A Media Planning Solution for a Fragmented World

This week marks the official launch of a new Web-based media planning platform that touts itself as “advertising’s best friend.”

Balihoo, two years in the making, has officially moved out of its four-month beta testing phase with over 500 media planners from more than 300 media companies including the Top 10 U.S. media agencies. Described as an “intelligent tool for media professionals,” Balihoo’s promise lies in streamlining the media research, selection, and request-for-proposal (RFP) processes, and then aggregating all that information into one easy-to-use single location.

Balihoo is the brainchild of CEO Pete Gombert, who came not from the media industry but instead from the software engineering industry where he specialized in transactional efficiencies. After working with several ad agencies and seeing the inefficiencies in the media planning process, particularly with respect to the growing fragmentation of the media market, he recognized the opportunity to create a solution. So from the humble location of Boise, Idaho, he created his company.

Image 1, click to enlarge

Gombert first built Balihoo based on search. The company’s marketing materials still positions it as “a search engine for advertising media,” but I think this simplistic description doesn’t do the platform justice. Sure, a media planner can type in a few keywords (See Image 1: Search Results)and easily locate matching media sources of any kind: Web, magazine, radio, newspaper, event and conference, newsletter, blog, print journal, video games, broadcast TV, mobile, etc. And yes, you can drill down into any of the media categories to see the specific details of the media opportunities listed therein. Use advanced search and filter by medium, geography or demographics, the latter of which also breaks down into B2B or B2C. You can even choose to find sites by using the Web 2.0 tags.

All of these features are free to use in Balihoo’s “Basic” version, which alone will make Balihoo a media professional’s best friend. Personally, though, I feel the real power of Balihoo lies in what you can do beyond just finding media properties. With the paid “Pro” version, the user can really harness Balihoo’s power and improve media planning process efficiencies.

Gombert describes the Pro version as something like “SRDS + MediaVisor-type software + intranet (for data sharing) + [Web 2.0] community.” For those using existing Web-based media planning tools, some of the Balihoo Pro version features might at first sound familiar: a user can produce and send an RFP directly within the Balihoo system. Publishers then respond within the system, which allows the planner to aggregate and review the responses.

Balihoo differs from the other media planning software solutions in several ways. For starters, when building an RFP, there are three choices: “Copy an existing RFP,” “Use an RFP Template,” or “Create a new RFP from scratch.” If you select the latter option, Balihoo will let you create custom questions much like a survey software application would. That way, you can more closely ask for and receive the kind of custom information for the buy you’ll really need. Balihoo claims that if you don’t find a media property within its vast database and you know it, you can add it yourself and it should be live within an hour.

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Balihoo also has an in-house 20-person media research team. For no additional charge and so you don’t waste time making inappropriate inquiries, this team will assist you in obtaining information on media for which Balihoo has incomplete information. (See Image 2: Media research service.) These same people monitor responses from media owners and for those who don’t respond within an acceptable time frame, a Balihoo representative will do the follow-up. Think of them as your own personal naggers.

Aggregated publisher responses can exported or manipulated in online worksheets (See Image 3), which Balihoo hopes will take the place of the ubiquitous always-in-need of updating spreadsheets that currently rule most media professionals’ practice at present.

Image 3, click to enlarge

Lastly separating Balihoo from the pack: its cool community element. Every user can rate, tag, and profile a media property, and this information is then shared with the rest of the user community, which in turn can help to inform the decision-making process. Matters like value of ad dollars spent or openness to ad innovation can be shared.

New users should remember that Balihoo is just coming out of beta — some kinks, quirks, and the system’s usability still need to be worked out, and page results still load too slowly in my opinion. That aside, I think with Balihoo, a new day’s dawning in media planning and buying.

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