Pleased or Peeved?

I was surprised to hear a lot of agency- and publisher-types are still bantering back and forth about good ol’ insertion orders (IOs). Admit it, no one wants to comb through a load of legal mumbo jumbo typically written in a six-point font. However, I think it’s safe to say most of us agree something needs to be done about the problem.

Let me clarify what I’m talking about. In an effort to explain my perspective, I often share a “day in the life of a media planner.” But every day is different because a planner wears many hats, changing them for different stages of a campaign, from creation to completion. The actual planning process is the most time consuming and exhausting.

It might help you understand what buyers/planners go through if I paint a scenario of the process. Here’s an example: Todd, the senior media planner on an agency’s tech piece of business, gets called into an account group meeting to discuss potential Q4 opportunities for a piece of software Client X wants to promote. In the meeting, his goal is to obtain any information he can. He’s there to pick the brains of these gatekeepers, scratch below the service, and ask many questions.

Here’s what he’s looking for:

  • Client name

  • URL
  • Time frame
  • Current ad spend
  • Top line communications goals and objectives (on- and offline, if determined)
  • Budget
  • Geography
  • Creative development (where, when, how, limitations)

After Todd meets with the account group, he assembles his team and enters the planning process. The process has approximately 40 steps. Many occur behind the scenes.

As things progress, Todd will take on various roles, including that of evangelist, historian, networker, technologist, negotiator, statistician, tester, and optimizer.

What can go wrong along the way? Quite often, planner/buyer-types hit speed bumps and lose time dealing with logistics or “paperwork” — which includes the dreaded IO.

This is where online media differs from offline. Unlike offline media publishers, online media publishers send IOs to advertisers. Most agencies, in turn, have their own IOs. Until recently, there was no standard for such documents.

I’ve explained this lengthy process to put into context an effort to simplify this process. The American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA) and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) recently updated the comprehensive “Terms and Conditions for Internet Advertising” for agencies and Internet media companies. Included in the document are thorough definitions and terms, agency and publisher obligations, and a template for addendums.

In the aftermath of the document’s release, the message boards and electronic discussion groups are showing a lot of commotion. Many advertisers go on and on about how horrible it is for the organizations to mandate legal “mumbo jumbo.” Someone was even so bold as to say, “They can’t make me sign it and I won’t. Who do they think they are?”

Others chimed in they were happy someone stepped up to the plate and cleaned up all the junk. Many think it’s streamlined. Others like the ability to customize the template. I spoke with a few big publishers. A senior-level salesperson at AOL said he hits so much red tape while trying to sign agencies’ IOs that many deals have been broken as a result. He wasn’t ecstatic about the new version but was happy both organizations were backing it. When I asked if he’d sign it, he replied, “Sure, with no addendums. But, put it this way, agencies always have addendums.”

Undeniably we live in a world that revolves around terms and conditions. Isn’t this a step in the right direction toward a common ground between publishers and advertisers? Isn’t it designed as a CYA (cover your a%#) anyhow? More importantly, have we missed the obvious? There’s no need to get steamed over something that’s purely voluntary.

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