Preparing an RFP for Interactive Media Buying

This week, I thought I’d deliver a pragmatic column: a sample RFP (define) for online media buying.

The idea came to me after a client asked me about my firm’s planning process. The discussion centered on the amount of time it takes to do a good plan. The client had been doing its online media buying in-house and to them, it was a quick, simple process of calling the reps, getting the rates, doing the buy, and placing the ads.

I politely wondered out loud if that approach to media planning might be the reason the firm’s online campaigns could have been doing better and why we were being brought in.

I told them that after we utilize all the research tools and processes to create a total universe of opportunities (basically an RFP list), we like to issue RFPs to the properties and give them a fair amount of time to respond. By doing so, we get much more detailed information about placements and, more important, provide media reps more time to come up with something innovative that’s more likely to succeed.

Also, the RFP process creates competition between sites. Typically reps (and their managers) are motivated to develop a custom proposal that provides better rates and more value than if they were just quoting from a rate card.

Equally important, an RFP can help reps understand your campaign’s goals and success metrics. In many cases, this aligns their proposals with your objectives, and you’ll often be surprised as to how much the reps know about making campaigns work on their properties. (To learn how to leverage the sales reps knowledge, see my earlier column.)

Here’s an abridged RFP that has most of the critical elements you’ll will want to include, as well some sample language for use in each section.

Sample RFP

Basic Description:
Overdrive Marketing Communications has been retained by CLIENT XYZ ( to handle its online advertising for its 2008 campaign. The due date for proposals is March 1, 2008. Decisions for the buy will be made by March 5, 2008.

Campaign Duration:
March 15, 2008-June 15, 2008

Campaign Budget:
Approximately 10 sites will be selected for the CLIENT XYZ campaign, with budgets of $90,000 per site for the three-month campaign. (Note: It’s always good to let reps know what they’re competing for and the budget level they should be formatting a program around.)

About Client:
CLIENT XYZ is a leading provider of a, b, and c services…

Target Audience:
Primary users or CLIENT XYZ’s services are…

Campaign Goals and Metrics for Success:
The campaign’s goal is to drive leads and registrations for the client’s on- and offline service packages. The participating properties will be measured by the CPA (define) as it compares to the other sites in the campaign.

Cancellation Clauses:
Contracts will have three-day cancellation clauses. The funds from nonperforming sites will be funneled into the remaining sites that are performing to Overdrive’s and CLIENT XYZ’s standards.

Selection Criteria:
Sites will be selected on the following factors:

  • Ability to offer CPC (define) or very low CPMs (define)
  • Ability to geotarget program to the United States
  • Ability to offer value-added impressions and/or placements
  • Ability to offer a wide variety of placements and packages
  • Ability to follow directions of RFP submission process (see Proposal Format and Specs)

Creative Units:
To help the sites meet performance objectives, we will give them the freedom to run a wide variety of creative units, including skyscrapers, 468 x 60 banners, tiles, buttons, text/e-mail newsletter sponsorships, opt-in e-mail, content integration, and anything else a site wishes to offer. (Our interest is hearing what you think will work on your site.)

Proposal Format and Specs:
The proposal should outline and display exactly what you are proposing for CLIENT XYZ in a clear, concise manner in PowerPoint, Word, or Excel. (No PDF documents please. We need to copy and paste information into our presentation template.)

Please be sure to include the following details in your proposal:

  • Specific rates for what is being offered
  • Sample placements and screen grabs of the placements being offered
  • A brief property “about us” description (approximately 50 words)
  • Audience profile and visitor demographics
  • Traffic levels: unique visitors per month, page views per month
  • Performance clauses

If you are simply offering a CPC/CPA rate on a run-of-site or run-of-network basis, simply say so in the document and include information on the channel or site.

Don’t include extraneous material that doesn’t apply to the specific program. You can send extra materials along with the proposal, but please keep those materials separate from the proposal document.

Submission Instructions

Name the proposal files CLIENT-XYZ-YourSiteName.ppt or .doc, and use the same label as your e-mail subject.

Submit your proposal and materials to:

(Put the contact info here.)


When you get the proposals, remember to thank the reps for the work they did and confirm that you received it. Also, send a polite rejection e-mail to the ones you didn’t select so they know what’s going on. I know it seems cold, but we’ve been thanked by reps for letting them know what’s going on.

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