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Visit NextMark at DMA 2012 on October 14-16 in Las Vegas

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

The Direct Marketing Association is holding its big annual conference at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas on October 14-16. The theme for this year’s event is “The Global Event for Real-Time Marketers.”

The DMA has come a long way since its beginnings as the “Direct Mail Marketing Association” many years ago. The focus has shifted from offline to digital marketing channels. While many of the basic principles of direct marketing still hold true, new digital channels are each unique and yet to be fully utilized. The DMA and this conference are leading the discussion on successes, failures, and emerging best practices.

NextMark will be among hundreds of exhibitors and sponsors at DMA 2012. We’ll be showing off our new solutions for digital media planning and digital ad sales.  Please visit us at our booth #920 to discover the latest trends and tools in digital media.

Digital Media Proposals That Win

Monday, September 24th, 2012

What are digital media buyers looking for in proposals, and what gets them to say ‘yes’?

After speaking with over 100 interactive media planners and publishers this month, I was surprised to learn how much variability there is in the quality of digital media proposals. It was also a challenge to find the ones that were most effectively aligned with clients’ goals and objectives. I was intent on helping publishers respond more effectively, so I asked a subject matter expert (SME) on the buy side, “what are the top five things you look for in an RFP response?” Here’s what he said:

#1 Completeness — don’t expect to be considered if you neglect to provide a completed proposal with flight dates, impressions, rates and cost for all placements. This may sound obvious, but not all proposals come through with this required information.

#2 Rationale — publishers need to provide rationale for the campaign as a whole, and for all of the proposed pieces of the plan. Publishers need to answer the following question: “Why is the overall campaign and each placement a good fit for the advertiser’s target and goals?”

#3 Differentiation — make sure your points of differentiation are easily identified and clear. If you received an RFP, then it is likely that your competitors have received one too.

#4 Clarification — a vendor who does not ask questions is likely to be perceived as disengaged in the RFP. If you pay close attention and ask good questions, then you’ll be far more likely to address the core needs of the advertiser and subsequently have a much better chance of being accepted.

#5 Brief Sales Pitch — it’s not always true that buyers don’t want to be sold. Here’s what my SME had to say in conclusion of the top 5 things he looks for in an RFP response:

“You gotta sell me. If you aren’t into it, then I won’t be… but just don’t go on too long.” Joel Nierman, Marketing and Media Director at Critical Mass

In addition to these insights from Joel, I’d like to offer an observation of my own. While content is king, format is queen. Media planners have not yet embraced the applications designed to streamline digital media acquisition and ad trafficking processes, but continue on as Excel junkies suffering from spreadsheet substance abuse.

So the takeaway is this — be creative and differentiate from the competition, but NOT at the expense of changing format. Make the numbers portion of your proposal fit the RFP template and it will be easier for the planner to say ‘yes’ to everything else. If this is not provided, then ask the question (#4 above) “how can I best provide you with the numbers so you don’t need to transpose them on your end?”… now you’re helping the buyer on an individual level as well.

John Henry vs. Programmatic Buying

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Two articles published this week have caught my attention despite my recently self-imposed “information diet.” They rise above the din because of the keen observations they make on the changing workforce at advertising agencies.

“There’s a lot of inexperienced people on the ground doing a lot of grunt work.” – Forrester analyst Joanna O’Connell in Agencies in the Age of Machines by Brian Morrissey

“Accepting that there will be fewer and fewer staffers at the agency doing the grunt work of RFPs and spreadsheets: Do you really see more than a tiny handful of those people being retrained and redirected into right-brain Marketecture jobs?” – Upstream Group founder and CEO Doug Weaver in Brave New Agency

The disruptive force here is the rise of automated, programmatic buying machines. These machines eliminate manual human toil and efficiently grind towards their narrow objectives.

