Transparency in digital media buying is important to marketers because of the impact it has on their marketing efforts. Since 2012, digital ad spend has shown consistent double digit increases. With the digital ad spend expected to reach $93 billion by 2019, it is imperative that you understand and feel comfortable with how your media dollars are being managed.
Here are 17 questions to ask your digital media buyer, to determine if the agency is giving you the necessary visibility for making informed and intelligent decisions.
1. How are media rates determined?
While rates are based on supply and demand and will change over time, you need to make sure that your digital media buyer understands the market and is making the right recommendations based on your specific goals. The digital advertising arena is filled with many different pricing models. The goals of your program and your overall strategy will help to determine which pricing strategy is right for you.
2. Do you use your own ad server?
For a media partner to provide objective measurement across a variety of placements including direct, programmatic and network placement, they need to be using their own ad server such as DoubleClick Campaign Manager (DCM, formerly DFA), ATLAS or Zedo. Otherwise, impression data may be falsified by publications and impressions, and clicks can be measured differently from placement to placement.
3. If discounts or rebates are offered, who gets them?
For this question, you are looking for transparency. If discounts or rebates are offered,
does that get passed back to you in the form of lower media rates or agency fees, or is it all pocketed by the buyer?
4. How do you determine your recommended creative formats, targeting methods and placements?
Here, you are looking for a partner that ultimately uses data to make decisions. Are they starting with expertise, but then partnering to test the best targeting methods and placements to ensure you are finding the most efficient path to your consumer? Are they using inventory data and smart testing to determine the best creative sizes and formats?
5. Will I be provided with a written media plan?
A media plan outlines the strategy for reaching your audience through digital channels.
It defines your objectives and the specific tactics used to achieve those objectives, and keeps the entire team in the know as to how, why and where funds are being allocated.
6. What is the process for approving changes to the media plan?
The plan will inevitably change, and that is a good thing! As the media plan is implemented and the media are optimized, underperforming channels may need to be cut, or new opportunities realized. The digital media buyer should have a plan in place for keeping you updated on any changes made to the media plan, and should help you identify early on the types of changes that will require prior verbal or written approval. Above all, avoid any digital plan that is “set and forget” where the terms and budget are fixed.
7. How do you determine if a channel or platform is effective?
The most effective media buyers will work with you from the outset to understand and document your objectives behind each media placement. They they will make sure it’s understood which KPIs will reveal success for each documented objective. This will lay the groundwork for reporting, optimization, and recommendations for when to cut an underperforming channel and reallocate the budget to a channel that is more effective.
8. How (often) do you optimize media placements once they have gone live?
If media is underperforming or under-delivering, you need the confidence that your partner is on top of optimizing it as frequently as possible. No media partner can be watching every line item at every moment, and it takes time for actionable data to accumulate, but if your partner is placing the media and waiting 30 days before looking at it again, you will be losing out on any opportunities for improvement.
9. What exchanges are you working with?
There are countless ad exchanges available; here are
the top five: DoubleClick Ad Exchange (Google), Rubicon Project, AppNexus, PubMatic and OpenX. There are also dedicated exchanges for mobile to which you will want to ensure your partner has access. These include: MoPub, AdMob (Google), Smaato, and others.
10. What steps do you take to avoid buying low-quality inventory?
You’ll want to be sure that the inventory you are paying good money for is effective and not casting your brand in a bad light. You need to look for a partner who regularly audits media placements and actively blacklists sites that underperform or are missed by any brand-safe filters put in place, to ensure your ads are placed alongside appropriate content.
11. On what websites will my ads show up?
This is a trick question! Savvy media buyers will answer this by saying that, for programmatic/real-time bidding (RTB) placements, they don’t know and it doesn’t matter. A list can be pulled after the media has run its course and any websites that may be controversial or a poor fit for the brand can be blacklisted.
12. What steps do you take to make sure that my ads do not appear next to content that could be detrimental to my brand?
The agency buying media on your behalf should apply what are called “brand-safe” filters to ensure that your advertising will only appear next to appropriate content based on your industry and/or target audience. In addition, they should be reviewing and optimizing placements and if necessary, making adjustments to the media plan and placement to ensure that your ads never appear on inappropriate sites.
13. What viewability standards do you use when placing ads?
You want to make sure that your buyer is taking viewability, or the chance that your ad has an opportunity to be seen, into account when buying digital media. A buyer’s understanding of viewability can help reduce waste from websites that are not helping you accomplish your overall strategy. Even if a buyer’s strategy does not include viewability targeting when setting up and optimizing the buy, it should include monitoring and measuring the viewability of the media during its run.
14. On what metrics do you report?
Advances in digital media advertising allow us to reach new audiences and report on
them in a way like never before. Here is a breakdown of the popular key performance
indicators for different ad types:
- Video: Impressions, Click-Through Rate, Cost-Per-Click, Completion Rate, Percentage Complete, Time Spent Viewing
- Display: Impressions, Viewable Impressions, Click-Through Rate, Cost-Per-Click, Reach, Frequency, Viewable Frequency, Engagements/Sessions Engagement Rate
- Native: Engagement Metrics, Brand Lift and Conversion Metrics
- Search: Quality Score, Impressions, Click-Through Rate, Average Cost-Per-Click
15. Can I see any of my data in Google Analytics?
Digital media buyers should provide you with full access to analytics reporting and be available to answer any questions you may have about your analytics.
16. Can I see a sample of a report?
A sample report provides a clear understanding of how your data will be presented. This is important, as clear and easy to understand reports give you the information you need to make educated decisions about your media.
17. Do you make more money or less money if you recognize and eliminate wasted media?
Agencies that markup media, or make a commission off the size of your media buy, may be incentivized against recommending cuts to your media budget. By partnering with a media buyer that offers flat-line pricing or an overall monthly management fee, you can ensure that any recommendations for increased media are because it is in your best interest – not theirs.
The media buyers’ answers to these questions will help determine if your goals are aligned. It is the first step in making sure you are maximizing your digital marketing investment.