10 Best Practices for choosing a professional Media Buying Agency

Proper and careful execution of a strategic media campaign can help your company grow from a local player to a regional or even a national brand. But don’t be fooled. There are many steps to launching a successful media program.

With the current (and projected future) exponential growth of media options available, it is difficult for marketers to execute successful media campaigns internally without the benefit of a sophisticated media process. Today, many corporations and even full service advertising agencies are reaching out to independent, professional Media Buying Agencies for expertise with both the media planning and media buying functions.

But how do you choose the right Media Buying Agency? The most experienced media professionals follow specific steps when executing a media program. When considering a media partner, look for these 10 Best Practices:

Professional Media Buying Agencies always . . .

1. . . .insist on conducting a Marketing Analysis review
Proper media planning does not exist in a vacuum and a good media agency will insist on putting together a well crafted media strategy before implementing any media buying. In putting that strategy together, the media agency should insist on completing a background analysis of the corporation or brand being advertised.

This starts with a strategic look at the business objective that the marketing program seeks to achieve. It also includes a review of the business environment including, but not limited to, sales, distribution, competitive environment, previous advertising programs and the industry’s current business climate.

2. . . .understand the Money Tree
Money TreeThe best media planners understand financial concepts. The basics that need to be addressed with the marketing review are items such as the lifetime value of a customer, what is the breakeven point of a program, what are the profit margins, what is the benefit of adding new customers versus increasing transactions with existing customers, seasonality of purchases and what is the length of the sales cycle.

Armed with this information, your media partner can create a plan for spending and scaling of spending that generates positive ROI to not only grow your business but also help to fuel budget allocations for future media buys.

3. . . . subscribe to Target Market Analysis tools
Do your homework before making a purchaseAsk the prospective firm what tools they use to analyze the target market and their media habits. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how much money you put into a media program if your messages are not delivered to the right audience. The media agency should be able to address how they conduct target market research and the tools they use to identify target market media usage.

4. . . . build the Media Plan with the proper Media Mix
Media has become more complex with a myriad of media choices. So the “Where?” of the media buy is as important as the “Why Media?” Choose the wrong media program and precious marketing dollars are wasted. Professional media buyers know that it doesn’t matter how cost efficient the media buy is if it isn’t effective. If the target prospect isn’t reached with your creative message then the ad is worthless. At that point, it doesn’t matter how little the agency paid for the ad.

Matching target research to the proper media mix is the foundation of every media program. Ask your media buying firm how they construct the Media Mix. What tools do they use for analysis? What experience do they have with the proposed media? Ask for specific examples of programs that they have run for other clients and the success of those programs.

5. . . . are willing to Test Media Programs
Developing a budget is key to making sure you don't overspendAn exceptional media agency knows that there is no “one size fits all” solution for their clients. They believe that every client deserves the customization necessary to insure that their program utilizes the existing media budget cost effectively and efficiently while delivering quantifiable results.

The breadth of media options available is growing exponentially. The experienced media planner knows that in order to customize the program successfully, the program must test various media combinations. This requires a commitment on the part of the media agency to setup a test program with program metrics for the purpose of developing useful insights.

6. . . . understand the need for Program Scale
Just as media combinations must be tested, they must also be rolled out in a proper scale first. These smaller programs allow for valuable insights which can then be projected into new markets for setting ROI expectations. Only then should the program be ramped up to a multi-market or national scale.
Be wary of a media firm that wants to roll out untested programs in multiple markets without the benefit of first testing several concepts.

7. . . . have a depth of Media Planning & Media Buying Experience
BullseyeToo often, a media professional from one specific media or another will decide to hang out their shingle. Most do not have formal media training but know how to sell their services to prospective customers. Unfortunately, narrow experience in one or two media won’t help your company construct a well-rounded integrated media program.

Extensive experience with traditional (TV, Radio, Out-of-Home, Print, Direct Mail) and digital media (online video, streaming/satellite radio, publisher sites, ad networks, use of targeting filters such as geo, demo, contextual or keywords) will deliver a much more balanced and integrated media program than those firms who have experience in just a few media.

