But if there’s one thing I know about the interactive industry, it’s that it enjoys a good challenge. In the Internet’s formative years, there was such a huge demand for interactive media that, at one point, many of us believed that we didn’t need planning tools and other applications to help us streamline our process right away. Now that the gold rush is over, we see that we do need these things, and the people and organizations that are truly committed to seeing interactive media take its rightful place in the mix have laid out their strategic plans for improving the interactive planning process.
I promised that I would take this week to let readers know about the tools that companies like DoubleClick, Atlas and others are bringing to the table. As it turns out, there are many companies actively developing tools for interactive media planners – so many that I may take the next couple weeks to tell you all about the tools currently available and what’s on the drawing board.
Let’s start with DoubleClick. In July of this year, DoubleClick sold its media business so that it could concentrate on what had become its core business – interactive marketing infrastructure. Many of us remember that DoubleClick’s ad serving technology (DART) started out as technology for publishers, but later branched out into both publisher-side and advertiser-side solutions. DART for Advertisers (DFA) is now a robust ad serving tool that helps agencies and advertisers manage their ad delivery, but it is only one of the products that DoubleClick has developed to help advertisers.
Site Directory is another. Just as planners have IMS and Telmar to access syndicated research to develop a “short list” of potential media vehicles for a media plan, Site Directory adds value to the planning process by providing the same for interactive media. The tool is essentially a large database containing information on over 5,000 online media venues. Not only can planners use it to develop their “short list,” but they can also get all the operational details of any potential venue, including accepted rich media formats, ad serving details, sales and traffic contacts and much more. The tool brings buyers and sellers closer together – a planner using Site Directory no longer has to depend on his experience or what’s on his “radar screen” to bring viable online media options to his client. Publishers keep their information current in the database, and they are incentivized to do so by the prospect of landing some incremental RFPs, above and beyond what they might normally get from an agency. Publishers are even able to offer inventory specials through Site Directory.
Site Directory is often bundled with MediaVisor, which is DoubleClick’s tool for streamlining the media planning process. Think of MediaVisor as the platform for DoubleClick’s planning tools. It integrates with Site Directory and with DFA, to minimize seams in the process and save planners valuable time.
MediaVisor helps automate many administrative tasks that can be “time sucks” for media planners. It can take data from Site Directory or from planner input and craft flowcharts and plans, which helps keep media planners’ noses out of Microsoft Excel. It can also automate the entire Request For Proposal (RFP) process, which is another task that, when performed manually, drives planners batty. The planner uses Site Directory data, coupled with his own input, to develop a short list of potential media venues. The data are then used to craft RFPs, which vendors can respond to within the system. MediaVisor tracks the proposals through the entire negotiation and approval process, all the way through the insertion order. Proposals can be accepted, declined and negotiated through the system.
When a planner comes up with a scenario that is approved by the client, MediaVisor can also integrate with DFA, such that the plan data can be exported to DFA seamlessly. This saves the planner from headaches by eliminating repetitive and time-consuming data entry. The system manages insertion orders, even taking the hassle out of multiple Terms and Conditions (Ts & Cs) of contracts that previously had to be entered manually on insertion orders.
Remember how I said one should think of MediaVisor as a platform? We can expect DoubleClick to launch several additional tools under the MediaVisor banner in the coming months and years. In August, DoubleClick announced a partnership with IMS to integrate WebRF into MediaVisor. WebRF is a product jointly marketed by IMS and Nielsen//Netratings to help provide a predictive reach and frequency tool to planners. We can also expect initiatives from DoubleClick in the future to bring extensive scenario planning to the table, so that interactive planners can experiment with varying reach/frequency and media venue scenarios.
DoubleClick is well-positioned to help streamline the planning process in other ways. Initiatives planned for the future include tools to help bring media planning, accounting and trafficking functions closer together, streamline discrepancy resolution, and even make it easier for agencies to showcase and approve creative executions with their clients.
Expect DoubleClick to continue to be a strong powerhouse in streamlining agency process in the months and years ahead. The company spends over $20 million a year in researching and developing its products, which is significant given the inefficiencies the industry needs to eliminate in order to make interactive planning less time-consuming.
It’s also important to remember that companies like DoubleClick need the input of the agency community in order to steer initiatives in the right direction. So if there’s a process difficulty that’s keeping your planners in the office until 2 AM, the industry needs to know about it.
Tell us what process friction points are driving you crazy on The Spin Board. Next week, we’ll continue the dialogue by covering some process tools from other companies.