10 Best Practices for choosing a professional Media Buying Agency

Homework
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.