Information Collection, Visibility, and the Value of Simplicity

Media buyers should be able to spend more time on the activities that create value for their clients, such as negotiating placement and rates, rather than manually collecting and organizing information related to a buy. That’s the premise behind Avenue Right’s web-based media buying software.

On February 12 Avenue Right founder and CEO Brian Gramer was interviewed by “Media Man” Michael Massey on his Internet radio show Your Ad Here. This is the first in a series of blog posts with excerpts from that interview. You can listen to the full recording of the show here.

Michael Massey is also author of Your Ad Here: Demystifying the Business of Media and Advertising, to be released next month, and an Avenue Right power user.

MM: Why don’t we take a few minutes to explain how you got where you are, what jazzes you, why Avenue Right?

BG: When I started Avenue Right 2 years ago, I said I’m going to solve a problem and it’s this—how do we create one place for media buyers and advertising professionals to go and find media buying opportunities for their clients so they don’t have to manually gather this information?

The thing is, you can say that seems pretty simple, is that really going to provide value? And what I’ve found talking to advertising agencies is that they spend half their time manually collecting information. And the information they collect isn’t secret information, it’s not private. It’s media sales contact information and email addresses for media outlets. Things like rate cards, media kits.

This is what the media buyer has to do all day long instead of the things that they do really well, that provide value for their clients, like strategy and planning and placement. They are spending a good portion of their time just collecting information that I thought should be automatically collected and updated somewhere. It shouldn’t have to be manually collected all the time.

But the reason this is always manually collected is that the information changes all the time—rates change daily, the media outlet sales department has a 100% turnover, depending on the outlet, and inventory supply changes.

And now with the Internet, there are no barriers to creating a media publisher, or creating and distributing content. So there are more and more options, and how do you keep up with all that? That was the creation and idea of Avenue Right.

MM: Give me some typical examples of what media buyers are wanting, 5 or 12 things everybody wants. I can’t be atypical in some of the demands I’m making.

BG: You would think there would be a lot of commonalities in what media buyers want, but there are a lot of anomalies. And you have to manage all those needs so you don’t create too complicated of a product, but create the core functionality that provides the most value.

They do want visibility into what they’re doing in more granular detail, but they also want to provide that visibility to their clients. Any kind of reporting we can provide agencies, they can provide their clients, so the agency can show the value that they are creating for their clients. So if you think of media buyers in the past, all the work they do doesn’t show up on a neat client report. Negotiating with media outlets, all the services you provide, theirs wasn’t an easy way to show clients all that value you’ve created for them, all that work.

MM: Brian, I’m going to record what you just said, and send it to all my clients.

BG: Well, it’s been a difficult thing, right? One of the things we’re doing to augment our product is try to continually provide our agencies with better internal reports, for your own internal processes. How much media did you buy across certain geographies, how much media did you buy by client?

MM: As a buyer, I’ve been doing this for 12 years, and before that I was a seller of media. And really, when you’re working on a media plan, a lot of the work is up front, because you’re doing exactly what you just said. You’re contacting the media properties, you’re negotiating, you’re gathering all the data, you’re putting the plan together, you’re putting it in a nice report and then you just have to kind of shepherd it for 6 months or throughout the year or whatever it is.

But there is a ton of work that goes into it at the beginning. And I’m not even including the constant influx and volume of email and phone calls you get from media reps.

So any time you can show a client that this is the time you spent and the value created, there’s something to that.

BG: Yeah, that’s exactly the kind of visibility they want to provide if they are using an automated system to do some of their process. It’s very difficult to buy media if you have to manually do it in a spreadsheet after you’ve done all the work.

Other feedback is related to reporting and it’s being able to integrate our system to other tools to get data out of those tools. Even if you’re doing social stuff, or anything, any data source you might want to pull or you’re managing some other type of media buy that doesn’t go in our system.

For example, if you’re managing search for your clients, you can pull that data in and report on it on the spot. And that’s the other request we get—incorporating other data into our system to pull that data into the same system as their offline buys. So we’re going to work on integration—that’s feedback we’re taking to heart and going to make happen.

MM: Can you say more about the actual modules that are available? Originally I think it just started out with radio and print, but in the near past you’ve actually added some other components. Do you want to talk about those briefly?

BG: We’re in version 1 of TV, cable and broadcast. And again we’re taking a bunch of feedback from users to enhance that. We’re probably in version 4 of radio. Print includes magazines and newspapers, but if you look at online, our approach and what we want to represent is local display advertising.

So an example of that right now in our system would be a local newspaper that has pushed their content online, right? They are moving their content online, and some of those content sites have a lot of traffic for their geographies, and they can prove it. A ton of reach and frequency for a particular geography.

MM: I’m all about unique and new media, so I’m your timeline there for architecture. Are you guys going to look at mobile advertising, texting?

BG: Yeah, mobile is a big one. Our approach is this, and it’s a really simple approach—we’re going be the platform to take whatever data is necessary for you to plan budget and report on your media to your clients. At worst case you can enter and create these categories yourself in the tool if they don’t exist.

MM: So I’ll have the ability to customize it myself.

BG: You can customize it yourself, right. Let’s say you customize it and put in information on a billboard company, or say it’s park bench advertising on the busiest street in some city you advertise in for a client. And it just happens to be a great advertisement because of the type of client you have and the traffic that it gets.

So let’s say its park bench advertising and you put that in our system. See, we’re a software as a service, we’re a platform. If that information is not private, and its public, meaning the park bench advertising company wants to sell more advertising to other people, not just you and your clients, we release that for the whole community. So the next time somebody comes into the system, now that company is listed and that category will be listed. That’s where we’re headed.

MM: You’re almost making it like a Wiki, a community.

BG: It’s crowdsourcing, right? That’s the advantage of the platform, crowdsourced by the community. In addition to that we’re going to add some community features onto the tool that allows agencies to rank media outlets.

MM: Oh, watch out for that one!

BG: So the idea is to let you customize your dashboard, customize your reporting.

We’re always going to be developing, enhancing, and we’ve got that built into the cost of our company. And that’s an advantage to customers, too, an advantage of being a SaaS product. With on-premise software, you develop all this functionality, and then you release it and everyone has to get the old version off their desktops or laptops and load the new version, right, and transfer their data into the new version.

In our world, you don’t have to do that, so we can monthly releases and constantly change based on your feedback to enhance the product. And that’s what we’re going to need to do to be competitive and stay ahead, because again, it’s always changing.

Read more from Brian’s interview on Your Ad Here. Check out part 2, Tell the Courier to Fax Me: Adapting to Changing Technology, and part 3, Tacks on the Wall: Finding (and Fitting) Your Target Audience. Learn more about Avenue Right’s web-based media buying software here.

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