Last week I was granted access to Mediaocean’s new digital pre-buy application, SmartRFP, and was both surprised and impressed by what I saw. This will be the first major new product release since the merger of Donovan and MediaBank. SmartRFP will work with both of existing OX and DDS media billing products and is part of a broader effort by Mediaocean to upgrade and unify all of its systems.
One of the biggest issues with the current digital media planning process is that it involves so many disparate parts. Research is conducted with tools like Comscore, RFPs are composed in Word and Excel, and then vendors are contacted via email, which results in a flood of emails back to the planners to manage and track.
For the first time, SmartRFP aims to roll up that entire workflow into one user interface. SmartRFP offers streamlined tools to build target audiences, create preferred vendor lists, and enable a fully-electronic RFP and IO workflow between buyer and seller. Further, Mediaocean is working with major research companies as it aims to provide planning tools from within SmartRFP.
What makes SmartRFP really interesting is that it provides a recommendation engine feature that offers a ‘buy it now’ functionality for targeted inventory placements. Mediaocean is working with the trading desks of each holding company to be the first partners for the recommendation engine. Mediaocean’s ultimate goal is to build a platform that connects media buyers and sellers, and that includes offering sellers marketing opportunities. For example, inventory listings within SmartRFP link to the media seller’s interactive media kit and other marketing material hosted on the system. SmartRFP will also offer other critical tools for the buyer like campaign analytics to provide mid-point course correction on campaigns.
There are other surprises with the product. Buyers, at an individual level, can “favorite” publishers with whom they have had good experiences and can save “favorite” audience profiles for frequently-bought targets. It is not hard to imagine future enhancements where agencies, collectively, can rank publishers. It would also be great for agencies to get more transparency into publisher pricing across account teams. Finally, a contact list of the sales reps at each publisher would also be a welcome development and eliminate the need for “Does anyone have rep contact info at publisher X” email blasts that go out across agencies.
The application integrates into Mediaocean’s publisher workflow system, Vendor Portal, allowing 41 of the top 50 online publishers to transact electronically with agency buyers. Initially focused on the largest publishers, Vendor Portal will soon include the top 250 publishers to create further efficiency and scale.
SmartRFP has been in market for eight weeks with two agency holding companies and will roll out to two more by the end of this year. “Our goal is to make the buyer’s life as easy as possible and to bring our agency partners a ton of incremental value,” says Steve Woolway, VP of Business Development for Mediaocean.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle in creating a complete, end-to-end planning product is getting point solutions like Google, Facebook and Twitter to become part of the system. For the foreseeable future, buyers will still need to work with those systems separately. Mediaocean also needs to create products that people love to use. Users of systems like Donovan have had a love/hate relationship with the product over the years and great attention will need to be paid to usability in future products. The trend of making business software more consumer-friendly must extend to the media tools that the industry depends on.
But given that Mediaocean is the back-end billing system for the majority of the world’s media transactions, the company is well positioned to make great products and take a good deal of friction out of the media planning process. SmartRFP is an excellent first step in that direction.