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Predicting And Creating The Media RFP Of 2016
The Request For Proposal (RFP) has long been a staple of digital media planning -- so much so that it's become a dinosaur. How might it change in response to our fast-evolving industry?
Without question, digital media planning is evolving continuously. In some ways, this evolution is happening too fast for the media buying world to keep up — in others, too slow to keep pace with the ongoing innovation.
Regardless of how you see it, it’s clear that the RFP (Request For Proposal) process and format must change; so how different will RFPs look 18 months from now? Perhaps not as much as any of us would like.
To RFP, Or Not To RFP?
First, will we still need a formal RFP process at all? Will we not have some new and awesome way to do media buying? Probably not, folks. There are tools that exist today that are making it somewhat easier, but it’s unlikely an entire industry will pivot quickly from a deeply ingrained way of working.
The RFP process exists so that a media planner can collect ideas for their plan and negotiate rates for their brand or their client. The need for price negotiation may decline thanks to biddable media, but the basic need for ideas and to get a simple explanation of relevant custom ad units will remain.
Additionally, there are so many options for a media planner that it is impossible to know what’s what with each partner, and so the RFP makes their life easier by requesting a custom response for each campaign.
We see a lot of RFP documents, primarily from agencies rather than direct brands. These documents come in a huge variety of formats, each with their own unique questions. There is very little standardization, and that makes it time consuming for a partner to respond, which can only result in higher costs for the budget holder.
There are now some standard templates that have been made open source that we encourage the use of, and I would like to think they will become more common.
We also see a ton of RFPs from one agency that are identical to those of another. It is amusing to look at the file properties of Agency B’s document and see that it was originally authored at Agency A. It’s a small industry, and planners often feel they don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
Relevant RFPs For Real-Time Buying
One fundamental change that I expect to occur will be the development of a new RFP template that is relevant to real-time media buying. I looked through all the RFP requests that Chango (my employer) has received over the last 90 days, and more than 60% were designed for buying premium inventory with custom placements.
The data placeholders will be for a site category and section, specific pages where the ads will run, placement names, etc., and each line item asks for a specific number of impressions per placement with its own unique price.
This makes no sense for a programmatic media buy where the impressions are bought against individuals, not against sites. There is an unwritten understanding between the buyer and the seller as to what should be entered here as a suitable response, but with an updated template, it could be such a richer response.
As an example, an RFP for site retargeting will often allow a single line entry with a CPM price for the buy (they sometimes have CPC, but you should never buy that way because of the extra margin those companies make). Wouldn’t it make much more sense to talk about site goals and audience types and ask for the initial strategy for targeting those? We can but hope this will change soon.
Audience Focused, Not Format-Focused
Many requests still put too much emphasis on the location of the ads themselves, rather than on the audience that they are trying to target.
I can respond with common exchanges used, private marketplaces, etc., but focusing on the optimizations would make more sense. This should be overcome with the move to a more real-time relevant RFP document.
The Death Of The Fax Machine Industry?
Many of you might not realize that your super awesome real-time media plan is sometimes still bought by faxing back and forth a piece of paper. I wonder how many fax machines are sold today purely for the display media world?!
Come 2016, the little bell is still ringing, and it’s sadly not the fax machine’s death knell. They will be around still, but their usage will have dwindled further.
Unfortunately, it seems like we are stuck with this term for the long-haul. :)
Viewability is hot topic today, and one that few people understand; but as we enter 2016, this should have been cleared up. The current problem is the lack of understanding – does it mean in-view on page load or with a scroll? What percentage of the ad has to be seen? How many seconds was it visible for? And so on.
Ask around and you will get blank faces or different responses. This isn’t a hard one for the industry to get right, so I maintain faith that by 2016, the problem is cleared up. Groups like the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) are making inroads.
As an alternative, the solution may be led by the publishers bringing more content above the fold and redesigning the pages to suit. Facebook is a great example of this. Perhaps in 2016, the question will be a formality?
As I write this, some recently-made public companies have been hit hard in the stock price, in part because of marketers’ concern for fraudulent traffic and impressions. (Cookie scattering, anyone? Bueller?)
The problem is truly rampant. In a recent internal study, we used the major third-party tools to block fraudulent impressions and clicks, and found that the best of them only blocked 15% of what we blocked in total!
Our own tools were more effective, which is great — but it shouldn’t be the way it is. Chango can do this because we work more holistically through the funnel, but if you are charging on nothing but impressions and clicks, what’s to incentivize you to not buy this crap?
Future media plans must ask about fraud prevention strategies, and should use some 3rd party verification. But in return, agencies and marketers, don’t ask any of us for 100% clean buys — that’s not happening. With all the will in the world, this won’t be perfect.
Recent Travel & Entertainment
If I were to go brand side and I worked with an agency, my first question to the agency would be for a log of their travel and entertainment budget from each vendor. One way to partially regulate this would be to make it a mandatory field in the RFP document.
I doubt marketers really have any idea how many decisions are made with their budget based purely on a jeans party or a trip to the Hamptons. Ask what percentage of budget went to that vendor for gifts, what gifts they were given, and then what percentage of budget goes to them afterward.
In an industry built on technology, the current RFP process is cumbersome and time-consuming. Many questions remain open that have to be addressed (fraud and viewability are probably top of the list — “viewability” doesn’t even exist in spellchecker yet!). By 2016, we are hoping for a more consistent and more relevant format and will help the industry get there.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.