Advertising Technology

A Promising Solution to the RFP Mess

Last year I wrote a column entitled “The RFP is 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 fully know why they didn’t get the business.

Fortunately, at the same time that I was writing the column there was a company that was working on the problem. NextMark, the media planning tools company, has decided to take a unique approach to solving the RFP. 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.

In its place, Joe and his team developed a product called “Media Magnet” that turns the RFP process on its head. With Media Magnet, the buyer specifies their needs and it’s the responsibility of the seller to prove that their media program deserves to be in the 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 the buyer rejects the 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 this new process is that it requires a robust platform that sits 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 of a process like this. That’s precisely what NextMark has built: an easy to use, cloud-based system that can be accessed via any web browser.

To date, over two-dozen 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 that 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 their 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 the Media Magnet tool 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.