ad revenue for social platforms like Facebook & Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Google. The introduction of iPhone and smartphones have kept users connected to the web 24/7, 365. At the same token, allowing them to be targeted by digital and mobile advertisers whenever and wherever they go.
- Communication and Entertainment – Today we use our phones to stay in touch and get our news in real time. This has significantly changed the way our country reacts to everything from politics to the latest trends on social media. It has also changed the way we are targeted and advertised to. With native advertising, we get a seamless experience of receiving advertisements while we are consuming our favorite content and they blend right in, trying to make it the least intrusive experience as possible. More and more people are watching TV and using streaming apps like Hulu and Netflix when it comes to getting entertainment. Large cable companies are noticing consumers cutting the cord, especially the younger generations like Gen Z. They simply consume content and have different beliefs than generations before them. This lends a challenge to marketers and advertising professionals; how do they reach this new type of consumer in the future. Using smartphones and advertising via social and digital platforms will certainly be key but gaining knowledge about the consumer will be essential. That brings us to our next category, data!
- Consumer Data – I purposely saved this point for last because let’s face it, when it comes to the future of digital and mobile advertising, data is king. Data about consumers, their values, location, and behaviors will be what advertisers base the next few years of strategy, planning, and budgets on. Over the past 15 years we have carried around several versions of the iPhone or the smartphone of our choice. All the while giving companies and large social platforms all the data in the world about us. What we consume, what we purchase, where we shop, who we communicate with, our race, age, gender, income, search history, and you get the idea. Whether we like it or not, this little iPhone has been a tracking device for all of our most important, personal information. As much as I think there will be changes in the future, I believe consumer privacy concerns will be a constant. We have already noticed the “opt-in” messages on apps and social media platforms. This may have an impact on advertising but like everything else we will learn and adapt
In the next few years, I expect digital and mobile ad spending to continue to increase and the push for innovation and new tech will be the focus. One thing the Apple iPhone did over the past 15 years was create competition and it really took the mobile and tech industry to a new level.
Having an iPhone or a smartphone in our pocket means we have access to everything right at our fingertips. We connect, we search, we communicate, and we solve. I look at iPhone as the ultimate solution. Sky is the limit when it comes to advertising opportunities and smartphone capabilities over the next 15 years!
Social Media Specialist
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
In April 2021 Apple came out with an update that introduced ATT or App Tracking Transparency. The purpose of which was to return some control back to iPhone users, and give people a choice, to allow or not allow apps to track your activity across other companies’ websites. Apple’s company line is that they are doing this to improve privacy of the iPhone users and give them greater control over what apps were using to market products or services to them.
Built into the Apple operating system was a tracker called IDFA, (Identifier for Advertisers) which tracks your activity between applications. As more companies accessed that data, it became concerning to many about the access the apps had to this personal data.
As consumers became tired of seeing pop up Privacy Agreements at the bottom of the screens, forcing them to accept that the app used cookies to optimize your experience, Apple felt it should be at least a choice for the user and not a decision dictated to them. The ATT was initiated and delivered a choice to either let the App Track user’s activity or ask it not to track their activity. They even went as far as allowing users to go into the privacy settings and opt-out of tracking. This was good news for users, but bad news for advertisers trying to target their ads.
One example of the impact of this change was demonstrated when one store had been spending $27 in advertising on Facebook for every new customer they acquired. Since the elimination of activity tracking, they will be forced to spend $270 for every new customer added. What provides protections for consumers, drives the costs up for businesses to properly reach and add the same types of consumers, they reach before the change.
Apples new approach of ATT is important, when one considers the end to third party cookies in Chrome starts in January 2022. These actions on top of the governmental privacy regulations such as GDPR & CCPA, and as of November 2021 layered with Facebooks changes in ad targeting, will make for a more challenging ask of advertisers and agencies attempting to reach the correct potential consumers.
As part of the rebrand of Facebook with “Meta” the company is removing targeting options like health, race, ethnicity, political affiliations, religious or sexual orientation beginning January 19th, 2022. It will take effect on all three platforms they control, Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. In 2018, it removed 5,000 ad-targeting classifications to keep advertisers from excluding certain users. This effort to prevent discrimination, prevent ad targeting abuse and attempt to improve privacy has substantially restricted legitimate ad targeting methods. While the reasons behind the changes may be admirable, this leaves Digital and Mobile advertisers scrambling to find new ways to segment their ad delivery and provide the right ads for the right products and services reaching the right people.
