Last year I wrote a column entitled “The Digital RFP Is A Frustrating Mess.” The request for proposal is the bane of the existence of digital media buyers, who must wade through thousands of emails and spreadsheets each year to assemble media plans for their clients. Media sellers are equally frustrated, especially when they diligently respond to last minute RFPs only to never completely know why they didn’t get the business.
Fortunately, at the same time that I was writing the column, media planning tools company NextMark was working on a solution to the problem. Instead of simply mimicking the current process with technology, the company concluded that the RFP itself was obsolete. “The RFP worked great for TV in 1962 with few options like ABC, NBC, and CBS. Fast-forward 50 years to today’s digital media age, and you find the exact opposite: tens of thousands of choices that are changing every day,” Joe Pych, CEO of NextMark, says.
Joe and his team developed a product called Media Magnet that turns the RFP process on its head. With Media Magnet, buyers specify their needs, and sellers have the responsibility of proving that their media program deserves to be in a buyer’s plan. The buyer reviews the rationale and then accepts or rejects the proposal, similar to how Lending Tree works in the consumer loan business.
If a buyer rejects a proposal, Media Magnet generates a dialog box that compels the buyer to tell the seller why the proposal was insufficient. By putting this element into the workflow, sellers will no longer have to wonder why their proposal got rejected.
The key to Media Magnet is that it provides a robust platform at the center of the process. Manual tools like email and spreadsheets are not sufficient to manage all of the data coming in and out. That’s precisely what NextMark has built: an easy-to-use, cloud-based system that can be accessed via any Web browser.
To date, more than 24 top agencies have agreed to test the system. And while Media Magnet is just getting going, the initial feedback has been quite positive. Some agency pros who have used the tool believe that it could have application to other forms of media, including print.
Of course, there are other players in the advertising technology space that also want to solve the RFP issue. MediaOcean, the merger of Donovan and MediaBank, has its own plans for building the operating system for advertising. Whoever can reinvent the RFP process for the half-trillion-dollar media industry and gain significant market share could be sitting at the center of a huge new business.
While adoption of Media Magnet is still in the early stages, the tool holds the promise of solving a problem that has been the bane of the digital media industry for over a decade.