5 Essential Questions to Ask Your Digital Media Buyer

Full disclosure, I’m notoriously frugal with my money; bad news for my friends but great news for my clients, because it’s an approach I apply to my work in digital media buying. As someone who has personally managed over $2 million in digital media buys I’ve had an opportunity to work on the front line of hundreds of campaigns. Here is what I know for sure that I wish more organizations looking to hire a media buyer knew before they start:

  • If you don’t ask the right questions you could waste a lot of money
  • Applying traditional media buying practices to digital marketing strategies eliminates its fundamental advantages

Before we get started…

The title of this post is five essential questions to ask your digital media buyer, but the first few questions you need to ask yourself:

  • How would you like your media buyer to be involved?
  • Do you require a hands off/on solution?
  • What percentage of your campaign’s media buy is digital?
  • What are your campaign objectives?
  • Who is your target market?
  • Do you want to be involved in media selection process?

Each digital media buyer has his/her/its own internal processes and procedures for managing everything from account management to the execution of a campaign. Find a company that fits with your personal needs.

Are you bidding on a Cost-Per-Click (CPC) or Cost-Per-Thousand (CPM) basis?

I hate having to start this article with technical jargon but this tip could save your ass!

Let me explain these terms briefly: CPC is a payment model where you only pay for your advertisements when a person clicks on an ad; the CPM model is impression-based and you pay each time your ad appears on a webpage (ie: makes an ‘impression’).

CPC is preferred by advertisers (ie. you, your clients) because it guarantees you do not pay for your advertising unless you receive clicks.

CMP is prefered by publishers (ie. media websites like CBC or the Weather Network, etc.) because it guarantees they get paid for each time an ad loads on their website (ie: makes an ‘impression’), regardless of whether it receives clicks. That ad could load at the bottom of a page that a visitor never sees – still counts. Ouch!

So why is this important?

If you invest a majority of your budget in CMP marketing you could receive impressions but very few clicks, reducing the overall traffic to your website.

If your purpose for engaging in digital advertising is to reach consumers and ask them to do something (ie: visit your website, sign up for something, purchase something), you should be investing the majority of your media buy in CPC marketing not CPM. If your purpose for engaging in digital advertising is to achieve mass awareness of your brand/message and budget is not an issue, CPM may be an option. As well, many networks don’t offer CPC (because it’s less profitable), and some organizations are looking to be included on those networks anyway.

In my experience, I have never met a company that, knowing this, has chosen CPM over CPC.

What ad formats are available?

On the web the sky is really the limit. From video ads, to interactive banner ads, you have an opportunity to let your creativity shine.

The most popular options available to advertisers are:

  • Static Banner Ads: Flattened banner ads, these are the most common format
  • Interactive Banner Ads: Typically flash ads or gifs. The sky is really the limit in terms of design and interactivity.
  • Text Ads: A few lines of text that are sometimes accompanied by a thumbnail.
  • Video Ads: 15-30 second video ads that link back to your website.

A media buyer should be able to recommend the networks that match the types of ad formats you intend to create.

How are the ads being targeted?

Long gone are the days of plopping an ad in the “features” section of the local newspaper, and hoping to reach your target audience. With web advertising, granular targeting options exist for reaching people based on their interest, career, age, gender, location and much more.

It is important to ask your media buyer which targeting options are available for your campaign. A good rule of thumb is that a higher percentage of your budget should be invested in the networks that are the most targeted. Far too often I’ve seen digital media buying companies investing the large majority of a company’s budget in the least targeted networks. This could spell disaster for your campaign, reduce the amount of traffic you receive and ultimately leave you feeling ripped off.

How is our campaign being optimized?

Set it and forget it doesn’t apply on the web! Most digital display networks offered by traditional media buying companies (think newspapers, magazines, radio, tv stations) do not offer an opportunity to refine the campaign over time. This is a fundamental issue with most digital display advertising today.

As marketers we hope that our assumptions about our target audience are correct, in fact we rely on it to mold and develop our marketing strategies. However, I’ve discovered that even the best strategies based on extensive consumer research need to be optimized to achieve the best results.

Now you’re probably wondering what type of optimizations are available. Well, that really depends on the network you are advertising on. If it is the Google Adwords network you have the opportunity to refine keywords, placements, interests, topics. If it’s Facebook you can target interests, age, geographic location, and page likes. LinkedIn can be refined based on careers, geographic location, and groups. And each network can have it’s creative, be that ad text or banner ad design tested and optimized to produce the best results.

Ultimately, when you are considering hiring a media buying company ensure they are working with you to produce the best results, not simply buying your ads and then wiping their hands clean.

What type of reporting is offered?

One of the most important differentiators between traditional and digital marketing is the reporting. It still amazes me the level of granular reporting options that are available to businesses using analytics tools, most of which are free.

A media buying professional should be able to walk you through the recommended metrics to monitor during your campaign. They should also have an understanding of the metrics available for your campaign, as they tend to differ from platform to platform.

In any case I would recommend monitoring the following metrics:

  • Conversions: the amount of people that took the desired action on your website. This could be a form fill, downloading a white paper, buying a product, liking a social media page, watching a video and just about anything else that you can dream up.
  • Visits: The amount of visits to your website from the advertising.
  • Cost Per Click: The price you paid per click to drive a person to the website.
  • Cost Per Thousand: The amount you paid per 1,000 impressions
  • Impressions: The amount of times you ad was “viewed” during the campaign.
  • Click Through Rate: The amount of people who see your ad divided by the amount of people who click your ad.

Additional metrics that may be of interest:

  • Geographic Location: The location of your website’s traffic
  • Keywords: The terms and phrases people searched to find your ads.
  • Time On Site: The amount of time a visitor spent browsing your website.
  • Bounce Rate: The amount of people who visited your website and went on to view two or more pages, divided by the amount of people who landed on your website and immediately left.

With these tips you will be well on your way to hiring a fantastic digital media buyer and generating better results for your clients. If you would like a second look at anything your current media buyer has produced let us know, we’d be happy to provide our two cents.