8. . . . offer experienced Creative Input
While media buyers aren’t hired for their creative ability, they should be able to tie-back creative recommendations to the media program based on insights from other successful programs. For example, a media buyer should be able to share the success rate of a :15 video versus a :30 video in an online environment. Or how to setup overlays for the same video versus reliance on companion banners.

A good buyer knows when to use a :30 radio spot versus purchasing a :60 and the buying efficiencies of the purchase, or how often to rotate an animated banner’s content for a particular publisher. Or even sharing what the best strategy is for tagging spots running on Pandora.

These types of creative insights and inputs will substantially increase the success of your media program.

9. . . . have established a successful Negotiation Process
HandshakeEvery media buyer will tell you they negotiate the best pricing to which Capstone Media responds, “Yes. Every media buyer should negotiate the best pricing. Or they need to find another occupation!” But excellent negotiation isn’t just about the pricing. It’s about placement.

Don’t be fooled by promises of the “best rates” or even “more spots for the dollar.” Getting a great rate on a :30 TV spot that runs when your prospective customer isn’t watching means nothing. Those Broadcast ROS spots that your buyer can negotiate for pennies on the dollar are worth exactly that – pennies. This same principle also applies to online advertising. Millions of online impressions or pageviews mean nothing if they don’t reach your prospect and generate the response you are looking for.

The best media buyers negotiate with the objective of delivering both best price and best value for the price at the best time or location where the target customer will be able to engage with the creative message.

A simple test for how well your media agency negotiates is to see how they negotiate with your company. Do they have firm pricing or can you talk them down to a lower price without reducing the scope of the workload? Are they detailed and specific in their proposals to your company? A good judge of how hard a media buyer works for your company is to analyze how well they work for themselves.

10. . . . have a reputation for High Ethics when handling money
This seems like an “of course” answer to selecting a media agency. Who doesn’t want their funds handled properly? But managing your company’s money with ethics involves a layer of extra commitment on the part of the media agency to the execution of the program.

For example, does the media buyer take the extra time to set up orders that clearly layout when the media program should run? If it’s a broadcast program, spots should be purchased by day and by program. A TV schedule that runs as a “primetime ROS” is a waste of money if your spots don’t air in the shows that your potential customer watches.

Does your media agency accept makegoods from the media vendors? Make goods should only be considered if they are negotiated in advance of the preemption and only if they deliver a better value than the original purchase.

How does the media buyer reconcile media invoices after the program has run? What type of media proof does the agency require before agreeing to pay media invoices? Will the agency’s reporting system succeed when you need to conduct a business audit of expended funds?

More importantly, does your media buyer reconcile funds back to its customers at the end of the campaign? These are savings from the final negotiation process based on the actual invoiced amount. These rightfully should be remitted back to your company. Capstone Media provides not only purchase reports for our clients but actual invoiced media costs. Any funds that are saved on the program after the purchase are credited back to our client to either to be used on future programs or in the form of a financial transfer.

Now you are ready!
Happy Customer 1Remember, the best media professionals have processes for the construction and execution of strategic media programs that deliver measurable results tied to business objectives. These are then executed with a thorough negotiation, ordering and management process. And lastly, they are fully accountable for all media campaign funds.

Choosing a Media Buying Agency can seem a bit daunting. However, if you use these 10 Best Practices as a guide for choosing a Media Buying Agency you will guarantee a higher level of success for your company, your brand and your marketing program resulting in measurable ROI.

Are we witnessing the Fall of Google & YouTube?

Google Logo
After several advertising giants complained to Google that their video advertising was being placed alongside questionable content on YouTube, an advertising boycott which began in the U.K is gathering steam in the U.S. The controversy stems from advertisers’ videos running next to extremist and hateful material.

AT&T, who with other Google advertisers (Verizon, McDonald’s, Johnson & Johnson and about 250 others) was quoted as saying “Until Google can ensure this won’t happen again, we are removing our ads from Google’s non-search platforms.”YT Logo

As of the date of this posting, Google AdWords has not been affected but the Google AdSense platform (where website publishers accept advertising on their sites) is being swept up into the controversy.

Read more details about the ad boycott and Google’s response can be found on Fox News and The Guardian.

