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Picture: 123RF/dolgachov
Picture: 123RF/dolgachov

Digital marketing is by far the most popular choice for brands looking to reach existing and new customers. However, using digital media like Google, Facebook, or LinkedIn to promote a brand can be pricey.

The reason digital media marketing works so well is because it can be tracked, unlike other more traditional above-the-line marketing forms like TV, radio or print advertising. Nobody likes to part with hard-earned cash, so it’s important to consider carefully who you partner with to run your digital media campaign. And to do this one must ask the right questions.  Here are seven.

What services do you offer?

Look for an agency that either offers a group of specialist functions running congruently or specialises in a specific function. This reduces the ability to hide poor performance across services and ensures that all suppliers are working towards the same goals but are measured independently.

How do you define and measure media performance?

There are many ways to answer this question, but I suggest looking for a partner that focuses on performance gains consecutively, with a key performance indicator of a business-aligned goal that can be improved on over time.

What factors will affect the media performance?

This question shows whether your media partner understands the integrated factors affecting their delivery and how those can, and should be, mitigated to achieve their performance.

Do you have a risk model or incentive structure to propose?

The best in the game often have a view and an understanding of how to drive performance for a business. This shows they understand and are aligned with your business needs and have some skin in the game. There are some complexities that link back to the performance levers and the dependency on other partners, but these can be defined in advance, and it helps the marketing manager understand the key elements to manage between partners.

How do you charge?

This is a tough question that will have many different answers. Most, if not all, are valid and fair. I would look for an answer that is between a set cost to cover overheads as well as the servicing of the account, and a performance-driven percentage that will promote alignment to the business.

If the fee is particularly complex and large, a percentage of media spend would also be applicable. Percentages that are set on fluctuating budgets are a red flag, especially if that is the only method of structuring the amount. Long, predefined media spends and commitments to a channel would also be of concern, as it means transparency in the pricing structure may be lacking.

Ryan Sauer. Picture: Supplied
Ryan Sauer. Picture: Supplied

Can you share your list of media partners, direct and programmatic, as well as the transparency of media buying with me?

What does this mean, and why would you ask this question? This is a longer and more involved conversation, but the crux of it is that if your media partner is charging a management fee for buying media and your agreement is that there should be no further costs, you have the right to ask your media partner for insertion orders or for a view of the media channels they are managing on your behalf.

If it is transparent, access should not be a challenge. I have seen too many accounts in which media are arbitraged into the reporting and the media partners are taking extra margin. This question also lets you see the breadth of media reach your partner could and would offer.

Do you have a client in this category at present or have you ever had one in it? If you had a client in the past, is the team that worked on that client still in the business?

I am not convinced that media buying should have exclusivity from running category competitors. In many countries and sectors agencies have more than one or two competing brands.

I also do not want to know that you have “experience” on a previous brand in my category, but that the people that have that experience are not with the business any more. This is often missed in the way the question is asked and how the prospective agency partner answers.

While there are many more questions one should be asking a prospective digital media partner, these seven should be enough for you to shortlist your top few.

Ryan Sauer is the MD of King James Digital.

The big take-out:

Look for a partner that focuses on performance gains consecutively with a key performance indicator of a business-aligned goal that can be improved on over time.


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