Comparing Media Planning Tools

 

Online media buyers now have another media planning tool at their disposal. At AD:TECH Chicago, Mediaplex announced the launch of its MediaDirector media planning and buying tool. With MediaDirector, Mediaplex hopes to compete against established industry players, DoubleClick’s MediaVisor and Atlas Suite. Both also had an upper hand in securing lucrative ad-serving business because the media planning tools are integrated into the ad-serving, tracking and reporting unit.

How do they compare? I reviewed all three this week. Here’s what I’ve found.

Interface

Two existing players, MediaVisor and Atlas Suite, have more polished, visually appealing dashboards. In comparison, MediaDirector looks crude, with virtually no HTML embellishment. You can get hypnotically lost among similar-looking pages.

All three have fairly intuitive navigation, however, with tabbed browsing and data links that allow you to move back and forth between sections fairly quickly. Because deep navigation is common, more regular use of the systems might uncover some section interconnectivity weaknesses. MediaDirector, though, prides itself on being “back-button friendly.”

Publisher Information

MediaVisor and Atlas Suite have about 7,000 publishers each in their systems; MediaDirector currently has only 1,000. Basic publisher information is initially populated by the tool but can be enhanced when a publisher completes his profile.

Media buyers looking for a site not found in the system can have the site added by contacting their system representative. Publisher detail levels vary by tool, though Atlas’ publisher search is the most robust. Both MediaVisor and MediaDirector let the buyer add personal contacts to the system directly.

Unique Features

All three tools have common media planning workflow features: publisher site profiles, plan creation, built-in RFP functions, campaign status, creative management, and, through the ad-serving end, campaign tracking and reporting.

Atlas offers search management, thanks to its acquisition of paid search campaign management tool, GoToast. It offers landing page optimization for multivariable testing through its NetConversions. Both features are add-on purchases.

Leveraging the normal conversion tracking pixel, Atlas has a new feature that allows optimization beyond the pixel at granular levels defined by individual advertisers. A hotel company can analyze online bookings by city and number of nights booked, for example. Atlas has automated monthly flighting by percentage that defaults evenly, but a media planner can alter it. This helps enforce publisher accountability.

There’s also a nifty rate-the-publisher feature. It allows multiple media buyers within an agency to share how the publisher has performed on about a dozen criteria, such as inventory, pricing, cancellation clauses, and issue resolution. And Atlas has a behavioral-based planning tool that helps a media buyer identify sites similar to a campaign’s top-performing sites.

MediaVisor emphasizes its solution addresses basic workflow issues but is meant be used as a customizable product. The agency, through rules and filters, can alter what’s displayed and what’s not. In its site profile area, MediaVisor provides scaled-down research data on publishers as sourced from @Plan, MediaMetrix, or comScore. Through the history log, a user can analyze site data or ad rates historically over time.

At the admin level, you can create custom forms, such as electronic HTML insertion orders with the agency’s logo and electronic signatures. MediaVisor also has a built-in reconciliation system tied into the Donovan accounting system used by many large agencies.

MediaDirector believes one distinction is it’s an equally friendly publisher tool as it is an agency one. Both screens look the same for easy, real-time review and negotiation purposes. MediaDirector, like MediaVisor, can upload any file format to be accessed through the system. And it generates a wholly exportable media plan flowchart for use outside the system.

Integration

All three tools do a nice job of integrating information, particularly in respect to pricing on all types of buys and allowing customization of agency mark-ups. They also automatically build in ad-serving costs.

Pricing

All three companies are quite elusive when it comes to providing costs for their systems. New-kid MediaDirector divulges buy-in is “in the single-digit thousands.” Though these media planning tools can be purchased for standalone use, they’re usually bundled with the ad-serving side, so costs are more commonly structured around ad-serving volume.

 

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