7 Tips to Negotiate Like a Pro

You can negotiate a good deal

Negotiating doesn’t have to be hard

Do you find yourself intimidated when faced with the possibility of negotiating with a “seasoned pro salesperson” whether you are buying a car, cellular phone service or buying a house? You are not alone.

Negotiating for your business or personal life strikes fear into the hearts of even the most outgoing person.  However, when you master the art of negotiation it can be challenging and rewarding. So how do you wind up a winner in the negotiating game without “leaving money on the table?” Here are 7 key tips from Capstone’s professional media buyers to insure that your negotiations go your way.


1.     Establish Your Objective(s)

Be honest with yourself first.  What EXACTLY do you need?   Develop a list of what you must-have, might be good-to-have, don’t have-to-have and really don’t want.  Include an assessment of technology – is the latest cutting edge device and/or accessory necessary or will tried-and-true do?

2.     Figure Out Your Budget in Advance

No brain surgery here!  And YES you have to have one, don’t let your sales associate establish it for you.  Do they really need to know anyway?

Whatever you do DON’T spend more than you plan to – make the salesperson work to accommodate your budget.

3.     Do Your Homework

Nothing beats preparation.  The internet is a great place for research and “reviews” along with an old reliable such as “Consumer Reports” along with pertinent articles in industry & Trade magazines.  Visit different suppliers in your area as well.  Look at competing products and manufacturers.  When you’re sick of doing the groundwork then you know you’re ready.


Once you have completed the above go ahead, negotiate.  Take the initiative and bargain like you mean it because now you will be in a position of strength.  You will know what you want, how much you should pay, when you need it, different places to get it.

4.     Involve a friend

Having a “second pair of eyes” never hurts because often a good friend can point out features that you may miss. If your friend is a seasoned negotiator, that can only help. Just don’t rely on someone else to do your negotiating for you or you won’t know the thrill of closing a great deal.

5.     Give Yourself Plenty of Time

It is true that time is on your side.  Have you ever wondered why salespeople try to get you to buy immediately or worse yet- don’t let you leave if they think you are not going to?  They do this for a living you (most likely) do not.  The other side of the time variable is equally dangerous- waiting until the last minute.  Don’t establish unreasonably short timeframes for purchases either.

6.     Sleep on It

You’ve heard it before “If it sounds too good to be true . . .” This is ALWAYS true with negotiating especially when you are making a big purchase. When you have a rule to “sleep on it” you can avoid making a snap decision just because the salesperson is really good at selling versus if the deal is actually a good deal. Nothing puts the purchase in perspective better than sleeping on it,

7.     Don’t be Afraid to Say No

Your last decision for a negotiation should ALWAYS be to walk if you aren’t sure or if the deal doesn’t fit your budget.  Just knowing that you are willing to walk away and say “No”will take a tremendous amount of stress out of the equation.

Finally, when you are ready to purchase, don’t be afraid to write the check.  You won’t regret it this time.

Flash To Be Panned?


Google announced June 5th that a new version of Chrome, their Internet Explorer, is available in a beta version to laptop users and will be rolled out to all users by the end of September 2015. The new feature is expected to improve the browser’s battery life by reducing the amount of Flash content the browser plays automatically through a feature termed “Intelligent pause”. The browser will consider items like full page flash overlays and presumably, flash-based ads and pause content not central to the user’s experience. Recent articles in YAHOO!Finance, c/net, arstechnica and Mashable cover this new development in more detail.

Intelligently Paused Ad ExampleWinners and Losers
Consumers are likely in a win-win situation with the expectation of increased battery life and less visible ads (in theory). As a result, aimed to keep advertising content intact, website developers are scrambling to revise their sites to HTML5.

Marketers who don’t adapt creatively to this change stand to lose a great deal as an adjustment needs to be made to accommodate the change that will take effect in September. With the ‘paused’ banner, consumers will need to click twice in order to engage. And given the CTR rates for display as they stand now, marketers and advertisers will need to truly become creative with their messaging to entice users to do so.

What are the Options for Advertisers & Marketers?
To render ads as normal, advertisers will want to build their creative in HTML5, which will work across any platform or screen. Naturally, most advertisers and marketers are hearing this the loudest from the respective ad servers in the digital space, as they capitalize on getting clients to run HTML5 assets vs. Flash-based assets.

