Media Buy for the Little Guy

Having worked for an agency most of my professional life, I sometimes forget not all interactive media buyers approach this métier from the same perspective I do.

As an agency buyer, I’m blessed with a palette of products and services that help me to plan and sizeable budgets to spend online. The occasional test campaign requires I allocate a client’s ad dollars to a number of portals and networks, leaving only a sliver of budget for each. For the most part, I have little trouble meeting publishers’ campaign minimums.

A legion of marketers out have media buying experiences that vary tremendously from those of agency buyers. Instead of hiring an agency to represent them, many companies develop and execute their own media campaigns in-house. Internal marketing departments are allotted a media budget with the mandate to plan and buy media on the company’s behalf. These marketers generally have access to an ad production team and work directly with publishers to launch their campaigns.

There’s a second tier of media buyers who fall into the self-representation category. These buyers represent small companies, local retailers, even home businesses they themselves simultaneously operate and promote. Like other company-employed marketers, these buyers market a single service or product line. The variation is the tools they have with which to develop their campaigns. Large ad budgets are rarely a reality. Even finding cash to produce ad creative can be a struggle.

Historically, online advertising hasn’t been terribly accessible to advertisers with small budgets and little or no ad creative. Few publishers are willing to cater to this substantial market, assuming there are scant profits to be made from advertisers with nominal budgets and a sporadic marketing schedule. Offline, these advertisers can promote products via inexpensive newspaper classified ads or the occasional mailbox flyer. Online, many publishers have campaign minimums upwards of $10,000. Options are highly limited.

It’s easy to see how media buyers who fall into this category could write online advertising off as a marketing method reserved exclusively for the Fortune 500. Many small-budget buyers aren’t aware a few publishers out there addressed this issue. They’re giving ordinary advertisers the opportunity to create and launch online campaigns quickly, easily, and inexpensively.

Advertising.com’s automated advertising solution, AdVariant, is an example. I mentioned AdVariant in a column last year, just after it was introduced. The latest news is Advertising.com plans to relaunch the system under the name Advertising Resource Center (ARC) in June. New features include an expanded line of banner templates and increased billing options (currently, media buyers are required to pay by credit card).

The current product offering, a self-serve campaign development system, caters to advertisers with budgets as small as $200. In about 15 minutes, media buyers can build and launch a customized and targeted online banner campaign. The system includes a banner ad creation tool, although existing creative can also be used. Options are somewhat limited, but there are several ad formats to choose from, along with a variety of content- and geo-targeting preferences.

Campaigns can be designed based on CPM or CPC pricing. Rates vary according to creative sizes and targeting employed (the average CPC is $0.55-$0.78; the average CPM is $1.05-$1.56). Daily reporting is available through Advertising.com’s AdLearn technology.

Although developed with independent media buyers in mind, this tool can prove valuable to agency buyers as well as the little guy. Agency-employed marketers who chose to make a buy with Advertising.com via a sales rep are subject to a campaign minimum of $15,000. Should this exceed a client’s budget, or the portion of the budget he’s willing to commit to a single ad network, the buyer can turn to the blissfully undemanding ARC system.

Granted, the approach eliminates the possibility of negotiating lower ad rates and does limit targeting capabilities, but for some clients it’s an appealing alternative. Look for the new release this summer. With Advertising.com fully cognizant of the growing advertiser awareness of its system, I expect we’re in for an impressive revamp.

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