The Integrity Of The Buy

So, your campaign has been bought. All the insertion orders are signed, the creative has been trafficked, and your sales reps have called you to confirm that your campaign is running.

Time for a rest? Hardly the real work has just begun.

I’m not talking about buy optimization. ClickZ readers have heard more than enough from me on that particular topic. I’m talking about checking the campaign to make sure that everything that was bought is actually running correctly. At K2, we call this a “Buy Integrity Check,” and we do these checks both right after launch and on a regular basis thereafter.

Despite your terrific relationship with the media properties on your media buy, mistakes will happen. It’s your responsibility as a media planner to catch them and correct them before any damage is done.

Here are the basic components of a Buy Integrity Check:

  • All banners should be checked for proper placement on the page, load time and correct links.
  • Sponsorships and custom content should be checked for proper delivery and appearance. Try viewing with different size displays.
  • Rich media creative executions should be tested with a variety of browsers, ISPs and operating systems.
  • The destination site should be checked in the same manner as your media buy.

    In order to perform effective checks, you need a computer that can serve as a reliable testing station. Not only should this computer have multiple browsers, but it should also be able to connect to the Internet via LAN connection and through a dial-up ISP account. The ISP should have national penetration, with POPs (points of presence) all over the country and abroad if needed. More on why this is important later.

    Start with any GIF banners you might have running on your buy. Test them with differing display sizes. A banner that appears “above the fold” on a 800×600 display may be below the fold on a 640×480 display. If your contracts call for banners above the fold in all cases, smaller displays may be a problem. Also, test each banner for correct linking, ALT text and load time.

    If your buy contains geo-targeted inventory, you might be able to check the inventory by using your ISP, depending on how the inventory is targeted. If your targeting is done at the POP level, you can check on the inventory by using your national ISP to log on to a POP within the targeted geography.

    If the creative is targeted by registration information (like on the New York Times, for example), create an account with address information matching your targeting profile.

    Rich media executions require rigorous testing. Be sure to test multiple browsers. If the execution requires Java or a plug-in, test versions of Netscape and IE both with and without the plug-in. If the execution gathers data, be sure to send some test data through in order to ensure that it is being logged properly.

    One thing I’ve noticed about these integrity checks is that many planners forget to check the destination site. All the promotion in the world won’t help your client if their site is slow or if their server is prone to crashes. Always test jump pages and click-through destinations for load time.

    If you get some down time during the course of the week, ping the destination server to check that it is up and running. Once, a client of mine was having problems with its response rates on an interactive direct response campaign. Server log analysis showed that response ground to a halt a couple times during the course of a week. The client would receive zero responses for an hour or two at a clip.

    This was a red flag that their server was crashing and that the downtime was affecting the campaign significantly. Problem was, we couldn’t prove to the client that the crashes were even occurring.

    The solution? I downloaded a shareware utility that pinged the destination server every five minutes and kept a detailed record. We logged two crashes within a week and showed the client our findings.

    Perform integrity checks as often as you can. Your client will appreciate the effort toward achieving its online business goals.

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