With HTML5 being considered rich media, it also bears the price tag of production and creative development charges that could come with it depending on the ad server being used. Hopefully these fees will be minimal as the industry shifts to this format as a whole.

For clients not ready to jump to changing their creative to HTML5, they can run static ads or simply exclude the browsers and versions where blocking is occurring. But given the trajectory of more browsers moving towards only accepting this file format, it’s definitely advisable to budget or plan for it in the near future to truly see success from a digital campaign.

Time will tell how long this will last or if the new era of HTML5-only ads will be here to stay.


uHeart Digital Conference

uHeart Digital Media

Video is exploding as a marketing option for corporations and non-profits both large and small. Putting together an effective program can seem like a daunting task. Capstone Media has been fortunate to create and manage multiple digital video programs.  We appreciated the opportunity to walk conference attendees through some of the basics of putting together an effective video advertising campaign. To those that attended our session at the uHeart conference, thank you for your time and questions. We’ve updated our presentation to include hyperlinks on key learnings as well as the addition of a special research section at the end of the document. Click here to download – Planning for Digital Video Campaign Success.  Feel free to send us any additional questions by posting on our “Contact Us” page or by emailing us at info@capstonemedia.com.

Got the Digital Video Blues?

video advertising

Video that loads too slowly, stalls while playing or is improperly formatted for the viewing device can seriously hurt a brand’s reputation and quickly become a CMO’s worst nightmare. With Digital Video exploding as a marketing option for corporations and non-profits both large and small, you can’t afford to NOT incorporate video into your marketing mix. Yet with so many options to choose from, putting together an effective video campaign can seem like a daunting task.

Breathe easy! Capstone Media has developed multiple successful video campaigns for our clients. Join Tracy Smuts, President of Capstone Media and veteran media strategist of both digital and traditional media solutions, as she hosts “Maximize Your Video Advertising.” Tracy will share the benefit of her vast experience and walk you through the basics of putting together an effective video advertising campaign.

Key takeaways from the presentation include:

1. Creating a Video Advertising Strategy
2. Considerations for Media Placement
3. How to measure program engagement
plus more great insights from someone who has “been there, done that”!

Click here to join Capstone Media, Google, Jeep-Chrysler, PointRoll, McGraw Hill Publishers and a host of other talented industry professionals on October 9, 2014 at the uHeart Digital Conference! See you there!

uHeart Digital Media

About the uHeart Digital Conference
The way we communicate is changing daily and today’s integrated marketing professionals need to constantly evolve with the times. The University of Toledo has long been a leader in this arena, and is now bringing its expertise and the expertise of its partners together for a special two-day event for the benefit of business leaders, students and communications professionals.

Capstone Media is proud to be a sponsor of the conference. We invite you to join The University of Toledo for their second digital media conference, uHeart Digital Media, on October 9-10, 2014. The two-day long event will feature emerging leaders, accomplished practitioners, innovators and experts in this critically important field, and we hope that you will be a major part of it. In addition, attendees will learn how to:
• Leverage social media to build your digital brand;
• Create an effective video advertising campaign;
• Successfully develop and launch applications that will attract interest in a crowded marketplace;
• Target niche markets to increase affinity and build communities around your brand and products;
• Embrace the “lighter side” of digital media to generate buzz and showcase your personal and professional “swagger;”
and much, much more!

Click here to secure your seat on October 9-10 at the uHeart Digital Conference!

Digital Coupons to Explode in 2014

Coupon trends are moving toward mobile delivery

Coupon trends are moving toward mobile delivery

Do you or your clients employ a coupon strategy for customer generation, new product trial and/or awareness?

If so, you’ll want to hear about the latest coupon trends just released from NCH Marketing Services. NCH is a coupon tracking company under the parent of Valassis – a leader in coupon distribution and measurement.

All data in this blog post references 2013 coupon activity, unless otherwise noted.

After a banner year in 2010 where a record 332 billion coupons were distributed in the U.S., 2013 came in at 315 billion coupons from all product categories. The total for 2013 represents the second highest year for coupon distribution over the past six years, showing a trend that consumer packaged goods companies (CPG) are devoting more attention to enticing consumers for trial or repurchase of their brands.

