More Tips on RFPs

Hello from Dublin, boys and girls!

Yes, that’s right, I’m writing this from the City of Writers, Dublin, Ireland, a.k.a. “the Black Pool.”

I’ve been here two weeks now and feel a bit out of circulation in relation to the industry. Amazing what hiking in the peat-covered Wicklow Mountains, a few days in Belfast during the 12 July Fortnight, and countless pints of Guinness can help one achieve.

Last week’s piece was written shortly upon my arrival, so I was still just into the beginning of my vacation, and dispensing onto paper a few new tricks while listening to Trad music (that’s traditional Irish folk) was easy. This week I’d like to return to some of the basics concerning the negotiation of online media that may seem obvious, but often get overlooked in the constant rush of putting online buys together.

So, here are three MORE things you should be aware of when “RFPing” a potential site for the next buy you put together for a client.

  1. Inventory Reservation

    You’ve put together the media concepts for your client’s next effort. There are a handful of tactics you wish to employ and a handful of properties that make sense to explore for each of those tactics. You RFP all of them, analyze the proposals, work a few deals, and put your plan together. Over the next week or two (if you are blessed with this much time), you’ve written your plan and presented it to the client.

    The client loves it! Every site is perfect, just what the client wanted. You get sign-off. Now it’s time to send the IOs.

    One of the sites calls you back and says it can’t fill the order because the inventory you’re interested in has been sold to another party.


    “Sorry, Magwich, but since you first sent in your RFP, another advertiser secured that inventory, and we haven’t any more of what you want,” says Viceroy Fizzlebottom.

    Has this ever happened to you?

    It totally sucks, doesn’t it?

    Well, something you can do to try and avoid this situation is to ask about reservation of inventory. Ask a day or two before presenting your plan if the inventory originally proposed is still available. Send a blanket, blind-copy email to all the sites on your plan to confirm they’ve still got what you’re interested in. This isn’t usually necessary for ROS, but category-specific and keyword inventory, and niche market newsletters and/or email can often sell out. Certainly a time limit will have to apply, but before you put something before the client, check into a 72-hour to one-week lock on the stuff you want to buy. This way, you’ll avoid the stress of having to run around for a backup and the embarrassment of having to tell the client that what the client was excited about is no longer available.

  2. Makegood Conditions

    I’ve discussed these in this space before, but it is something that cannot be stressed too often. Frequently, sites establish their own makegood policies that traditionally benefit only themselves. If you’ve contracted 100K impressions from a site, and it doesn’t fulfill that amount in the time allotted, it’ll just run you until the originally contracted amount is delivered.

    But what if you are running a time-sensitive campaign? What if it is a promotion that ends July 31?

    Sites should be running your campaign evenly distributed throughout the life of the schedule, but on more than one occasion, I’ve seen sites that were underdelivering throughout most of the schedule suddenly blow out the remainder of my purchased inventory all in the last day or two of the campaign. And some of these sites are major properties.

    Try to get concessions at the outset, preferably at the RFP stage, for makegoods. Bonus inventory and short rates are good to ask for. One of the best makegood policies that used to be out there was exercised by Webrep, which became 2Can, which became AdSmart, which became Engage. It would deliver two for one on impressions underdelivered. This may be too generous in the current market, but negotiate something that will motivate a site to deliver as promised.

  3. Payment Terms

    Back in the good old days, a lot of sites would bill only against delivery. But nowadays, a lot of them, particularly the major sites, will front-end invoice against contracted impressions. Excite comes to mind as one site that bills this way. But what this does is put money in the sites’ pockets and then leaves the reconciling of credits to the buyers.

    In my view, this extracts the motivation for delivering inventory as contracted or issuing credits and makegoods upon underdelivery. In traditional advertising, billing is an ex post facto exercise. A magazine isn’t paid until I see that a particular ad has run correctly. Broadcast sends me a bill with affidavits, proof that my advertising has run as ordered.

    Before sending off an IO, make sure you’ve sorted out payment terms; it’s best if it is done in conjunction with the conditions for makegoods, as these two are interrelated, really.

Here endeth the lesson!

Signing off from Kelly’s Pub on South Great George Street in Dublin, Sloanshal!

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