When Faced With Placing Non-traditional Media on the Media Plan You Need to Ask Certain Key Questions; Plus—How Media Trading is Working in the U.K.

Jul 28, 2009  •  Post A Comment

[Editor’s Note: Today’s Media Planner focuses on the how to handle things that are new. For example, there’s been talk for quite awhile about automated media trading. Many feel it’s a threat—and wouldn’t work anyway. In today’s piece from our sibling publication Ad Age, we look at a U.K. start-up doing just such media trading.

First, though, here’s another great piece from our archives by Roger Baron. TV is still king for most major marketers, but planners are always getting asked to evaluate other types of new media. Roger’s got some great tips for you.]

Although the great majority of national media dollars are spent on traditional television commercials, advertisers are constantly on the lookout for new ways to reach their customers. Product placement is today’s hot button, but its usefulness is limited by the inability to deliver copy points, lack of creative control and far less availability than conventional commercial units. The few spectacular successes, such as Oprah Winfrey’s Pontiac giveaway on her show, are exceptions that prove the rule.

At conferences and in trade press articles, advertisers are exposed to new nontraditional media forms that promise a fresh way to deliver their advertising message. As their media experts, planners are expected to be familiar with them and to recommend whether they deserve a place in the media plan. Below are some questions they should ask when evaluating nontraditional media.

1) Is the Medium Premature?

 Does the medium exist? The nontraditional media we see are often still in the pilot stage. The roadshow presentation is made in hopes of signing a major advertiser who will give a testimonial and offer reassurance to financial backers that the medium has promise.

The sales representative will say, “We are talking to XYZ, and they are very interested.” “Interest” is not a contract. Ask, “Do you have an order?” Advertisers who are willing to experiment get favorable rates and a chance for a long-term relationship if the medium succeeds, but these early exposures will have a limited effect on sales.

 2) Ability to Deliver

What is the nature of the advertising communication? Will the medium offer live-action video with sight, sound and motion? Does the advertising exposure communicate copy points or is it simply a picture of the product or logo? Can the medium effectively introduce a new brand or product concept? For how many seconds is the viewer exposed to the advertising? Is the exposure repeated? What is the physical environment of the medium?

While there might be distractions in some out-of-home settings, the ability to deliver a message where the product is being used or sold can reinforce its effectiveness.

3) Geographic Relevance

Is the geographic coverage area relevant to the brand’s marketing objectives? It is expensive to launch a new medium. First-round financing may be just enough for one or two markets, and they may not be markets that a given national advertiser needs. Local ventures may be restricted to a few shopping centers, cable systems or communities. They will have minimal effect over the entire DMA, but they can be powerful forces in those specific areas.

4) Obstacles to Growth

What is needed for growth? Projects that are still in the pilot stage may have bold plans for expansion, but there are always obstacles. If the medium depends on custom technology, there must be a sure source of supply.

I remember a retail store video display that planned to download content from a satellite. The project was delayed a year by a fire in the Singapore plant that was going to manufacture the receivers. New media are especially vulnerable to Murphy’s Law hangups that planners have no way to anticipate. Often the first time we learn there is a problem is when we are told it has been fixed.

Does growth depend on governmental, union, patent-holder, copyright or other claims that must be negotiated or paid for? Custom hardware is expensive. Expansion often depends on second-round financing that may or may not materialize.

 5) Safeguards in Place

What provisions have been made for stewardship? Is there an independent audit to ensure that the units are in place and operating, that the advertising runs as planned, that the creative has been properly trafficked and that the medium’s technical standards are being adhered to? What firm will conduct the audits? How frequently will they be repeated? Is there a report for the current period?

Does the medium depend on a third party’s cooperation? Circulation audits report bulk distribution of a magazine to retail stores, but a sales clerk must set them out and maintain the display. Does the medium give them an incentive? In the past, some unsophisticated audio systems were so loud that site staff turned down the sound–or even pulled the plug-just to avoid the noise factor.

 6) Measure the Audience

What do we know about the audience? Measuring the nontraditional media audience poses special challenges. Planners need to know how the audience is measured and the precise meaning of an ad exposure so they can interpret the cost per thousand. Will the study be conducted periodically so planners can predict future audiences and confirm delivery of ad exposures with a post-buy analysis? Who will conduct the research?

Nielsen has a reputation as the premier supplier of custom research, but planners should not confuse these Nielsen numbers with television ratings that receive extensive industry oversight and certification by the Media Rating Council. Since nontraditional media pay for and own the custom research, planners should ask to see the complete report as it comes from Nielsen or another research supplier-not just a sales sheet.

When evaluating any new medium it is important to ask questions, listen to the answers and use the research to get a general indication of the medium’s delivery. There are many things to look out for, but given acceptable answers, a nontraditional medium can present the advertising message in a new and unexpected way, adding creative sizzle and excitement to supplement the core television plan.

[Now here’s the piece about Media Trading. Is this the future? Time will tell, of course. Meanwhile, it’s great read about the issues involved.]

By Emma Hall
Advertising Age

[London] Automated media-trading is not a new idea. But getting a system that media sellers and buyers can agree to for the most coveted ad space has proven nearly impossible to create.

