Optimizing Your National Digital Advertising Campaign Buy
The benefits of place-based digital advertising — high engagement and high impact — are being recognized by market leaders like Microsoft, Disney, and Verizon, but, until recently, with dozens of regional, vertical, and other niche networks around the country, how to efficiently make a national buy in this new medium was less clear. How do you assess the quality of each network? How do you effectively match a network to your campaign goals? How do you ensure that you’re making the most effective use of your client’s money? In this article I’ll explain how to take full advantage of place-based digital advertising when making a national buy, and I’ll clue you in about a couple of approaches that, quite frankly, just aren’t nearly as effective.
Why is this an important topic? Let’s start with numbers. There are hundreds of advertising networks to choose from across scores of different and interesting categories or “places,” leading to literally hundreds of thousands of screens that are viable options for a brand’s ad to engage a consumer. Now, let’s add complexity. Within each of those networks, there are dozens of options regarding creative, ad placement, day parting, and interactivity, and new capabilities are being added every year.
Optimizing a National Buy
Some companies, such as SeeSaw Networks, have eliminated the complexity around making a buy across multiple digital signage networks by aggregating the best of them into a unified national platform. The benefit of this approach for media agencies is that most of the hard work is done for them, including using a rigorous qualification and data-profiling process to offer only networks that meet specific operational criteria.
The qualification process looks at the track record of each network to ensure those networks have run successful campaigns. It requires networks to provide a standard set of information, imagery, and geographic detail, so advertisers have the criteria they need to make an informed and fully transparent selection. And the qualification process is consistent with the same principles of presence, notice, and dwell time as the new Out-of-Home Video Advertising Bureau (OVAB) Measurement Guidelines (www.ovab.org/amg), providing advertisers and agencies with a common currency and consistent, transparent measurement across multiple networks.
Using only fully vetted quality networks that optimally reach a target audience is far more effective — and in the end far less expensive — than using a risky shotgun approach that relies on a long list of networks to ensure coverage. The uniformity across the networks assures advertisers that campaigns will be accurately executed and measured.
Only a well-managed, aggregated network can ensure the accuracy and timeliness of each network’s metrics related to traffic and presence, awareness, notice of screens, and impressions. In order for advertisers to make an informed decision, it’s also critical to provide consistent data across all the networks related to dwell time, demographics, and audience life patterns, as well as hours of operation, addresses, photographs of the locations, schedules, and content, and descriptions of what the overall customer experience is like. A rigorous qualification process can also ensure that each network provides world-class execution for creative trafficking and ad insertion in addition to accurate and timely proof of performance reporting.
An aggregated network approach has important process benefits that can support the objectives of a national advertising campaign. It can manage many additional and important tasks such as ensuring the creative is delivered in the right format at the right time to each network.
It is only with this aggregated and thoroughly vetted information that agencies and advertisers can achieve the full transparency they need to make an informed buy and achieve their desired business results. With such a network, it’s also possible to leverage technology to introduce new capabilities such as comprehensive campaign tracking and micro-targeting down to actual addresses and neighborhoods. Micro-targeting, for example, allows advertisers to reach more of their target audience with relevant messages that are more likely to impact the buying decision. As individual networks add new capabilities, technology-based aggregation solutions allow planners to take advantage of these capabilities.
On SeeSawAds.com for example,
A well-planned marketing rollout can reinforce your message throughout the day. planners are taken through a step-by-step process designed to help them explore networks and then use optimization technology to create the most efficient and effective campaigns against their budget based on geographic area, demographic profile, venue targets, and life pattern. Within seconds, they can even create “what if” scenarios to optimize the campaign plan and collaborate with team members to bring even more expertise into the process.
Once the networks are selected, the purchase across the multiple networks can be accomplished with the click of a mouse. Automated reporting and email alerts keep the team in sync, and a final comprehensive report at the end of the campaign includes how many impressions were delivered by the individual networks against the original insertion order. In an on-demand world where clients expect responses within minutes, technologies like SeeSawAds.com create the opportunity for agencies to delight their customers at warp speed.
DIY for National Campaigns
While relying on an aggregated network is the most effective way to make a national place-based digital video advertising buy, some agencies are still relying on a much harder do-ityourself approach. They do all the homework themselves and work long hours over weeks to try and rationalize disparate sets of data, or they hire additional staff to do it for them. They investigate each potential advertising network — there are hundreds of networks operating in the U.S. — and ask a series of questions. How long has the company been in business and what is its track record? What regions and types of venues does it cover? What pricing model does it use? What creative formats does it support? How effective are its metrics? There may be even more questions depending on an agency’s specific goals.
The task is monumental. An agency would need to develop and maintain a database or massive spreadsheet, perform all the analysis itself, and keep the data up to date. And it would still be left with the onerous tasks of initiating buy agreements with each network and developing a consistent way to measure the success across all the networks. With very few truly national networks and the difficulty of reaching an audience across their work, play, and social routines by directly dialing individual networks, agencies are challenged to do this on their own. Yes, it’s an option, but not an option I would choose.
The Shotgun Approach
Advertising “rep firms” attempt to make it easy to buy digital ad space across multiple networks by representing as many networks as possible and providing a check-off menu of networks for the agency to choose from. Some rep firms have even created internal databases and claim to have technology to provide some semblance of order. It sounds simple, but there are a few challenges with this approach.
While these rep firms “sign up” lots of networks, not every network has been proven, and these rep firms can’t offer quality control that a well-managed aggregated network can deliver. They may not even speak to the networks they are representing for months at a time as they have only ad hoc relationships with them. Some don’t help manage creative across the various platforms supported by the different networks, or deliver comprehensive reporting on the effectiveness of campaigns. And many do not have the technology to combine multiple networks to reach a target audience, but rather limit themselves to a single network or a couple of networks for a target audience. As a result, they cannot deliver on the strength of place-based digital advertising to reach mobile consumers across the places where they work, play, and socialize.
This means that to get the most out of this approach, an agency has to select as many networks as possible to ensure there’s sufficient coverage for the target audience. The agency itself must then manage the creative and perform the arduous task of creating the comprehensive and uniform cross-network report to deliver to the client — a time-consuming and expensive process.
So what seems like simple approach includes some additional risk and expense, and places a bigger burden on the agency.
Place-based digital video advertising is a proven and extremely powerful media. It’s the most effective way to reach consumers on the go, and it’s a real asset in an advertiser’s tool kit. But to get the most bang for the buck, it needs to be done right. Be sure you choose the best approach to plan and buy place-based digital video advertising, or you will not obtain those proven results.
Jeff Dickey brings over 30 years of experience in the media and advertising industry to SeeSaw Networks (www.seesawnetworks.com).