These articles remind me of the legend of John Henry vs. the steam-powered hammer.  In this folk tale, the status quo of hard manual labor is disrupted by a new technology: the steam-powered hammer. The laborers’ hero, John Henry, challenges the machine to a race. Through super-human strength and determination, John Henry wins the race. However, he dies at the finish line from over-exertion.

Is the digital media workforce composed of modern day John Henry’s? Will we suffer the fate of John Henry and die in our race against the machine? That’s one possible future.

Or can we adapt from laborer to knowledge worker? For this, we have to move from driving spikes to driving strategy. We have to move beyond today’s sledgehammer – Microsoft Excel – to tools that free our time and our brains to focus on higher-value pursuits. We have to train our right brain. Unfortunately, many won’t make the transition and will become obsolete. But those who adapt will survive and thrive.

Visit NextMark at IAB MIXX Oct 1-2 in NYC

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Please come visit the NextMark team at the IAB MIXX conference on October 1-2 in New York City. We’re really excited to be part of this conference – it’s *the* cornerstone digital advertising event of Advertising Week 2012. The IAB has put together a phenomenal agenda: the art and science of digital creativity, the ramifications of viewable impression metrics, Dennis Crowley of Foursquare, Neal Mohan of Google, Microsoft, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, AOL, Mastercard, Twitter, Tumblr, elections, Charlie Rose, Marc Andreesen, and more. Wow!

You can visit us and the other vendors for free with “expo only” passes. You’ll find us in the exhibit hall at booth #103. But when you see the agenda, you’ll probably want to go “all in” with the full conference pass.  Check it out here: http://www.iab.net/mixx

 

Need a replacement for Google’s DoubleClick Ad Planner?

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Google has just announced it will discontinue a number of features of its DoubleClick Ad Planner on September 5, 2012. Among the changes, Google is dropping “domains or ad placements that are not part of the Google Display Network (GDN).”

Some are unhappy with these changes because they’ll no longer be able to use the tool for direct sold premium placements. These placements are outside the GDN and still comprise the majority of online display media spending today.

That’s the bad news. The good news is there are alternatives to help you through the transition.

For non-GDN site and placement information, you can use the IAB Digital Advertising Directory. It’s a free tool with virtually all the top sites indexed found here: http://directory.iab.net/ You can also use free tools from Alexa, Compete, and Quantcast for site discovery.

As an alternative to Ad Planner’s phased out “Publisher Center,” publishers can create and maintain their own listings in the directory with NextMark’s Data Card Publisher – also a free tool found here: http://www.nextmark.com/media-sales/publisher/

Finally, if you need a new way to create media plans, you can use NextMark’s new Digital Media Planner. It’s a low cost and easy-to-use alternative for non-GDN sites and placements. It’s currently in private beta, but you can get free access here: http://www.nextmark.com/dmp

Where’s the innovation in guaranteed ad sales?

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

In “How publishers sell ad inventory,” Eric Picard of Rare Crowds gives a great overview of how guaranteed ad inventory is bought and sold. In his conclusion, he makes an excellent point:

“For all the innovation in the ad-tech space over the last decade, it’s fairly impressive that very few of the core problems of a publisher have been solved. At the end of the day, 60-80 percent of the revenue that publishers bring in comes from their premium inventory, sold on a guaranteed basis — which represents generally less than half of all their available inventory. Nearly all the ad technology innovation in the last decade has focused on what to do with that other half in order to raise the median price of that revenue from nearly zero to a bit more than zero.”

It makes no sense that the big piece of the pie has been neglected by technologists. They’ve been focused on algorithms and transactions to maximize the value of remnant inventory. How about match-making and workflow to maximize the value of premium inventory?

Technology for buying and selling premium is a big opportunity. This is a hot space for innovation.

NextMark Upgrade—Faster Media Updates

Friday, July 13th, 2012

With the successful upgrade of the NextMark Direct Marketing System (to version 7.16) last night, our customers will find that the system is easier to use than ever.  We listened when you told us you needed a better way to enter Selects.  Now, thanks to the Extended Selects Editor interface, users can quickly add/edit Selects and related details on a single page linked from the Selects panel of the Data Card Wizard.

