Why Your Site Didn’t Make My Media Plan

Media planners and buyers (like ClickZ columnists) constantly receive pitches from online publishers and ad networks, trying to draw attention to this special feature or reason why we should consider using them. Truthfully, these pitches aren’t unwelcome as the Web contains so many niche sites, new technologies, and new advertising formats that it’s almost impossible to expect media people to know about them all on their own.

Pitching also shows assertiveness on the part of the publisher that the media planner likes to see: you actually want our media money. This might sound a little oxymoronic, but sometimes we media planners want to include a publisher on our plan only to not receive any response to our RFP or inquiries.

A survey I ran in 2005 found that, among other things, half of online media buyers don’t like media reps. Though I don’t have any updated stats, there still isn’t a perfect system. Media planners, charged with meeting particular client objectives, do their best to create effective online media plans that may not include publishers for a variety of reasons.

The Reasons

Some of the reasons publishers get rejected from a plan are make-or-break issues; other reasons come down to a judgment call on the part of the media planner.

  • Advertising information not readily available (e.g., no media kit, no direct means to contact someone about advertising opportunities other than a contact form, and no information about the publisher in any known media planning tools).
  • The sales rep is unresponsive to communications.
  • Bad reputation as determined by past experience, talking to colleagues, or industry networking groups.
  • Unproven publisher or network requiring pre-pay only — buys should be invoiced with a minimum of 15 to 30 day payment terms.
  • Networks that lack quality control over sites or content providers.
  • Networks that offer no form of transparency to the media planner — even if the network doesn’t publicize its sites, it should allow the media planner to see under the hood after a non-disclosure agreement is signed.
  • A self-serve network with absolutely no media or technical support.
  • No ability to run a modest-sized first-run test buy.
  • Too-high rates to make a sufficient buy within the allocated client budget or a rate structure that will not produce desired results.
  • No out clauses — the mere nature of campaign optimization requires flexibility within the buy, in case the campaign under-performs or the client cancels.
  • The inability to provide frequency capping and other campaign controls to maximize the media spend.
  • Lack of desired placement opportunities or necessary targeting to meet client goals.
  • Audience deemed too small with insufficient reach, particularly given the advertising opportunities made available by the publisher.
  • A negative gut reaction sending up warning flags about buying from that site or network.

Good Publishers

Of course, many publishers and ad networks fall into the positive camp. Good publishers treat the media planner as a partner and seek a strong relationship. They tell you “Yes, we can figure out a way to do that” rather than a simple “No” more often than not. They bring you beta ad testing opportunities. They share ad creative ideas that have worked well on their sites in the past. They give you full-service support, regardless of the size of your spend.

These same good publishers help your agency throughout the duration of your campaign. They monitor your campaign’s performance and flag you even before you might notice something. They ask you about actions you’re seeing on the backend of your campaign. They work with you to best optimize your buy, even if that means shifting around placements and impressions.

Good publishers want your media plan to succeed because they’re smart enough to know that you’ll be back to buy again. What this camp all shares in common is truly excellent customer service, flexibility, attentiveness to an advertiser’s needs, a full-suite of all targeting capabilities, and good overall performance.

Although every media planner has their bias, some networks and sites we’ve found that tend to consistently step up to the plate are Yahoo, Google, Kontera, Orbitz, About.com, Disney Online, Discovery, iVillage, and WebMD. To them and those like them, we say thank you!

Hollis is off today. This column was published on Jan. 26, 2010 on ClickZ.

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