Reading Time: 2 minutes

When you think of awards, the Oscars, Emmys, and Golden Globes probably come to mind, but you probably might not think about advertising agency awards. But for a business like ours, we have been asked to submit and participate, to be in the running for these industry awards, time and time again. Let’s examine what these awards are and if they really mean anything to clients.

We’ll start off with the fact that “awards” in our industry, as with most, are big business. Awards are given out by media marketing platforms like The Drum and Digiday, as well as through industry associations like, The Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals with their ‘MarComm Awards’ and the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences with their ‘Webby Awards’ just to name a few.

There are awards for:

  • Digital Media
  • Print Media
  • Creative Design
  • Strategic Communications
  • Content Marketing
  • Audio / Video
  • Industry Leaders
  • Technology
  • Strategy
  • Distribution
  • Editorial
  • And more!

For a media planning and buying agency, like ours there are awards for:

  • Best Media Plan
  • Best Use of Emergent Media
  • Most Diverse Spending
  • Best Brand Integration into Gaming/Sports
  • Best Brand Integration into Traditional Media
  • And more!

With more than eight thousand businesses in the advertising industry (Statista 2019), it’s easy to see why this became big business and how there would be so many opportunities to “win”. But how do any of these companies get nominated. Who gets to choose where the entries come from? In many cases, it’s the businesses themselves vying for a chance to get recognized by the companies promoting the awards. And many of these opportunities come at a very high cost.

According to an interview with an ‘agency CEO’ done by Forbes, the CEO had to “defend his decision to spend $250,000 on entry fees”, because “winning awards is how he benchmarks his agency.” That doesn’t seem right. In that same article, the writer noted that the actual “usefulness as any type of industry benchmarking regarding who is doing outstanding work is predicated on the quality and robustness of the judging process.” So, the question is, who are they to judge? Could the winners based on the amount of investment spent to win awards and agencies willing to spend it? That may be why the larger, popular, and wealthier agencies are the ones “highlighting” all their winning awards.

It isn’t that winning an award for something should be overlooked. Our agency won an award for our Out of Home Strategy for “Best Alcohol Advertising and Promotions”. Yes, believe it or not, there are awards that get that specific.

And of course, as a media agency, we were very proud to win, but we didn’t nominate ourselves and we don’t hang our hat on those kinds of things. It means more to us when our own clients tell us they appreciate what we do for them. Getting them the best media placements and unique opportunities, while saving them money. No award necessary.

Reading Time: 2 minutes
Clapperboard that reads "Christmas Movies"

As the Christmas season approaches, I’ve come to the realization that my children, now all teenagers, are not excited for the annual parade of Christmas specials airing on TV anymore. It makes me a little sad and a bit nostalgic for the time when they were little and we would pop some popcorn, cuddle under warm blankets on the couch with hot chocolate in our hands to catch our favorite holiday specials.

Now, with the abundance of streaming services we can watch many of our favs whenever the mood strikes. So, in no particular order here is my list of the Top 10 must see Christmas specials:

  1. Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer – Airing every year since its release in 1964, who can resist watching the longest running holiday special in television history. It’s the story of a misfit reindeer who saves Christmas by guiding Santa’s sleigh with his glowing nose. Watch: CBS 12/19 @6:45pm, 12/24 @9pm and various other times. Stream: CBS live via Hulu.
  2. Frosty the Snowman – With the help of a magic hat a jolly, happy snowman comes to life and parades through town before he melts away, thumpity thump thump, thumpity thump thump! Watch: CBS 12/19 @ 6:10pm, 12/24 @8:30pm and various other times. Stream: CBS live via Hulu.
  3. A Charlie Brown Christmas – Depressed at the commercialism he sees around him; Charlie Brown tries to find a deeper meaning to Christmas. Watch: 12/19 on PBS. Stream: Apple+
  4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) – Nothing beats the original! A grumpy hermit hatches a plan to steal Christmas from the Whos of Whoville only to discover Christmas is a feeling and not about things. Stream: TNT and TBS, or with Peacock.
  5. Shrek the Halls – Shrek wants the perfect Christmas for him and his family but he has no clue how to do it. He buys a book on how to do Christmas perfectly and everything is going well, until donkey and gang decide to intrude. Watch: 12/24 on ABC. Stream: Netflix
  6. Elf – The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear! Watch Buddy the Elf’s journey from the North Pole to NYC in search of his biological father, who just happens to be on the naughty list. Stream: HBO Max, AMC+, Starz.
  7. The Santa Clause – an ordinary man who accidently kills Santa Claus on Christmas eve is magically turned into the new Santa Claus. Watch: Freeform: 12/17 @5:10pm, 12/22 @7:15pm and various other times. Stream: Disney+.
  8. Home Alone – An eight-year-old troublemaker must protect his house from a pair of burglars when he is accidentally left home alone by his family during Christmas vacation. Watch: Freeform 12/25 @6:45pm and various other times. Stream: Disney+.
  9. National Lampoons Christmas Vacation – In classic Griswold style, Clark prepares for a perfect “fun old-fashioned family Christmas” with anything but perfect results. Stream: HBO Max.
  10. The Polar Express – When a doubting young boy takes an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery that shows him that the wonder of life never fades for those who believe. Stream: HBO Max, AMC+

Written by:
Jennifer Vanisko
Reconciliation Specialist

Reading Time: 5 minutes

“Programmatic advertising is the automated buying and selling of online advertising. Targeting tactics are used to segment audiences using data so that advertisers only pay for ads delivered to the right people at the right time…”

The method of programmatic advertising is an auction system that puts advertisers together with online and/or mobile properties with available ad space. The method allows the highest bidder to A) target their ad to be viewed by different demographic & psychographic potential customers on websites and applications those consumers visit. B) It also allows the ad to go out in real time and limit the cost of the ad placement to just a fractional amount greater than the second-place bidder, the purpose of which is intended to minimize the cost per ad placed.