Extended Selects Editor

For digital advertising program publishers, we added the ability to record targeting traffic as percentages so that you no longer need to convert percentages to quantities as part of the editing process.  This reduces the time you spend on data maintenance and allows you to focus on creating complete and compelling data cards to promote your properties.

Traffic Targeting in Percents

We know that reports drive your business as well as your internal processes—and with that in mind, we continued to extend reporting by adding a variety of new fields in several data sources, including Account Type, Created By, and Assigned To.

For details on these and other improvements, see the release notes.

5,000+ Top Digital Media Ad Programs Now Available In NextMark

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

NextMark has hit yet another milestone with the Digital Media Advertising Index: more than 5,000 of the top digital media advertising programs are now represented via data cards. It was just four months ago that we hit the 2,500 record milestone. Great momentum!

The top publishers have been very enthusiastic about posting their data cards in the index for four good reasons:
1) It makes it easier for media planners to find them
2) It makes it easier for media planners to buy from them
3) It’s easy to use
4) It’s free

The data card index complements other website indexing services like those from comScore, Nielsen, and Google that to a great job with website metrics such as number of visitors, page views, and basic visitor demographics. Those other services help media planners to find sites on which to advertise, but they don’t answer all questions a media planner needs to know when building a media plan such as:

  • “Does the site accept advertising?”
  • “What more can you tell me about the site and the visitors?”
  • “What are the placement options?”
  • “How much inventory is available?”
  • “How much does it cost?”
  • “Who do I contact for more information?”

Those are the types of questions that are answered on NextMark’s data cards. Data cards have been used by media planners for years in other traditional media channels through SRDS, NextMark, and others. However, it’s been effectively absent from digital media. NextMark is trailblazing this initiative by adapting and evolving the data card concept for digital media.

The goal of the index is simple: to make it easier for media planners to find, compare, and buy digital media advertising programs.

What we learned in launching the RFC

Monday, April 9th, 2012

On February 17, 2012, we quietly launched an alternative to the much-maligned RFP called the Request for Consideration or RFC. The aim of the RFC is to provide a better way for buyers and sellers of digital media to connect and collaborate on media plans. The goal of the RFC is to eliminate the hassles of the RFP while encouraging more innovation.  We also launched two products support the new RFC method: (1) Media Magnet for Media Planners and (2) Compass for Publishers.

As with any new product launch, listening and adapting is the key to success. I never get anything right on the first try. Here’s what we’ve learned from agencies and publishers since introducing the RFC seven weeks ago.

What we learned from Agencies

As any sales rep will attest, it’s not easy getting a meeting with a media director. They are incredibly busy people with jammed calendars. Despite their busy schedules, many have asked us to come in to show them and their teams the RFC and Media Magnet. I think they’ve invited us mainly because they hate the RFP and are hungry for an alternative.

So far, 31 leading digital agencies have begun using Media Magnet and 6 more are being set up this week. I’m very pleased with the initial adoption by these great companies and grateful for working with them to improve the industry workflow.  I’m also happy to report that 100% of the agencies we’ve met with have signed on to try Media Magnet.

In initially introducing Media Magnet, we presented agencies with two key benefits: efficiency and innovation. We discovered a third unforeseen benefit through these initial discussions: organization of proposals. One of the challenges that agencies face is tracking and managing of all the proposals they get. We thought it was a given that the Media Magnet should be good at organizing information. We did not realize how much of an improvement it was over existing systems (emails, file servers, etc.). So, we are now including organization as a key benefit.

We learned that agencies want a lot of visibility and control. That’s not really a surprise. In our initial implementation, the list of publishers who received campaign alerts was not displayed. Media planners need to be able to see this list and to be able to control it.  They want to be able to add and remove publishers from the list.