So How Will Advertisers and Agencies Find the Right Path to Potential Consumers?
Apple’s introduction of ATT will make ads substantially less relevant for consumers, except ads delivered through Apple’s own personalized ad system. Apple Search Ads has displaced Facebook as the best ad network for mobile marketers on iPhone and iPad. Apple is introducing a measurement solution called SKAdNetwork (SKAN), which makes performance data available at the campaign level. SKAN is considered “differential privacy” which is the approach of using statistical methods for marketing measurement which make it impossible to infer and individual user’s behavior.
What can Advertisers and Agencies Do to Persevere Through These Challenges?
- Deepen your understanding of your audience. Products that suffer most due to these identifier-based targeting methods are those with niche products. By building a broader appeal for your product or service, the more people that will be receptive to it and less targeted you must be in your ad segmentation.
- Get more creative. The focus to develop new, engaging, and attractive ads can help minimize efficiency loss due to removal of the identifiers. As your ads reach the most important members of your audience, your products will break through the generic and non-descript advertising from competitors.
- Increase Opt-In retargeting. Not all digital ads reach the right potential consumers, but by utilizing the reduced targeting categories of FB, Instagram or Messenger for your initial digital ad campaigns, while increasing the frequency of retargeting to those that have engaged or opted in with emails, you have limited your ad waste, and increased your chances of success since retargeting can lift ad engagement rates up to 400%. The average click-through rate (CTR) for display ads is 0.07%, while the average CTR for retargeted ads is about 0.7%. Those that engage with your re-targeted ads have a far greater likelihood of becoming future customers.
It’s imperative that every agency and company who uses digital ads understands the changes coming and the ways to succeed despite the changes.Reading Time: 2 minutes
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.Reading Time: 3 minutes
Why do Pilot’s execute a pre-flight take off checklist before every flight when they’ve completed hundreds or thousands of take offs previously? Because checklists are important tools that assist the flight crew in the safe and proper operation of the aircraft. Items can be missed because of distraction or being in a rush. Using the checklist every time helps them eliminate both types of mistakes and may even save lives. In short, the pilot’s checklist ensures that everything is in order for a smooth and safe flight.
How can we apply a pilot’s pre-flight checklist to our pre-flight duties on an advertising campaign?
Simple! At A3 we use a checklist for each vendor before each campaign. The checklist is a tool that helps us organize and prioritize our tasks. Like a pilot’s checklist, our checklist has been designed to reduce errors and ensure consistency and completeness of tasks required before the flight even starts. Our checklist doesn’t save lives like a pilot’s might, but it sure makes sure a campaign runs smoother!
In an ideal world, once the contract is signed, we would have plenty of time to complete our pre-flight duties before the flight starts, unfortunately, things aren’t always ideal. There are rush contracts, last minute changes and workload tsunamis that cause errors and impede the completion of our tasks. That’s the best time to use the checklist!
It’s important to use the checklist to ensure that all tasks are completed in order, expectations are set, and communication is in place before the flight starts. The checklist is a great tool for teamwork as well. At any given moment, it helps team members know what steps have been completed and what still needs to be done. This can be a life saver in the event someone has to unexpectedly “step in”.
Our checklist includes simple steps to ensure that everything is in place before the flight. We include the following number of steps, some are obvious, some more obscure, but all the steps collectively are necessary to avoid any in flight turbulence.
Our steps include simply checking the accuracy of the buy and contract, making sure all the Ts are crossed and Is are dotted and that the information on the contract is accurately entered into our buying and accounting software. This is the time to pay particular attention to any special instructions on the buy.
We also make sure that we touch base with each and every AE before the buy – yes, every time even if we’ve worked with them dozens of times before. The purpose is to introduce any new members of the team, set expectations and discuss reporting, proof of performance requirements, and invoicing timing and payment processes. Now is the time to get dashboard access, if available.
Next, we proceed to draft, send, and confirm receipt of all traffic instructions and creative. Then, we request and review the IO to make sure it matches all the specs on the buy. Finally, we reach out on the first day of the campaign to make sure that everything is started and running. We do not want to be surprised by any late starts!
Completion of all these steps will ensure that the campaign starts correctly and that expectations are clearly set reducing miscommunication issues. It will decrease turbulence and surprises and increase the communication between the agency and vendor. Generally, completing all these steps will make managing the campaign in flight much easier. A little pre-work upfront will save you loads of time later and ensure a successful start to the campaign!