This method of buying and selling ads has worked out for some and probably not as well for others. On average, click-through-rates for Facebook ads across all industries is 0.90% and runs about 0.46% for Google display ads. Facebook and Google are making money selling ad space with the programmatic platform. Sadly, for many advertisers, just because an ad ran, and they paid for it, does not necessarily mean it was viewed.

Many folks saw the profitability and ease of buying and selling ads in the digital world and decided… “Hey, if it works for them, why not for us!”. So, they got cozy with people in the OOH industry who on average have as much as 30+% of the 340,817 billboards and posters in the U.S. unsold during any given month. That’s 102,245 potential units that could be sold, but often end up becoming added value or public service announcements, neither of which are generating revenue.

Those folks and a few of the top executes at the big billboard companies said, “well you can’t skip a billboard like you can a digital ad, maybe we should try selling this unsold inventory as the digital ads do, programmatically!” Lightbulb!

So, in 2012 Broadsign established the first programmatic OOH exchange and called it Vistar, based out of Canada, which had access to about 90% of the United States digital OOH inventory. Today there are all kinds of companies offering programmatic buying of OOH and digital location-based advertising inventory through self-serve platforms.

So, here’s the rub… This method seems to be a logical way to sell unsold inventory for OOH companies. Digital boards that have an open week here or there can be sold at the last minute instead of being left unsold, so the OOH companies are able to get something for the space. As they say, something is better than nothing.

There are three inherent problems associated with programmatic buying of OOH, and they are related to TIME, QUALITY, & MONEY:
  • TIME – One key benefit to using a programmatic platform is supposed to be the time the buyer will save in having to source RFP’s, dig through options and select and negotiate the best group of locations. Now a buyer must learn a new ordering platform, but once learned, the process might be faster by as much as 2-3 days. That could be significant savings depending on the size of the agency. The agency might save a few dollars in labor, but will this savings be passed onto the client?  The price determined through the bidding must still be agreed to by the OOH company, which means they still set the price at a level they are comfortable accepting. It’s possible the price might have been lower had the agency just bought the property through the OOH company directly bypassing the programmatic method and costs. The agency must still pay the price the OOH company will charge for the units, but now the agency must figure out how to offset the additional expense of the programmatic platform’s commission or decide to just add it to the client’s final cost. I suggest the cost savings to the agency will ultimately end up in the pocket of the agency and result in the client paying the same or higher pricing for less than prime OOH inventory. In this case programmatic buying won’t benefit the client.   
  • QUALITY – There is a reason that some billboards and transit locations are sold all the time and a reason the bottom 30% remain unsold. Its because the advertiser, either through an agency or through an in-house buyer has sourced the best options that fit its targeted demos for OOH & transit options and has bought those locations and units first. Typically, the first sold are the best options and selections. That means the rest of the inventory available to be sold programmatically are likely not the highest quality options to select from. If a buy is made through the programmatic exchange, the units must be available, and if available it’s unlikely that the same units would not be available to be purchased directly through that OOH company in the first place.
  • MONEY – As mentioned above in the TIME section, most programmatic buying exchanges, need to make a living too. They must either get those revenue dollars from the agency/via the client or kick back from the OOH companies as a percentage of the sales made through the platform OR BOTH. I do not begrudge any company providing a service or a product the right to make a living. What I believe and what our company does is always look out for the best interest of the client. That means we rarely would use a 3rd party company for any buying activity, unless that cost associated with the 3rd party could be justified and not increase the cost to our client’s bottom line. So far, we have not seen a platform yet in this country or in others, that allows for programmatic buying of OOH and does not also carry the baggage of one or more of the three inherent problems of Programmatic OOH buying.

What I believe and what our company does is always look out for the best interest of the client.

Let me be clear, programmatic OOH buying still has value in some cases. For example. If a client is seeking a GRP buy, or if it is trying to blanket cover an area in a short period of time or at the last minute, then this can be achieved with programmatic OOH campaigns. If an agency is short on actual human buyers and have been tasked with a large amount of buying in a short turnaround time, again this might be a good option. It is certainly a viable option for a very small product or service company that does not have a huge media budget but wants to make buys themselves.

It is certainly a smart move by OOH companies as its gives them another chance to make money on boards that are unsold or are typically hard to sell.

Not all methods of media buying are transferable to all other channels. In the case of programmatic buying of OOH, its important from an ethical perspective that clients are informed before any campaigns are purchased, meaning disclosing the advantages and disadvantages as well as the costs associated with the buying method.