Enter MediaEquals, a new U.K.-based player with ambitions to secure the whole world’s media inventory on its system. MediaEquals is currently running trials with six major media buyers — Omnicom, WPP, Publicis, Aegis, Interpublic and Havas — and with media owners, including BBC Magazines, The Guardian Media Group and Bauer Publishing.

"MediaEquals’ ambition and vision is different," said Jim Marshall, chairman of Publicis Groupe’s Starcom U.K. "It’s not for niche parts of the media and online; they want to create an electronic online trading system that covers all media — and it’s not about distressed sales."

MediaEquals is by no means the first to go down this road. Google’s AdWords, Yahoo’s RightMedia, and Microsoft’s adECN have all managed to capture previously untapped business at the lower end of the ad market, making it easy for local and smaller advertisers to buy targeted ads online. Even Google has backed away from more ambitious plans to sell print and radio ads (although its fledgling Google TV program is still in place).

MediaEquals’ system, which has been in development for three years, claims to offer something more than rival auction-based or pure transaction systems. The founders claim that it replicates the way media is bought and sold in the real world and acts as a vehicle to free up time that can be invested in creativity
and developing contacts.

MediaEquals is headed by entrepreneurial executive chairman Martin Banbury, founder of media and marketing group The Mission, part owner of insurance group Insure & Go, and a former brand manager at Procter & Gamble.

Mr. Banbury has just expanded the board to signal his international ambitions. Non-executive chairman John Farrell, until recently president-CEO of Publicis’ SAMS Worldwide, and non-executive director Hannu Ryopponen, ex chief financial officer of Ikea, sit alongside a media owner, an online entrepreneur and a financier. The idea is to eventually get MediaEquals’ trading system up and running beyond the U.K., including in the U.S.

"The media industry is pretty well-run and the next step change requires a technology breakthrough," Mr. Farrell said. "MediaEquals potentially brings this. It allows agencies to focus not on process and implementation but on value-added strategic thinking. For media owners it allows them to worry less about the management of inventory and spend more time on the creative end of their inventory. It’s anything but a commoditization — it allows a focus on creativity."

Whether MediaEquals has the solution, the problems of a complex marketplace and the proliferation of media have resulted in frustrated agencies and sellers spending increasing amounts of time on administration.

"There’s no doubt the industry will have to move to online trading systems, just because of the sheer volume of inventory and its demand on time and resources," Mr. Marshall said. "There’s a lot going on in this area — the value of an online trading system is all about reducing processing costs. Can MediaEquals do that? It’s debatable, but it’s what they are setting out to do and they have got it more right than most."

Danny Donovan, managing director of Initiative London, said, "Previous attempts to launch online media-trading platforms have had only marginal success, primarily because they have tried to change the trading process rather than build on existing practices. MediaEquals has approached the problem from the other end — what the industry needs, not what the internet likes it to accept."

"We are replicating the way that people trade now but in electronic form," Mr. Banbury said. "We won’t increase the level of commoditization — we could reduce it by freeing up more time for people to spend on the phone building and using relationships to make sure they’re doing the best job possible. The holy grail is efficiencies without commoditization."

Mr. Marshall, however, said, "MediaEquals says it reflects the way the market trades, but to come up with a really efficient system you will have to impact the way media owners trade and price."
MediaEquals allows for regular trading, but the negotiations take place online, providing a useful record of all conversations in the process. All inventory is instantly updated, and every individual must log on to the system.

Matt Teeman, director-ad sales, BBC Magazines, said, "For us, this is definitely not about selling distressed inventory; it’s about getting more eyeballs on our core media in a way that may actually save us and our advertisers time."

"We are not taking the art out of buying and selling — we are improving it," Mr. Banbury said. He gave the example of an advertiser at the last minute pulling out of a prime spot, such as a 30-second commercial booked on the Super Bowl. Instead of getting the sales team to make individual phone calls to their contacts (making sure not to double up and sell the space twice), they can send out an availability notice to every relevant client, with the expectation of securing a decent price.

Another function allows media owners to vet which marketers have access to their space. A "black, white and gray" system blocks out some buyers completely, allows some full access and lets others view but not trade certain space.

MediaEquals works via the web and won’t charge for use of the system. It will instead charge media owners a "tiny proportion" of the value of each trade, which Mr. Banbury claims will be a lot less than the improvement they will see in overall trade.

Mr. Banbury has some even more radical plans for MediaEquals in the long-term. He wants to develop the technology to accommodate a brokerage system, where marketers, media buyers and even city traders can buy options on future space — perhaps, for example, during premium events such as the 2012 Olympics — and even sell on those options as futures.#


  1. Having been in this industry before it was in industry (!991), trying to calculate the eyeballs and media exposure on a non-traditional network such as those in-stores can be challenging. But is it any more guess work than how many people are fast-forwarding through commercials when they watch their time-shifted programs?
    One suggestion is to ask for sales-lift results from the network. For instance, when we ran Blockbuster TV, we could show advertisers not only the estimated audience, but also that when we ran an internal promotion, we increased sales (and rentals) by an average of 15.5%. This was a clear indication that the network was reaching the customers inside the store, you know, the folks with money in their pockets.
    Our concentration has always been to increase sales for our retail clients, but when a network gets to a critical mass (i.e. minimum number of locations), then advertisers have a great opportunity to reach a very targeted market.

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