Think twice if your Creative Agency says they do media buying.
As more agencies market themselves as full-service marketing agencies, thoroughly vetting your prospective agency’s media buying skills becomes crucial. But what questions should you ask?
What is Media Buying? See our blog post to learn more!
Recent trending articles advise full service agencies to save time and labor in paid advertising with strategies that ultimately mean “set it and forget it”. Anything less than a full media strategy won’t cut it in today’s competitive landscape. Advertising should be nimble and deliberate一your message needs to be in the right place at exactly the right time, and ready to pivot on a dime. A lackluster media plan will dictate your campaign’s fate from the start. Don’t sit idly by while your competitors find success with a secret weapon: an agency that specializes in media planning and buying.
With this in mind, our expert media buyers have prepared 6 questions to ask (and a pro tip!) before you commit to an agency.
1. Who makes up the media planning and buying team?
Experience matters. A seasoned media buying team knows the tips and tricks to get the most from vendors and platforms. Check what experience and certifications the team holds. How long have they been in the industry? Who have they worked with? What successes did they inspire? What are they doing to continue to learn and grow? How robust is the team itself? Do they know where money gets left on the table? Your agency should forge long-lasting partnerships with vendors and social/digital platform reps. This allows them to get a first look at available inventory, build customized placement options, and even gain access to exclusive beta testing opportunities or industry insights.
2. How does the team add value to your brand/business?
The X-Factor: the spark that ignites a dynamic, energetic, and enthusiastic media buying partner. Savvy media-buying is as much about experience as it is about enthusiasm. A team’s willingness to get behind your message and go all-in is an often overlooked virtue of a successful media buying partner. You want a team who is passionate about the process. Work with people who are genuinely excited to walk you through a media buying plan. It goes beyond just supporting your message, they should believe in it just like you do. And, they should fight to maximize your paid media dollars for added value and results, as if the money were their own. Your media planning and buying team should prioritize the right mix of quality and quantity for each media channel and campaign tactic.
3. What research does the team provide and how is this conveyed to the client?
Relying too much on vendor or platform-provided data can lead to biases and holes in tracking campaign progress. Look for teams and agencies that subscribe to industry-leading research tools like Nielsen Scarborough, SEM Rush, GWI, eMarketer, or Vivvix (previously known as Kantar Ad Insights). An agency that thrives on research and data will help you track accurate campaign metrics and progress. The data can then be used to optimize performance. Look for a team who consistently updates their research capabilities and meets with data providers frequently to stay on top of available resources. Your media planner and buyer’s job is to understand the landscape so you can focus on your business.
4. How does your media agency achieve efficiencies in media buying through negotiations and optimizations? How does that fit into campaign goals?
If the team buying your media does not do their due diligence, then you may -GASP- pay rate card pricing for your media! A good team negotiates to get the best value through lower rates, bonus weight, added value, and sponsorships. They meet and exceed advertising industry benchmarks by analyzing campaign data and making optimizations to improve campaign performance. They navigate political windows, holiday seasons, and know how to buy media when various industries (e.g. automotive) flood the market at key points in the year.
In various real-time-bidding environments (RTB) such as search, social, or programmatic, ad vendors can experience technical challenges during the holiday season or political windows. When the volume of advertisers launching new campaigns in an ad platform spikes, it can result in slow ad approval times, system bugs and glitches, and short-staffed content moderation teams. A good media team is prepared for these increases in ad volume and plans ahead.
5. How does the team approach optimizations while the campaign is running?
A successful team should be on top of make-goods, real-time bidding, changes in the market, platform changes, brand safety, evolving client needs, digital performance, and all factors that affect campaign outcomes. A leading media planning and buying team will suggest upgrades, optimization tactics, and creative refresh recommendations without you having to ask. It’s their job to be five steps ahead. Marketing technology itself is not perfect; this means that when it comes to measurement styles and capabilities, you need a team who can evaluate Make sure they’re in the trenches with you, working every day to bring your campaigns to the next level.
6. How does the team handle reporting?
Reporting should be a key component in the relationship you have with your media buying agency. Discuss the details of this process before entering into a working contract. What are their reporting parameters? Do they have flexibility and ad hoc capabilities? How often will you receive reports, and in what format? Are they using reports to inform campaign decisions and adjustments? Are they sharing insights and recommendations or solely an automated print out of metrics? The agency should ask you about your reporting expectations at the beginning of your partnership, and show expertise presenting and discussing data fluently.
Want to know a trick to see if an agency has a real media buying department? Look at job titles on LinkedIn. If they have a small workforce percentage devoted to media, move on because they don’t have a true department. In other words, if their staffing is 80% Creative with one Media Director, look elsewhere. It’s not the real deal. Look at the content they post, their blogs, and their case studies. Keep looking for another agency if all of these focus on the creative with no consideration or innovation about how and where the creative assets run.
The moral of the story
Understanding what questions to ask an agency before you work with them protects your business from inefficient media buying and wasted resources. High-powered media buying is impossible without a super-charged team. A strong media agency doesn’t mind questions, in fact, they welcome them一our team loves working with engaged, curious clients! Just remember: knowing (and trusting!) your agency is just as important as knowing your marketing goals. Make sure it’s a team you have no doubts about.