Generating Revenue: Ad Agencies – What they Want. What they Offer.

By Will Travis (French)

Say you’re a content producer with some high-end travel content that seems like a perfect fit for a luxury car company. Kind of makes sense. Or maybe you have ‘spring break gone wild’ content that you think would be a perfect fit for that same luxury car company. Maybe you should do a little homework.

If you’re a producer trying to figure out how to get your content to pay off by partnering with a particular brand for product placement or sponsorship, this is a short guide to helping you make it happen.

Step #1 – Do your homework

Who do you want to partner with and why? Do your homework on the brand. Find out whatever you can about their target audience. Are they young, old, rich, poor, farmers, urban hipsters? What makes them tick? Why are they a great fit for your content? This is probably the one thing that will make or break your pitch. Fit is everything.

But where do you find this kind of information? The best place to start is with the brand’s web site. Judging the tone/look/feel and quality of the content should give you some insight as to who they’re talking to and what’s important to them. You could even do your own mini focus group. Gather a few people that you think fit the brand’s target demographic and pepper them with questions – what are their likes/dislikes? What about your content and the brand seem like a good, natural fit? They may even be able to spark some new ideas for you.

Step #2 – Do more homework

Once you have the right partner in mind, you’ll need to get in touch with someone who has responsibility for spending the marketing/advertising money that is tied to the brand. But you should probably avoid contacting the brand directly. Why? Because you’re very likely to get one of two outcomes: no response, or a referral to the brand’s ad agency. Save yourself some time and call the agency first. As ‘brand stewards’, they’re the ones responsible for planning when and where their client’s brand is seen and heard, how it gets communicated – and who should see it.

There are lots of people at the agency involved in making advertising happen. Don’t call the agency president or their assistant. They are very busy people. The people you’re after aren’t actually any less busy, but they are directly involved in the day-to-day planning of how, where and when and brand’s advertising budget gets spent. If you’re looking for a brand for product placement or sponsorship, the media department is a good place to start. Find out who handles the media planning for the brand you’re interested in partnering with. They’re the ones that create the strategy for the ‘when’ and the ‘where’ a brand should be seen and heard. They determine what is and isn’t a right fit for the brand and make the decisions about how much money should get spent on any particular medium – be it TV, print, outdoor, online, or any kind of ‘new media’. You could also try talking to a strategic planner or the account director at the agency. They’re the ones responsible for the overall strategic direction of a brand as well as the day-to-day implementation of the strategy. Rather than contact all of these people at once, you’re better off starting with one person and trying to build a relationship that will get you in the door.

Whoever you end up connecting with, your goal is to get a meeting where you can come in and present your master plan.

Step #3 – Craft a kick-ass presentation

Before you pick up the phone or click the ‘send’ button to your new best friend at the agency, you need to finish Step #3: Craft your pitch/presentation so that it’s tailored just for the brand you’re speaking to. It’s really important to keep in mind that agencies are masters at presenting. They live or die by their ability to pitch for new business and to sell their ideas to existing clients. And agencies get pitched to all of the time – it’s likely there are lots of people that want to partner with the same brand that you’re after. So your pitch will have to be professional, polished and very well thought out if you’re going to make an impression on people who do this for a living. We’re not talking a flashy ‘used car salesman’ approach here. Just a professional and insightful idea of why your content would be a great fit for the brand you’re after. You don’t need to be a master showman — but you do need to show a real passion for what you’re selling and why it makes sense for the brand. Keep it short, simple and to the point. Pretty pictures always help because shiny things easily distract agency people and help keep them focused.

People in advertising are generally pretty smart – and creative – so expect insightful questions. You don’t need to address everything during your presentation/pitch, but do make sure you’ve got intelligent (and well-rehearsed) answers ready to go. You don’t’ want to be fumbling for answers.

What about time and money?

Agencies are deadline driven. That’s why everyone that works in the business has a really short attention span. Timing is everything. Again this comes back to homework. Agencies plan where the brand’s money will get spent months in advance. It takes a long time to negotiate the best rates and placements, so they have to start early. You should allow plenty of time. four -6 months is probably good as a starting point. If you leave it any later than that, the money will already have been allocated elsewhere.

