Media Planning & Buying

Media Dating: A How-to on Choosing the Right Media Partners

August 22, 2013

“It’s not you; it’s me.”

These are the five words you prefer to limit saying or hearing when in the process of dating, or working with a media partner for that matter.

Sometimes, the media planning business can feel a lot like dating. Each day, dozens of publishers are knocking on your door — vying for your attention and competing for your clients’ business. Picking the right partners is critical to ensuring the eventual success of a media plan, and with so many fish in the sea, this requires a thoughtful approach.

Following some of the traditional stages of dating, this article explores how media planners can select the right partners for the brands they represent.

The First Date: A Lot Can Happen in 15 minutes

Everyone is a little nervous on the first date. While planners are probably not so concerned with what they’ll wear or how they’ll do their hair, the first meeting takes preparation and is an important part of the process. Planners need to consider the goals of the first meeting and prepare to have a meaningful conversation.

The first meeting can result in the beginning of a beautiful relationship, or can fall short and leave no room for a second date. Most of us know within the first 15 minutes of a first date whether the person at the opposite end of the table has potential or not. This is roughly the same window of time a publisher has to give the elevator pitch and describe what differentiates them from their competitors. If the vendor’s offerings match with a client’s needs, the relationship can move forward to a second date.

Defining the Relationship: Communication & Compromise

The initial digital exchanges are an exciting part of new relationships; not much can beat the golden text message post-first date that reads, “I had a great time last night – would love to see you again.” When goals align, and it looks like a publisher can fulfill client objectives, it’s time to build a relationship.

Media planners send through a formal request for proposal (RFP) to understand the offering and evaluate the inventory and pricing. Remember that all good relationships take compromise, so there may be significant back-and-forth before the media plan is agreeable to both parties. The approval process can be slow, but it’s crucial to starting the relationship off on the right foot.

Building Trust After the Thrill is Gone

Building trust takes time and dedication. Once the shiny new feeling of a relationship fades, there are more serious aspects of the relationship that will come to take precedence. When a campaign launches, partners need to be accountable for performance. If the media is not performing the way it was expected to perform, optimizations must be made.

Publishers should function as an extended team for media buyers, providing fair answers to questions when asked. If an ad unit severely under-delivers on impressions, the team should collectively seek to understand why it happened, and how it can be prevented in the future. Strong publishers are available when needed, and have a solid grasp on an account’s daily deliverables and goals. Since many publishers provide similar offerings, relationship management quickly becomes a distinguishing factor.

The Importance of Meeting the Parents

It’s been a few months, and things are going really well. While it can be nerve-wracking to meet a new-found-love’s parents, most of us understand its importance. This same logic applies to the media world when publishers request to meet with clients directly.

It’s not surprising that publishers want to form relationships with clients, since this often allows them to better service the account down the line. In-person conversations can result in additional benefits such as: longer term contracts in exchange for reduced rates, first-in-market test opportunities and exposure to proprietary analytics, insights, and product development updates.

Tying the Knot: The Road to Becoming a Partner

Like many marriages these days, media deals don’t last forever — but signing long-term contracts and creating partnerships are still important. If results remain consistent, it’s preferable to turn publishers into partners in order to promote collaboration and lock-in the best rates possible to maintain performance.

Insertion orders are legal contracts signed by both the agency and the publisher to guarantee reserved rates and inventory. Media teams also generate master agreements for bigger partners if special terms need to be documented outside of the agency terms. Of course, if a media opportunity is no longer working for the client, you can exit the contract and begin a new search.

A Smart Planner’s Checklist

Now that we’ve explained the process of meeting a new publisher, here are a few quick tips for developing strong, successful partnerships:

  1. Do your homework before setting up a meeting. Find out if the publisher’s offerings align with your client’s needs.
  2. Set up an agenda before meeting so the publisher knows what to discuss in order to stay on track.
  3. Ask a lot of questions ahead of time, before planning commences.
  4. Establish a relationship with vendors and keep the lines of communication open.
  5. Work together as partners to resolve conflicts and identify opportunities for optimization along the way.

It’s hard work finding the right partners, but the payoff makes it all worthwhile.

Cover photo via Chicago-Dating