Last-Minute Media Buying

With Mother’s Day around the corner, I got to thinking about the dreaded last-minute call from the procrastinating or disorganized client who wants miracles. Now.

Whether it’s, “Oh my gosh –- we absolutely lost track of time!” or “We’ve been able to free up some discretionary budget, and I really need you to get us out there for this holiday,” seldom will the agency turn down the client request cold. More likely, everyone turns to the media buyer and says, “Make it happen.”

The mad rush. Most seasoned media buyers have a back-pocket plan for such occasions, but the biggest X factor concern: will there be inventory?, can radically alter the buy’s outcome.

Some buyers relish this kind of chaotic challenge as an opportunity to perhaps heavily negotiate on remnant space from a traditionally high-valued site. Most develop splitting headaches and try to curb their use of profanity. Personally, I get cranky.

We’re all becoming more last minute. The retail industry found itself dependent on last-minute shoppers last holiday season. A few weeks ago, a wave of Turbo Tax procrastinators crashed Intuit’s servers, forcing the government to extend the filing deadline by two days for these folks.

In these trying moments, media buyers need a game plan, even if it resembles a scramble.

The Last-Minute Plan

Let’s presume your client already provided campaign objectives, target audience(s), flight dates, creative concepting, and budget. All that remains is the media plan. Simple, right? Think again. Budget can’t really be allocated until you find inventory. The tighter the objectives and targets, the harder this will be.

Lay out the realities to the client: Last-minute media plans may not be as precise as their normal plans. And if you’re working at a frenzied pace, your client must be readily available to make approvals.

1. Produce Fixed Creative

The multiplicity of possible ad sizes and types you may need can complicate matters. Beggars can’t be choosers. Better to at least have IAB Universal Ad Package units ready to go, and stick with non-rich media creative production so more sites can accept it.

2. Work Your Rep Relations

You’d better have solid relationships with media reps. In times like these they can make all the difference. Send a personalized e-mail letting them know unexpected funds came your way and you’re interested in inventory, but don’t sound desperate. Let them know you’ve sent the RFP to several sites. Don’t stop negotiating just because you’re in a bind.

Contact every site and/or network that seems to fit the bill. Although popular sites may have sold out of inventory early, buys do fall through. Plus, last-minute buys might give you leverage in minimum buy-in levels as the site tries to rid itself of unsold inventory.

3. Try Remnant Ad Brokers

Less-targeted, but perhaps more available, might be generic remnant ad inventory brokered by specialty networks. Some sites even contract to supply a certain amount of guaranteed remnant space to specialty remnant networks to avoid having to sell it themselves, so you may be pleasantly surprised.

4. Get Quick Plan Approval

Once you’ve located inventory and developed a media plan, you’ve got to get a quick client sign-off to turn the plan into reality. There’s not much time to debate the merits of this placement or that. Your client needs to trust you’ve done the best you can under the circumstances.

Don’t, however, sidestep the proper contracting process with your publisher. Remind your rep when sending your insertion order that no deal is final until you have your signed copy back. It’s still your responsibility to protect both your agency and client.

Perhaps it’s our overly hectic lives, juggling too many deadlines, or even reliance on the speed of technology that’s led to so much procrastination, but I don’t think it’s going to change any time soon. It’s a last-minute world, folks. If you’re going to succeed in it, you’d better be prepared.

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