You can find some of the ad formats currently available to exploit in a handy list at the Interactive Advertising Bureau, but we have listed some of the formats for quick reference below as well:

Bumper Ad – usually refers to a linear video ad with clickable call-to-action; format is usually shorter than full linear ads (i.e. 3-10 seconds) and call-to-action usually can load another video or can bring up a new site while pausing the content.

Companion Ad – both linear and non-linear video ad products have the option of pairing their core video ad product with what is commonly referred to as companion ads. Commonly text, display ads, rich media, or skins that wrap around the video experience, can run alongside either or both the video or ad content. The primary purpose of the companion ad product is to offer sustained visibility of the sponsor throughout the video content experience. Companion ads may offer click-through interactivity and rich media experiences such as expansion of the ad for further engagement opportunities.

Hot Spot – an ad unit that is sold within the video content experience. Mouse action over the video highlights objects that can be clicked. The click action generally initiates a linear video ad or takes the user to a website.

In-Banner Video Ads – leverage the banner space to deliver a video experience as opposed to another static or rich media format. The format relies on the existence of display ad inventory on the page for its delivery.

In-Page Video Ads – delivered most often as standalone video ads and do not generally have other streaming content associated with them. This format is typically home page or channel based and depends on real estate within the page dedicated for the video player.

In-Stream Video Ads – played before, during or after the streaming video content that the consumer has requested. These ads cannot typically be stopped from being played (particularly with pre-roll). This format is frequently used to monetize the video content that the publisher is delivering. In-Stream ads can be played inside short or long form video and rely on video content for their delivery. There are generally four different types of video content where instream plays: UGC (User Generated Content/Video), Syndicated, Sourced and Journalistic.

In-Text Video Ads – delivered from highlighted words and phrases within the text of web content. The ads are user activated and delivered only when a user chooses to move their mouse over a relevant word or phrase.

Invitation Unit – a smallish still or animated graphic often overlaid directly onto video content. Typically used as a less-intrusive initial call-to-action. Normally when a viewer clicks or interacts with the invitation graphic, they expand into the ad’s full expression, which might be a simple auto-play video or an interactive experience; also commonly referred to as an Overlay Ad.

Linear Video Ads – the ad is experienced as in-sequence as part of the linear timeline as the content; the ad can be presented before, in the middle of, or after the video content is consumed by the user. One of the key characteristics of a Linear Video ad is that the user watches the ad instead of the content as the ad takes over the full view of the video.

Mid-roll – a Linear Video ad spot that appears somewhere in the middle of the video content.

Non-linear Video Ads – a Non-Linear Video ad product that runs concurrently with the video content so the user still has the option of viewing the content. Common Non-linear ad products include overlays which are shown directly over the content video itself, and product placements which are ads placed within the video content itself. Non-linear video ads can be delivered as text, graphical banners or buttons, or as video overlays.

Overlay Ad – an ad that appears in the bottom 20% of the video window. Click action generally initiates a linear video ad spot or takes the user to a website; also commonly referred to as an Invitation Unit.

Post-roll – a Linear Video ad spot that appears after the video content completes.

Pre-roll – a Linear Video ad spot that appears before the video content plays.

Rich Media – advertisements with which users can interact (as opposed to solely animation) in a web-page format. They may appear in ad formats such as banners and buttons, as well as transitionals (interstitials) and various over-the-page units such as floating ads, page take-overs, and tear-backs.

For a more specific information about Online Advertising specs download the complete PDF File at: http://www.iab.net/media/file/IAB-Video-Ad-Format-Standards.pdf

Regarding money, it’s nearly impossible to quantify what’s involved because every brand and opportunity is different. Are you looking to sell standard online ads on a site you created? Are you looking for a brand to sponsor your content long-term? The more targeted your content is to the brand’s target audience, the more you’ll be able to charge. For more general information about going rates on ads these days check out http://www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?R=1007053. But remember, use this as a guide only – in this ever changing environment, nothing is written in stone.

Be flexible!

And last but not least one thing to keep in mind is flexibility. There may be opportunities with a brand that you haven’t thought of but the agency already has in the works. So a partnership may take on very different dimensions than what you had in mind.

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