One Big Buy

Online media buyers are generally responsible for executing two types of campaigns: those that involve placement on a number of sites and those largely based on a partnership with a single portal.

The former involves calling up dozens of sales reps to negotiate and secure placements to obtain broad online exposure. The latter produces a situation more on par with a corporate merger than a telethon.

During my agency days, I anticipated these sorts of campaigns the most. Along with my fellow buyers and planners, I longed for opportunities to suspend the usual monotony and test my merit on a campaign exclusive to a single property. Situations like these called for us to act as intermediaries between client and site on a much larger scale. Our role didn’t merely require the customary rate negotiation skills. It demanded diplomacy, mediation, and plenty of mettle.

Single-site campaigns, once few and far between, are increasingly popular among advertisers catering to the consumer market. When dating site planned a one-day rich media campaign in 2002 using a full-screen Flash ad to target males, it made a mammoth buy on Likewise, when Mars wanted to publicize the M&Ms “Great Color Quest” promotion earlier this year, it partnered with AOL to create the portal’s first-ever rich media welcome screen.

This pervasiveness is likely due to an increased recognition of the value single-site partnerships can bring. Hook up with a top portal and you’ll get immediate access to a large consumer audience (not to mention media coverage). Benefits also extend to the media buys themselves. When an advertiser elects to invest nearly his entire ad budget in one property, that site is usually willing to make provisions to accommodate his every desire.

If only negotiating such alliances were easy. Most buyers I know expect a complex, arduous initial process. So for those buyers who haven’t yet had occasion to get involved in a single-site campaign (and for those who may have gotten a little rusty), a few things to keep in mind about negotiating those exclusive site placements online.

Bonus Impressions

There was a time, not long ago, when ad rates were so high advertisers had to supplement their investments with bonus impressions. These freebies made it possible for many to advertise on top-tier sites and helped others justify particularly costly buys.

Proposing the inclusion of bonus impressions may not be as common as it once was, but negotiating a single-site campaign is an ideal opportunity to bring it back. A site partnership allows buyers to secure additional exposure while site reps keep their rates intact (and save face with their superiors).

It’s particularly relevant where site partnerships are concerned. The idea is to blanket a site with your brand. When attempting to obtain bonus impressions, it’s best to broach the subject as soon as you receive the initial placement proposal from a site.

Format Experimentation

When planning multiple-site campaigns, marketers are naturally inclined to follow a formula. This frequently includes sticking to a predetermined number of formats to keep ad development costs down. When exposure is limited to one site or portal, there’s an opportunity to get more creative. What better time to try out a new format or, better yet, develop a branding placement of your own?

In the case of an exclusive partnership, properties are often willing to bend the rules in this respect. Remember when Coca-Cola launched C2 earlier this year? Coke’s partnership with MSN included font customization and hyperlink colors that corresponded with the look of the product. That’s great news for buyers out to impress their clients. As you negotiate, don’t be afraid to suggest an unorthodox format or placement. Chances are, the site will be open to the idea of running a unique, and potentially press-worthy, campaign.

One-Day Campaigns

Many single-site partnership campaigns are short-term arrangements. The idea of investing a lump of cash in a portal for a single day of exposure may not appeal to all advertisers, but it does have its advantages. With access to site statistics, buyers can determine which day of the week will produce the highest visit volume and select the launch date accordingly. It allows them to provide clients with some pretty accurate campaign estimates, as well as improve their chances of success.

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