More Planning Tools to Streamline the Process

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been writing about planning tools and why we need them. This week, we’ll talk about some of the products offered by Atlas DMT.

Some readers have asked me why I’m dedicating so much time and space to this particular article series. Right now, I think agencies and advertisers need to be aware of what’s out there to help make their jobs easier and allow them to become more efficient. If we can’t streamline the media planning process with new and innovative tools, we will always be slower than our traditional media brethren. And if online media planning continues to be so time- and labor-intensive, the capability will never be a profit center for agencies. If we want to have more budget dollars allocated to interactive, the online planning process has to be quick, effective and less costly.

This week, I wanted to take a look at Atlas DMT, which services agencies with a robust ad serving tool -- a natural extension of their business to develop planning tools for agencies, which Atlas has done with flying colors.



In addition to its advertiser-side ad server, Atlas offers several tools to help planners streamline their day-to-day operations. To help with site selection, Atlas offers Site Profile Database, which contains information on about 4,000 ad-supported websites. The database tool provides editorial profiles, sales and traffic contacts, terms and conditions, creative capabilities and more. Having all this information in one place makes it much easier to quickly put together prototypical plans for clients, complete with all the basic top line information.

To help find specific targets and identify the sites they visit online, Atlas offers a tool called Site Finder that works on a behavioral model. Site Finder identifies sites for a given campaign by actual visitation habits, not by demographics. Simply input the desired action and Site Finder will return results of sites that reach people most likely to take that particular action. As actual web behavior is one of the best predictors of campaign success, this tool can be a powerful one.

Last week, Atlas debuted the most recent version of its GRP & Reach Forecaster (version 3.0), which is a predictive modeling application that can predict GRPs and TRPs, targeted and effective reach, average frequency and Cost Per Point, as well as incremental reach costs. The tool is essentially a MS-Excel spreadsheet that manipulates user input and reach curves that have been developed for just about every top site on the Internet (based on Atlas DMT’s aggregated campaign data) and predicts the above-mentioned variables. The methodology mirrors that recommended by the ARF, which includes an overlay of both server-centric data (Atlas) and user-centric data (provided by ComScore).

The predictive modeling tool works well. I have heard some talk around the industry that occasionally, planners will have to go directly to Atlas to get data on smaller sites, but I’ve also heard that Atlas gets back to planners very quickly with this information. But this tool is very close to what we’re looking for – a way to model various plan options and offer reach, frequency and GRP levels to our clients.

As part of its Digital Marketing Suite, Atlas also offers an RFP tool that can completely automate the Request for Proposal process without having to resort to paper documents. Previously, RFPs had to be done by hand, with reps submitting proposals via e-mail and postal mail in a variety of different formats, often with irrelevant or extraneous details accompanying the meat and potatoes of the proposal. Thankfully, Atlas can help planners pull together proposals -- anyone who’s had to turn around an entire RFP process at the last minute on behalf of a client will breathe a sigh of relief.

Once sales reps have responded to the automated RFP, the data can be carried into a module that Atlas calls Media Plan Manager. This allows planners to negotiate and accept or reject proposals, pulling together all the data so that campaigns can be scheduled and implemented easily. As I mentioned before, Atlas has a full-featured ad serving solution, so campaign implementation, trafficking and tracking are a breeze.

Advertiser-side ad serving was one of the first steps the industry took to help streamline our process. Speaking as someone who implemented several online campaigns before the rise of ad serving and before the first set of IAB ad size guidelines, I often wondered whether the management of placements, sizes and creatives would eventually grow to such a Herculean task that the business would never be profitable. Gathering specs was problematic. Producing the several dozen sizes needed to launch a modest-size campaign was an even bigger headache. And once the campaign was actually launched, pulling together reports for each of the sites from their various reporting tools made me wonder if I would ever be able to leave the office. We all breathed a sigh of relief when ad standards were released and adopted, and ad serving made our job all that much easier.

Planning tools like the ones I’ve described are the next logical step in the progression. We cannot succeed as the medium of immediacy and accountability if we cannot develop plan scenarios as fast as planners can in TV, radio and print. We have to be faster.

In my next column, we will wrap up this series on this important topic with some information about offerings from companies like Dynamic Logic and Telmar. In the meantime, give some thought to how quickly your online media process can be hastened and made more efficient by planning tools. And start calling some of these vendors if you’re not using their services already. Only by kicking the tires yourself will you determine which suite of tools can help your agency best.

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