RFP and proposal management just got easier with Planner 2.0

Thursday, April 18th, 2013


NextMark today announced an upgrade to its digital media planning software, which adds key functionality for handling RFPs and media proposals.

The Request for Proposal or RFP process in digital advertising is well-known to be a frustrating mess. Despite recently celebrating the eighteenth anniversary of the banner ad, sending RFP requests and handling proposal responses is still a highly manual effort involving emails, Excel spreadsheets, shared file folders, phone calls, sticky notes, and plenty of manual labor. Despite its many failings and costing agencies more than $3,000 per campaign in labor, nobody has yet developed a widely adopted alternative to this time consuming and expensive process.

NextMark streamlines the RFP process with the latest upgrade to its Digital Media Planner system. Version 2.0 of Planner extends the platform’s functionality by enabling media planners to directly interact with publishers to request and manage media proposals. Now, instead of using spreadsheets and e-mail to negotiate pricing and placements, Planner’s Proposal Manager module enables you to:

  • Quickly and easily request proposals from any publisher
  • Automatically track the status of all RFP requests
  • Source additional proposals through Media Magnet
  • Receive proposals online with all documents automatically organized
  • Collaboratively review and negotiate proposals online
  • Accept proposals directly into your media plan with a button click

Unlike prior efforts to solve the RFP mess, NextMark has invested heavily into the design of the user experience for both buyers and sellers. Unlike other solutions, NextMark employs two modes of sourcing proposals: The typical RFP method and a new patent-pending Request for Consideration (or RFC) method. That latter enables qualified publishers to request consideration for plan-appropriate media, giving planners a wider array of choices when they construct their media plans.

“NextMark has been listening to its customers, and is building the right tools for digital media planning,” said Sean Cotton of True Media, an early Planner pilot user. “Adding RFP functionality to the planning tool really extends the functionality, and puts more of the workflow in a centralized place. Agencies have to start leveraging web-based tools to get smarter and more efficient about the way they plan and buy media—and get their planners to focus on more high value tasks that drive their clients’ success.”

Since its initial release only four months ago, Planner has already been upgraded four times based on new ideas from customers.

“This upgrade is another giant leap forward in delivering on the promise of programmatic direct buying,” remarked Joe Pych, NextMark’s President. “We’ve been getting fantastic advice from our development partner agencies, listening closely, and working diligently to realize this amazing vision. As a company, connecting media buyers and sellers is what we have been doing for 13 years, and I am glad we are starting to bring that same efficiency to digital.”

Planner 2.0 is available today. Free training is available to all registered users. To request more information or access to Planner, go to

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.

Media Magnet v2.1 gives you Goldilocks and Training Wheels modes

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Media Magnet has been winning praise among digital media veterans because it offers a fresh alternative to the much-maligned RFP process. It just got even better with version 2.1.

Early this morning, our superstar development team rolled out another set of improvements to Media Magnet. Altogether, version 2.1 includes 14 improvements that make it even easier to use.

Goldilocks Mode

As we’ve reviewed these new features, the one customers like the most is the counts in the category selector. It’s a simple but powerful tool. As you see in the screenshot above, each category now displays how many media programs are in the given category. This is helpful in creating a consideration set that’s not too big, not too small, but just right. Goldilocks would love this!

For example, in the Arts & Entertainment category, there are 1,389 media programs… that’s a big category! Maybe it would be a better strategy to pick a sub-category like Humor that only has 51 media programs to refine your consideration set. It all depends on what you and your client need.  The nice thing about this feature is it gives you more insight as you are creating your campaign. So, you can make more informed decisions.

Training Wheels Mode

We’ve also introduced a new “training wheels” mode (that’s what I call it). Previously, when you posted a new campaign it would instantly go live. That’s super-efficient, but sometimes it makes sense to have a review before releasing it. That’s what this new feature is all about. Now, when you post a new campaign we’ll review it with you before it goes out.

With this feature, you don’t have to worry about an embarrassing misfire. It also makes it easier to kick the tires without going live with a campaign.

More to come

We hope you like the new features. Please let us know how we can make it even better!

Now available: an “air traffic control” system for managing digital media RFPs and proposals

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Media Magnet version 2.0 is now available. This upgrade introduces an “air traffic control” system for media planners at digital agencies who want to easily manage all their digital media RFP’s, RFC‘s, and proposals in one place. The improvements include:

1) Alerts and Invitations – This new section gives you 20/20 visibility into who has received alerts and invitations.
2) Contact list – For each alert sent, now you can see who got it.
3) Program list – For each publisher, now you can see a list of their properties that match your criteria.
4) Block button – Now you can block a publisher from submitting a proposal. This is handy in cases where you are already dealing with them in some other way or just don’t want to get a proposal.
5) Unblock button – If you change your mind about someone you’ve blocked, you can easily unblock to allow proposals
6) Invite others – This new button enables you invite others to submit proposals for your media plans. It’s effectively an RFP but a lot easier.
7) Status – Now you can see the status of every alert and invitation you’ve sent.  You can see if your RFPs have been viewed or responded to

Here’s a sample screen shot showing these new features:

To get you free Media Magnet account, go to

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.

Ditching the RFP

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

In yesterday’s Digiday, Brian Morrissey wrote about “Ditching the RFP.” Agencies and publishers both universally dislike the RFP process. Finally, alternatives are actively being developed:

“A pair of efforts are underway to change the dreaded RFP process. NextMark  wants to turn it on its head, taking a page out of the Lending Tree model. The idea behind its “request for consideration” is rather than sending out RFPs to dozens of publishers, media planners would simply post the specifics of what the campaign (budget, campaign dates, target audience) to a site that would match it to likely publisher candidates. Another effort by video ad exchange wants to adapt the auction models that are popular in real-time bidding for reserved buys. And Google, ever the critic of waste in ad buying, is rolling out a “direct deals interface” in April that it promises will eliminate the need for a flurry of emails and phone calls between buyers and sellers.”

[See the full story on Digiday]

The RFC has only been available for 11 days, but already 22 agencies are actively testing the RFC as an alternative / complement to the RFP process.

FYI Free trials of NextMark’s implementation of the “Request for Consideration” or “RFC” are available. Choose from the  two applications that support the RFC:
1) Media Magnet for media planners/buyers at digital agencies
2) Compass for ad salespeople at digital publishers


Introducing the RFC (an alternative to the RFP)

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012


The Request for Proposal or RFP has been described by digital media veterans as the “bane of their existence.” That’s because the RFP process is fundamentally broken in the dynamic context of digital media.

Introducing a new alternative to the RFP: the “Request for Consideration” or “RFC.”

While others have failed to solve the RFP problem by automating it, the RFC takes an entirely new approach by literally turning the RFP inside out. As one media director observed, “it’s like LendingTree for media planners.” Others have called the RFC “a game changer” that could “eliminate the need for the RFP.”

You can learn more about the RFC, how it differs from the RFP, and how it works by attending a free 25-minute webinar on Tuesday, February 21st.

>>> Sessions customized for digital media planners:

>>> Sessions customized for digital ad salespeople:

If you can’t make one of these sessions, but want to learn about the RFC, please let us know and we’ll arrange a webinar for you.