In 2013, non-food products coupons showed the highest growth of all coupons distributed in the U.S. In fact, 9 of the top 10 consumer products coupons distributed were non-food related. Top 3 in order of distribution volume are #1 Hair Care, #2 Shaving Needs and #3 Detergents.

It’s not surprising the good old-fashion paper coupon is by far the leading source for coupon distribution. FSI or free standing inserts accounted for over 91% of all coupon distribution in the U.S.

In terms of redemptions, people still love to bring the printed coupon to their favorite retailers. Nearly 51% of all coupon redemptions were from the free standing insert.

In 2013, a trend in offer characteristics stood out. The total average face value of coupon offers increased by nearly 6%, from $1.53 in 2012 to $1.62 in 2013. However, where product manufacturers handed out higher discounts, they reduced the amount of time to redeem the coupons from 9.3 weeks in 2012 to 8.6 weeks in 2013. This may have contributed to nearly 30% of people saying they did not use their coupons because they expired before they had a chance to redeem them.

Walmart remained the #1 retailer for coupon redemptions, followed by Kroger then Target. Two traditional drug store chains made the top 10 list of redemption places – Walgreens placed #5 while CVS placed #6. Bottom line – consumers look for discounts at all their favorite retailers, from mass merchandisers to their corner drug store and favorite grocer.

The NCH report also showed approximately 40% of all consumers in 2013 used more coupons than the year before. The main reasons for increased coupon use were from the obvious “I like to save money” to “I enjoy using coupons” to a more telling sign of the current economic conditions “I need to stretch my budget” and “Gasoline and food prices have increased”.

Finally, NCH measured which coupon delivery method generated the highest redemption rate. Across the board, instant on-pack coupons offered a nearly 22% redemption rate of all coupons in 2013, the highest rate of all distribution methods. It is surprising the instant on-pack redemption isn’t higher, however, some people never use coupons and some people may not have noticed the coupon. The actual reasons would be interesting to know. However, this wasn’t measured.

Digital coupons are on the cusp of a major explosion in the coupon market. Although they account for less than 1% of all coupons distributed, the category in general experienced double-digit growth in 2013. Digital coupons include print-at-home, mobile, social and loyalty card downloads. As social media sites continue to promote content sharing and smart phone apps continue to evolve and grow, coupon use through mobile devices will catch on and erode the print coupon experience.

One caveat however is the ability for retailers to scan mobile coupons. Our current research on digital coupons revealed that most grocery chains do not have mobile enabled scanners at their registers. This lack of technology upgrade will hinder the initial growth of digital coupons however it will be interesting to watch how fast the technology changes over as consumers become more technically savvy on their smart phones seeking easier ways to download, store, share and redeem coupons.

Click here to reference the NCH 2013 Year-End Topline Coupon Facts Report

Contact Capstone Media for guidance on your upcoming coupon development strategy!

While You Were Sleeping: Network Neutrality and You

Is or will the internet ever be free?

Is or will the internet ever be free?

For the average consumer who accesses online content daily, the idea that this will not always be a free exchange of ideas seems foreign. Yet there is an ongoing war in the courts between broadband service providers and the FCC over the continuing state of the internet as we know it in good old 2014.

The battle that is being waged is over “Net Neutrality.” For the layperson, net neutrality is the concept that all internet users and content suppliers are treated equally. For the tech-no-geeks among us, Capstone Media prefers to reference TechTarget.com’s great definition, “Net neutrality is the principle that data packets on the Internet should be moved impartially, without regard to content, destination or source.” TechTarget goes on to say that “Net neutrality is sometimes referred to as the ‘First Amendment of the Internet.”

So what happens if, as defined above, the net is not neutral?

Then ISPs (internet service providers) such as AOL, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner Cable – would be free to charge a premium to direct users more quickly to some sites than others.

Consider the ramifications of this. Since “data packets” (information combined into a single packet for transmission) on the internet flow through data pipelines of various, but limiting, sizes (band width); those paying a premium will have first dibs on the available flow of information, effectively slowing down any sites that don’t pay a premium.

