3/23/11

Media Buying is Not My Bag Baby…

But I do it Anyway and Here’s How

If this title tells you anything, I am not a media buyer by training, but I do play one on occasion from 9-5. About three and a half years ago, our client Tourism Council of Frederick County approached us with the proposition of taking over their media buying. It seemed a natural fit since we were managing the delivery of art to the various publications they work with and had been doing so for almost a decade.

Media buying isn’t something I thought I would ever do, but since we accepted their proposal, I figured I’d better get organized. This initial thought has been a lifesaver time and again and has provided opportunities on many occasions. Let me explain how.

When I first took over the process they had been utilizing an Excel spreadsheet to manage it all. While their sheet was detailed, it just wasn’t detailed enough for my comfort. We explored third-party software that manages media buying processes but they all were just too expensive or didn’t provide the perfect solution. While the Excel spreadsheet isn’t the perfect solution, it is something I have become comfortable with and have expanded their original version to make it a much more robust solution.

What I keep track of:
  • Where the ads run – both publication and publisher
  • Contacts at each publisher
  • Circulation
  • Reader service options
  • Insertion timeline
  • Net and gross costs
  • Leads and conversions
  • Content of the ads
  • Which campaign it falls under
  • Billing data

We store this spreadsheet in the cloud, which allows Tourism to log in and track the process all the way through billing as well. Keeping all this information together has made it easy to book the ads, design the ads and bill them—never missing a beat! And yes, this is one large spreadsheet with multiple sheets all calculating the monthly and annual budgets for a given fiscal year.

This organization has paid off in several ways. I can plan in advance for various tasks. I can start the negotiating game with the various outlets and leverage that to my budget’s advantage. And, I can plan my designer’s production schedules and sometimes crank out a month’s worth of ads at one time. Finally, if you have ever booked an ad before, you will know the billing process can sometimes get screwy. By keeping track of the billing and simply indicating something has been paid and invoiced to Tourism plus a couple of other pertinent notes, it is easy for me to determine if something has been double billed or sometimes even completely missed. Stranger things do happen in this world of media buying.

Previously, I mentioned that I keep an insertion timeline. This allowed me to see that initially the Tourism advertising year was skewed very much to the spring. Tourism however, wanted their schedule to be a nice balance of early fall advertising, to get travelers out for the fall leaf peaking, and spring advertising, when folks plan their summer vacations. It also showed how much national versus regional promotion I was happening another area that requires a good balance. Over time I was able to correct the seasonal issue and am also working toward a nice balance of national placements supported by a healthy regional and local campaign.

An Excel spreadsheet might not be the only solution for keeping track of a media schedule or the best if you have numerous clients to manage, but it has served JPD and our client well.

This is the first entry in a series of posts on my experience with Media Buying.

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