Unsung Heroes of Agency Media Departments

If you are a media planner at an agency, whether it’s an interactive agency or the interactive arm of a traditional outfit, you probably have a traffic coordinator policing the flow of creative and insertion orders as they enter and leave the agency. Your traffic coordinator may be an employee in the media department, or he or she might be a child of account management, but, essentially, the coordinator’s job duties are the same: He or she handles the work that no one else feels like doing.

Coordinators are usually the weary-looking folks who come into the office before anybody else and don’t even entertain the notion of getting home in time to watch “The Simpsons.” I think you know the type.

Coordinators are the critical interface between the media department and the outside world. No media buys get booked until they cross the coordinator’s desk. And when your friendly neighborhood sales rep needs creative by yesterday, it’s the coordinator who makes sure it gets to the right place. When you run a campaign with two dozen different banner sizes, text links, email (both text and HTML), and rich media, the coordinator knows which sites get which creative, when it should run, how it should rotate, and all of the other nitty-gritty details of your ad campaign.

Yes, coordinators are oftentimes the unsung heroes of agency media departments. While the planners in your media department figure out where your clients’ ads should run, the coordinator happily executes all the media buys they put together. Happily, that is, until that one huge buy comes through…

You know the buy I’m talking about. The one that took two days longer than expected to gain client approval. The one that had to be trafficked to 20 different sites in one night. Your coordinator assured you that it wouldn’t be a problem when you left him to the task at 7 p.m. the night before, but now he is standing before you at 9 a.m. the next day. He hasn’t slept. There’s a funny look in his eye. You get that suspicious feeling that if you take your eyes off him for a second, he’ll sneak up behind you and try to strangle you with an old strand of Cat 5 cable he found in the IT department.

How can we make sure we don’t drive our coordinators crazy? Well, it helps to avoid giving them huge buys to traffic at the last minute, but there are some other things we can do to help them retain their sanity:

  • Standardize an insertion order for your agency. Decoding insertion orders issued by sites can be very frustrating and time-consuming. All ad placements bought on a given site should be detailed with separate impression guarantees and ad specs clearly stated. A granular level of detail is important for other reasons, as I’ve detailed in another column, and coordinators need to have this level of detail to make sure that they run the right ads. The proper level of detail on individual placements within a site buy will also ensure that any makegoods are handled appropriately and that your coordinator can set up your performance reports to accurately gauge metrics like cost per sale.

  • Invest in an ad management system. I keep saying this over and over, but it’s important. An AdKnowledge or DART for agencies can greatly simplify the trafficking process, both for creative and for insertion orders. It’s also easier to fix mistakes through a third-party server.
  • Develop a creative tracking worksheet and a banner naming convention. A simple MS-Excel spreadsheet can help a coordinator avoid mixing up the different pieces of creative in a campaign. If a media planner can develop a spreadsheet that shows which creative executions go with which sites on the buy, it can help streamline the process for the coordinator. Banners should have their specs coded into their file names. For example, “boat468_12_3.gif” might represent a 468 by 60 banner with a 12K-file size limit and an animation looping restriction of three times. Coding banners this way will allow your coordinator to look at a file and instantly know which piece of creative it represents.
  • Generate a list of traffic and production contacts. Coordinators need to know where to ship creative and where to send paperwork. They shouldn’t have to figure these things out for themselves.

All of these procedures can help to streamline trafficking and preserve the sanity of your coordinators. It also helps to provide the occasional hookup with those concert and sports tickets that agency media planners always seem to have a flair for acquiring, but that pretty much goes without saying.

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