Media buying, or online advertising, is more than just a Web strategy to help grow your business. It’s kind of like a dance between two people: you and the account executive (or publisher).
As with all dances, one person usually leads and one person gets led. Sadly, with most online advertising experiences, the lagging partner is typically the business owner by no real fault of his or her own...it’s simply from sheer lack of industry knowledge and media savoir faire.
You see, in buying online media for more than a decade, I can honestly say it’s both a science and an art. It involves a bit of finesse, competitive research, creativity, and good negotiation skills.
But if you don’t have time to go through trial by fire and want the crash course to not only dance, but lead, than you need to pay close attention to some powerful ‘insider’ tips and tricks to buying smart media.
The most common types of online media are banner ads or text ads (aka display ads). When you buy these forms of media you can buy them directly from a website or blog (the publisher) or buy them through an ad network.
Banner ads come in a variety of sizes and website placements, but I’ve found over the years the best performing ones are the medium or large rectangles that are closest to the content on the page. I have never had great luck with leaderboards or skyscraper[el]you know, those large horizontal and vertical ads that are either at the very top of the webpage or on the side.
However, you can also ‘rent’ lists have the publisher send a dedicated, solo email to their list on your behalf or place an advertisement (text or graphical) in their ezine. These are known as list rentals and are more costly, because of the publishers ‘implied endorsement’, but generally perform better.
No matter which form of online media your buying there’s some important things to know before you engage with the account executive and sign an insertion order (agreement).
Here are my 10 'must do/must ask' things when conducting online media buys.
- Competitive analysisFind out what is the typical industry rate for that particular ad spot and placement in your niche. For instance, if you're interested in running a 300x250 banner ad, do some research. Call some ad networks and find out what that ad unit costs on the home page and 'run of site' within your target niche.
- Competitive analysisWhat ad units typically get the best click thru rates (also known as CTR)? Read some online ezines or blogs and get an idea on average metrics so you have a benchmark to measure your campaign against.
- Publisher placementAsk your account rep. if your banner ad will be "run of site" (ROS) or "run of channel" (ROC). This will determine exposure and pricing.
- Ad targetingFind out if the publisher allows day parting (running ad during specific time periods). This can save you money on ad rate especially using the CPM (cost per thousand) pricing model.
- Publisher placementFind out if your ad position will be fixed or rotated (shared) with anyone else's ad. Again, this will give you a good idea of your potential exposure. Also, if your ad placement is being shared with other advertisers, you should try to negotiate a better rate, as the spot is not dedicated to your message.
- Publisher placementIf shared placement, find out what percentage of impressions (or views) you will receive.
- Dedicated emailFind out the size of the list you're thinking of renting, the frequency the list goes out, and the average unit sale (AUS) per subscriber.
- Dedicated emailAsk the publisher who's mailing for you if there will there be a lift note (an introduction or implied endorsement). Lift notes help 'warm up' the list (subscribers) and boost conversions.
- Out clauseAsk your account executive if the media agreement has an out clause or termination right. This is important as if your campaign is not working, you don't want to have to ride it out and waste money. You want the ability to end it and cut your losses. Also find out if you can pause your ad during a slow traffic times (i.e. summer, holidays) as not to waste impressions (CPM).
- ReportingAsk your account executive if you will I be given daily/weekly reporting OR access to the online ad serving system. This will allow you real-time access to click thru rates and more to evaluate if creative (banner and landing page) is striking a cord with the target audience.