Can you offer your clients deep ‘engagement’?

Editor’s note: Originally posted on the Operative Blog.

That seems to be the latest measurement buzz word.  Now…let me ask in a different way. 

Can your Ad Sales and Ad Ops teams scale to achieve the NEW technical demands of media buyers?

In 2010, digital publishers in the US and Europe that are not a top 20 site in their market, will leave more than $500,000,000 of ad revenue on the table.  In fact, if you divide that number into the top 300 publishers on the internet, that’s $1,600,000 per publisher.  Most of that money will go to the big publishers who can get the job done…the ones that can easily execute complicated marketing programs because they have the staff, systems and processes to support them.

In the last 6 months, custom integrations and specialized marketing programs have been in high demand. This has not only become a trendy ad buy in the US, but even more so in the UK because of the market’s ability to be more progressive than most on the creative side.  The end goal is the same- create ‘engagement’ with the consumer. 

For those who don’t know what a custom integration is, don’t worry, you’re not alone.  In fact, these were less than 1% of all digital ad spend only 1 year ago.  Custom integration are media buys that typically come from an agency who is looking for the “big idea” or from a brand/marketer who wants to really create engagement with the consumer.  Things like micro sites, custom video and social media widgets are all non-traditional ways to create engagement with the consumer…a way to be PART of the conversation, not an interrupter.  The first successful custom integration I can remember was a few years ago when you were able to “Friend the King” as a MySpace user to earn points. 

So, OK…big deal right?  How does that lose me $1,600,000 this year?  Well, if you want to offer custom programs, you need to have a certain type of infrastructure to be able to support them.  Most publishers do not have scalable teams or borrowed resources to help execute these types of buys.  In the first 6 months of 2009, almost $1.4B was spent on rich media, digital video, and sponsorship display-related advertising, and according to eMarketer, well over $1B is expected to be spent on social marketing this year. $500MM across digital sounds very reasonable. 

So, what does this mean for the digital publisher?


Challenges for Ad Sales Teams

Sales people are not experienced enough to sell these types of deals.  These buys usually come with a big ticket price and involve multiple decision-makers to sign off.  It also takes an enterprise level seller and a bit of solutioning to pull it off.

Most digital sellers (not all) who started in digital media typically start out as Sales Planners or Sales Assistant roles. This basically means completing RFPs and taking orders from agencies as a full time job.  You can develop poor habits this way.  This is much different than starting your sales career selling traditional media or other “feet on the street” Sales jobs that require you to hunt for your dinner to make a dime.


Challenges for Ad Ops and Technology Teams

This part of your Operations isn’t the easiest thing to scale.  It’s hard to predict customer programs and big effort integrations because of the nature of the sale.  These deals can be asked for in a week’s notice (sometimes days) and this puts a lot of pressure on the Ad Ops team.  Custom integration deals can also take months to close due to complexity, so it’s hard to staff for something that “may” be coming soon.

If you don’t have a dedicated team for creative development, you are likely borrowing from other resources.  If that’s the case, there’s no way you can keep up with the demands in the market for these types of buys.  Furthermore, these borrowed resources don’t feel part of the sale.  They are oftentimes being dictated to by Sales people- a sure recipe for disaster.

Keep in mind, this isn’t your typical trafficking request either. Creating these types of ads requires multiple custom developers, project and vendor managers to get the ads live.  These buys take valuable resource time away from other high priority work that needs to get done, putting other campaigns and revenue at risk.


What can you do about all this???  Glad you asked.

Over the last 3 week, I pooled together some ideas that came from other Sales/Ad Ops Executives in the US and UK.

If you’re a CRO/EVP/VP of Sales, start looking for enterprise level talent.  You can’t win a complex deal with the same resources as you did a year ago.  This is the type and caliber of sales person that can get to the advertiser or brand, convincing the agency to make a direct introduction.

Move the custom development and key technical resources to the sales department.  It’s just like having Sales Engineers for Sales people at an enterprise software company.  They are involved in the sale from the beginning.  This will result in fewer issues when it comes time to getting the ad up since it was properly scoped from the get go.

Ad Ops needs to create a check and balance system to approve the ads before they are sold and QA them before they go live.  The role of campaign management would then be owned by Ad Ops.

Free up those key trafficking resources that are very technical, either by automating parts of the process or partnering with another company to provide you ad ops services in your local time zone.

Get your sales forecasting process tight.  If you use, get your ‘opportunities’ for these types of deals in sync with your booking system.  This will give Ad Ops longer lead times since the opportunity will start in, and not when the order is about to come in.  It will also give sales a more accurate forecast report since your booking system automatically updates your pipeline in Salesforce.

Want to ask me a question?  Post a comment or email me at [email protected].

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