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    February 9, 2012 // 1:00 AM

    Digital Workflow Technology: A Revolution in the Making

    Written by Lori Goldberg

    The job of a media buyer has become exponentially more difficult as digital media has become part of the mainstream marketing mix. In fact, it can be flat-out overwhelming. Fortunately, digital workflow technologies are evolving into something that can help buyers better manage the daunting complexity and rapid pace of integrated campaigns. The result can be incredible improvements in both efficiency and campaign results that may even make it possible to dial back your four-lattés-a-day habit and still keep up with the job.

    An Antiquated Process…

    Before digital advertising became the norm, the typical media buying process went something like this: First, determine the goals or objectives of the campaign. Next, look to syndicated data sources like Nielsen, Arbitron and Comscore to determine which properties might be a potential good fit. Then, write the RFP and send it out to up to a dozen targeted vendors. And, finally, wait for the responses to flow in.

    Wait… does that sound familiar? If you’re like 90 percent of the media buyers in the industry, this is exactly how you’re still trying to manage the process every day, even amid the dizzying pace of online direct response, display targeting and retargeting, social media and more.

    ...Is Still the Industry Standard

    The fact is the media buying workflow hasn’t evolved nearly as fast as the media outlets and opportunities themselves. Even though we’re no longer buying a year’s worth of TV or newspaper inventory, the tools we use to manage the intricacies of customized campaigns across multiple properties, networks and exchanges for each client haven’t evolved much beyond those days. The use of complex Excel spreadsheets — which themselves can evolve into a work of art as they grow increasingly complex to keep up with the demands of a busy media buyer — remains the norm.

    The Paradigm is Shifting into High Gear

    Fortunately, a new breed of digital workflow technologies are maturing that tame the media buying beast and finally deliver the automation and customization tools to match the speed and precision of the modern digital landscape. And, the efficiencies these tools bring to the table are nothing short of astounding.

    Let’s start with the RFP. Automated inventory search tools now allow you to discover new properties that index high against your campaign goals so you no longer have to be the all-knowing media buyer. With built-in attribute matching, you can find opportunities in new verticals with multiple targeting capabilities that have properties you may have never even heard of before. These may track extremely well against your desired metrics — no pre-existing relationship required. Simply input the campaign parameters and audience targets and pinpoint the sites with inventory that meet those criteria across the board. With this kind of automation, it’s extremely fast and easy to build customizable campaigns from scratch for each client and replicate this process multiple times for numerous clients across an incredible range of verticals.

    Once you’ve settled on the parameters, distribute an RFP to dozens of sites with a single click. Don’t get the response you’re hoping for? Refocus and reissue, change deal points and compare offers from multiple publishers all within the same dashboard, within a matter of minutes. Repeat a buy, renew or even find similar inventory quickly and easily. Then, when you’re ready, click to bid in real time on a broader scale, faster and easier than ever before with total transparency and control.

    With built-in real-time analytics and optimization, the most advanced, integrated platforms also make it possible to see, at a moment’s glance, where the campaign pace is headed and compare key performance indicators (KPIs) and full-path conversion tracking across multiple publishers, networks and buys. Not getting the results you want? Make a change on the fly to optimize performance and see within minutes how the reallocation affects returns. This kind of in-depth visibility and mid-stream flexibility has never before been possible with manual optimization. Sure, you might pick up the phone and, to some degree, benefit from human contact with a publisher — they may lower their price, renegotiate the remainder of the flight or offer some other options — but multiply that effort across 12 vendors for just a single campaign, and we’re quickly back to that overwhelming feeling again.

    But Can We Afford to Go High-Tech?

    No doubt that there are some — particularly buyers — for whom all of this sounds too good to be true, or at least way beyond current budgetary constraints. But, I assure you that these workflow automation systems can revolutionize the way you work on a daily basis, leaving more time to contemplate and devise strategy, as opposed to getting bogged down in the mundane day-to-day tasks. Not only do they deliver efficiently on a massive scale, but these tools also dramatically expand the capacity of individual media buyers, opening up more room for the agency itself to bring on new business.

    From an account management standpoint, by consolidating all communication and account details surrounding each campaign into a single interface, even the most disorganized buyer can be organized. With an agency-wide system accessible to the entire team, your clients are no longer dependent upon the physical presence of a single individual to handle their account management. Web-based systems extend this accessibility even further, enabling you to handle account duties from any location.

    Finally, don’t make the mistake of assuming that getting onboard with such a comprehensive workflow system will require you to dump the technology, platforms and systems that are already in place. The best systems integrate with multiple platforms and offer an open ecosystem that plays well with others, essentially future-proofing your investment.

    You Can’t Afford Not To

    In the end, the question becomes, "How can you afford not to adopt the latest technology to manage your digital business?" Without it, you could be left behind as technology marches on. After all, there are no awards for the most intricate Excel spreadsheet.

    Topics: Marketing & Advertising

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