We made a mistake in positioning Media Magnet as a standalone product that runs alongside other RFP tools. We assumed that every agency already had good RFP automation.  Since Media Magnet implements a fundamentally different process (the RFC), our initial approach was to say, “keep using whatever you are using today for RFPs and use Media Magnet to source additional ideas with minimal effort with the RFC.” But this has resulted in proposals coming in from two different directions. Media Planners want all their proposals from all sources in one place.  They don’t want to get proposals from RFPs one way and proposals from RFCs another way.

We also learned that Media Magnet should be extended to support the RFP process. As one media director put it, “You are selling the product short by limiting it to the RFC. You could easily add RFP capabilities.” Easier said than done, but the point was well-taken. It makes sense to be able to run RFPs and RFCs through a single interface.

We’re now in the process of building version 2.0 of Media Magnet, which incorporates the initial learnings: transparency and control of alerts and RFP automation. We’re already pretty far along with the development and it should be out by the end of this month (exact date TBD).

What we learned from Publishers

Publishers are also willing to try out the RFC.  Hundreds of publishers are already getting campaign alerts.  22 publishers have already signed up for “Pro” Compass accounts which gives them access to the Campaign Navigator and all the campaigns on the system. Another 27 have requested free trials and are in the process of getting set up.

Publishers are impressed by the clean and simple design of the product. However, to our dismay, they don’t care about technology.  As one ad sales rep put it, “The last thing I need is another system to log into.” What they care most about is qualified sales leads.  They like when they get an email saying, “Here’s a new campaign that matches your inventory. Check it out.”

We’ve no significant product enhancement requests from publishers. What they want is more sales leads. Publishers want us to ramp up the number of campaigns in the system.  There’s only been a trickle of campaigns so far because we are just starting to get agencies up and running on the system.  You can expect a significant increase in the coming weeks.  Until that trickle becomes a flow, publishers will continue to get free access to Compass.

What is the RFC – Request for Consideration (vs. RFP)?

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

The “RFC” or “Request for Consideration” is new method of media planning that was introduced by NextMark in February 2012. The RFC is an alternative/complement to the “RFP” or “Request for Proposal” process that has been traditionally used in the media buying/selling process.

The RFP and RFC are both methods for match-making among buyers and sellers. With the RFP, the buyer requests proposals from sellers. The RFC takes the opposite approach and turns the RFP process inside out. With the RFC, sellers request consideration from the buyer. In other words, the seller says “Here’s why I think this program deserves to be in your media plan. Will you please consider it?”

The motivation for the RFC is the universal dissatisfaction with the RFP. It seems nobody in digital media likes the RFP.

This inspiration for the RFC comes from interviews with buyers and sellers and an understanding of the dynamics of today’s digital media marketplace. The RFP works great in an environment where the options are limited, well-known and relatively static – like TV was in 1962. Fast forward 50 years to today’s digital media and you find the opposite: tens of thousands of options that change every day. It’s virtually impossible for a digital media buyer to keep up with the market and to make efficient and optimal decisions. The RFC addresses this problem by shifting the burden of proof from the buyer to the seller and gives the seller more responsibility in the match-making process.

RFC processThe RFC employs a patent-pending method and protocol between buyers and sellers. The RFC match-making algorithm utilizes NextMark’s proprietary index of the top digital media programs. As you see in the the attached flowchart, the process starts and ends with the media planner. The media planner makes all decisions regarding the media plan.  However, with the RFC the seller has the ability to discover the campaign and make a proposal without requiring the media planner to specifically request it. This opens up the process to both innovation and efficiency. In implementing the RFC, it’s important to include spam controls and identity protection to protect the time of the media planner. Otherwise, more time will be wasted than saved.

The RFC is currently implemented in two commercially available products by NextMark: (1) Media Magnet for media planners and (2) Compass for ad salespeople. Both products access the RFC platform via a web API. The RFC engine and API is available to third party software developers via licensing agreement.