And, for those with deep pockets, a bidding war could likely develop in order to secure the quickest download/upload speeds for their data. This is great for the ISPs, terrible for the users and content providers not financially capable of the potential fee structure. According to a recent article in Advertising Age, the passed buck could make its way to Madison Avenue. Advertisers that pay a premium to reach audiences through digital video services (think Hulu) could find themselves paying twice: once for the ad and again for the bandwidth that keeps the service “free”.

In a world reliant on the flow of information; the control of the flow and thereby the actual content of that information would be the domain of the highest bidder.

One would have to wonder if you would be afforded the opportunity to even read this blog piece under those circumstances.

Related Articles
This brave new world may not be that far away “Appeals court strikes down FCC’s Net neutrality rules”, by Marguerite Reardon, January 14, 2014, C/Net.

For a different perspective see “With Its ‘Net Neutrality’ Case Against Verizon, The FCC Loses – Again” by Harold Furchtgott-Roth, forbes.com.

Why Advertisers Will Survive Just Fine Without Net Neutrality (But Should Support It Anyway). Marketers Have Some Tough Choices to Make by Tim Peterson, January 20, 2014.

And if you’re really looking for a lot of data, check out Huff Post’s Net Neutrality page.


Jumping Email Marketing, Batman!


It’s Rockin’ Digital Mania! ! DJ Waldow of Waldow Social likens the pairing of Email and Social Media to Batman & Robin for driving Social Engagement. Consider Email’s Batman – big, tough, overpowering email that stomps its way into your inbox, cell phone, tablet in such a way that you can’t help but pay attention.  While its sidekick, Social Robin, is off in the distance drawing power from email connections to grow its own presence.

Waldow expertly illustrates how the two work together, side-by-side, to grow presence for brands.  And just like the original dynamic duo, they are stronger as a team than as individual players in the communications sphere. Using data from The Magill Report on Email ROI, Waldow asks us to consider that Email marketing generates an average of $40.56 for every dollar spent versus Search ($22.24), Internet Display ($19.72 and Social networking ($12.71).*  When you begin to monetize the interactions it becomes clear that Email’s ROI potential is being wantonly overlooked.

Probably the greatest thought I pulled out of this lesson is so surprisingly simple yet oft times ignored in our quest to “engage” with customers.  Waldow reminds us that every social media activity requires an email to sign-up for the service.  Regardless of your social path, the price of admission is an active cyber-space address where you will interact on a regular basis!  So why wouldn’t you integrate an email program into your 2012 marketing communications?

Consider that as digital creatures we check our email first thing in the morning and continuously throughout the day.  It’s acceptable to stay current at the office with email but perusing Facebook during office hours might be a major social no-no. Consider that for the 800 Million Facebook users, there were still more than 110 Trillion emails sent last year.  Critics are quick to point out that 71% of those are spam so-o-o-o do the math and you come up with only 319 BILLION legitimate Emails.

Let’s personalize the concept. Think about the “share” function on Facebook.  You find a picture that you think is funny and you “share” it on your wall.  The average person has about 130 Facebook friends. Depending on the time of day or engagement of the photo, you might attract a dozen comments and perhaps a few shares. Now take the same picture embedded in an email and send to a dozen friends.  They in turn send to another dozen. Within a few hours (or days) that picture can travel to thousands of people.

Sometimes we get so caught up with what’s “new” in our marketing strategies that we forget to keep the “tried and true.” It’s time to dust off those email strategies and start using them to drive the social media train.  Hurry, Robin, to the Bat Cave! There’s not a moment to lose!



Email + Social Media: A Killer Combination. Marketing Profs University Social Media Fast Track,

Waldow Social, D.J. Waldow

*The Magill Report: Email Marketing ROI


9 Best Tips for Creating Successful QR Code Programs

Capstone Clients are actively using QR codes. Based on our experience, we have compiled our own soup-to-nuts guide, “Tips to Creating Successful QR Code Programs.” We have done the homework for you, laying out step by step how to create and execute your own program. We’ve included tips on developing your campaign strategy, our vote for one of the best QR Code Generators, tips for how to test and measure effectiveness – it’s all there!  Download your free copy today!