Let's Enforce Penalties For Late Creative

In informally speaking with a number of ad sales reps over the past several weeks, I find that, anecdotally, the No. 1 complaint regarding doing business under the IAB/AAAA Standard Terms and Conditions is that agencies and marketers are still habitually late with creative.

Folks, the established way of doing business in other media is very clear on this point, and there's no reason why online advertising should deviate from the standard practice. Try booking the back cover of Sports Illustrated and waiting until the material closing date has passed to see what I mean. If you don't get your materials in on time without clearing it with the magazine's production folks first, your ad won't run, but you'll be charged for it.

It's obvious that deadlines slip in online media only because they can. Online media campaigns run impression-by-impression, whereas offline media have multiple impressions per ad. In practice, an advertiser who is late getting his creative to an online publisher can go live a few minutes or a few days late and have any resulting shortfalls made up on the tail end of a campaign. Deadlines slide because there's little in the way of a penalty if creative isn't submitted on time.

It's easy to see how agencies and advertisers can thus become somewhat lackadaisical in their approach to interactive campaign deadlines. We know from experience that if extra time is given, it's usually taken. The time to tighten up our approach to interactive creative deadlines is now. As agencies and advertisers, there are plenty of good reasons for this.

The first is that we'd really like to be taken seriously as a medium. Simply put, it's easy to become less serious about something if no one takes it seriously from the start.

Secondly, we need to stick to deadlines in order to improve the mechanics of our industry. It wasn't too long ago that one of the main reasons cited by advertisers for their unwillingness to spend money online was difficulty in execution. It takes minutes to implement a broadcast buy, and often days or weeks to execute an interactive one. If we want to remove barriers to advertising online, our execution process is a good place to start.

There's also the notion of the politics surrounding how we do business in this industry. We know why the process needs to be streamlined, but as inventory supply and demand both change over time, the distance between buyer and seller can often increase as unreasonable demands are made on both sides of the negotiating table. For every unreasonable demand made, there is a corresponding token excuse. Sellers and buyers alike often want to alter the methods by which we do business in order to negotiate more favorable terms for themselves. Often, the token excuse made by sellers for making any alteration to the IAB/AAAA Standard Terms and Conditions at all is the notion of late creative. Let's not let it become enough of an issue to merit spending significant time on when buyers and sellers are across the negotiating table from one another.

It is for these reasons that I believe buyers should enforce late creative penalties when buyers and sellers come back to the negotiating table on Terms and Conditions. It's already in the Ts & Cs:

If Advertising Materials are late, Advertiser is still responsible for the media purchased pursuant to IO.

We've already agreed to this penalty. As an industry, let's start enforcing it, and the other terms and conditions, so we can get back to the task of streamlining our industry's processes. This will make it easier for advertisers to spend money online, which is something we'd all like to see.