The Most Efficient Media Agency RFP Process

Media Buying RFPs and RFIs: Why use them, and what to include

Why is it so important to have an efficient RFP/RFI process when buying media? What does the RFP/RFI need to accomplish, and what should you include?

We go over all of this below. It’s worth pointing out that RFPs don’t always get a lot of love from buyers or sellers — some media agencies go as far as ditching the “much-hated” RFP. If you’re in this category, read on — you might just change your mind about the ROI of well-crafted RFPs and RFIs.

Media Buying RFPs and RFIs: Why use them, and what to include

Media agency RFPs define the scope of work of a media campaign. They help the digital marketing agency in the selection process for their clients’ campaigns. Requests for proposals also help vendors to find an agency partner.

What’s the difference between RFPs and RFIs in media buying?

First, while the two terms are often used interchangeably and both have similar goals, RFPs and RFIs are not the same things. RFP stands for “request for proposal”, while RFI stands for “request for information.”

The subtle difference between the two terms communicates the media buyer’s intent. RFI usually indicates that you are looking for more information, perhaps you’re not yet completely sure what solution will best address your problem. As such, the RFI is often a much more casual document. For instance, if someone focuses on local SEO rather than social media, the agency can navigate their prospective partners with the help of RFIs.

An RFP, on the other hand, is typically more formal in its style of communication and will be preferred by buyers who have a pretty good idea of what solution they need. It doesn’t just inform the media buyer of what’s out there — the job of the RFP is really to narrow the media buyer’s options to the best possible fit.

Why and when to use media agency RFPs/RFIs as a buyer?

No matter which request type you issue, the ultimate benefits of using one for your vendor interactions will be the same. Both RFPs and RFIs give you a method for standardizing how you evaluate potential media vendors, thereby helping you make much better, more objective decisions when it comes to choosing paid media.

You can also think of a request for proposal RFP or RFI as another method of vendor vetting or vendor management. Depending on how you structure your RFP/RFI, vendors will have to provide standardized responses to certain questions, which will put everyone on a level playing field. As such, an RFP/RFI should help you evaluate each potential vendor along with at least 4 key criteria:

  • Vendor transparency and brand safety
  • Targeting capabilities and audience segments
  • Campaign analytics and reporting
  • Optimization capabilities

… plus anything else that may be important to your specific media plan.

Bizly’s Chief Strategy Officer Kevin Iwamoto sums up RFPs and RFIs as “instrumental in enterprise risk mitigation, process standardization, cost savings, and cost avoidance.” In other words — RFPs and RFIs help you make better, less risky decisions. While some may argue that they introduce friction on the seller side, RFPs and RFIs are essential for helping media buyers get their bearings in a complex vendor landscape.

Should you ever skip the RFP/RFI process?

If they’re so useful, why are RFPs/RFIs disliked by some or considered “pretty old-school thinking”? And is any of the criticism warranted?

The RFP, and the RFI especially, are undeniably fantastic tools for media buyers looking to quickly understand and then fairly compare vendors they haven’t worked with before. Naturally, when comparing multiple vendors through a standardized procedure, some of the less tangible aspects of the buyer-seller relationship are removed. This may be why some find the RFP/RFI process less appealing: the value of having a deep working relationship, or a seller’s ability to add strategic insight will be less pronounced through an RFP.

But that by no means undermines the RFP or RFI.

Rather, it clarifies where they’re best used.

Doing initial discovery, figuring out where you’ll get the most ROI from a large number of vendors? Few tools can effectively replace an RFP.

The advantages for media vendors

Media agency RFPs are beneficial for vendors, too. Sure, they can be time-consuming to create but it gives them the opportunity to show the prospective agency beyond the sole media buy. Vendors often create their own media plan and project management.

It also gives the media vendor the chance to share their company background and a dedicated point of contact to establish a working relationship.

Essential elements of a media agency RFP/RFI

One useful way to think about your media agency RFPs and RFIs is as a brief. In other words, what business goals are you aiming to achieve, what problems are you tackling, and what role will the media buy play in reaching your outcomes?

The more thought you put into your RFPs and RFIs, the better the responses from media vendors, and ultimately the better your ROI. So what are the essentials you’ll want to think about?

Most agencies create an RFP template. There are basically two types of information your RFP/RFI should contain: what the potential vendors need to understand about your campaign, and what you want to learn about the vendors.

Some things you’ll want to include for your vendors may be:

  • A background on your company or client
  • An overview of the campaign
  • Key goals and KPIs of the campaign — what you aim to achieve, and how it will be measured
  • What audiences you’re targeting — the more specific, the better
  • Any specific requirements you may have (brand safety, channels, media types, etc.)

Clear answers to the above will help vendors decide if they’re a good potential partner, and thereby filter out RFP responses that are unlikely to be a good fit.

In turn, some of the core things you may want to ask a vendor will include:

  • Where will ads be served? Does the vendor control which supply sources show ads?
  • What processes does the vendor have in place to avoid ad fraud?
  • How strong are the seller’s targeting capabilities? How are they able to target ads (demographic, geographic, psychographic, behavioral)?
  • How do they generate analytics and reporting? Is it done in-house or through a 3rd party? Do they provide real-time reporting?
  • What are the seller’s optimization capabilities? How do they map onto your stated KPIs?

You can use the above as a starting point, but of course make sure to tailor each RFP and RFI to your specific situation.

How to simplify your RFIs/RFPs and expand their distribution.

RFPs and RFIs help media buyers and media sellers stay on the same page — what if you could create them faster, then rapidly distribute them to your existing media partners and discover new media solutions? You can! Try out our free discovery tool for media buyers. At BriefBid, we streamline your RFP/RFI process with existing media partners, and help you instantly discover new, pre-vetted media sellers that fit your campaign requirements. Built to reduce waste in media spending, BriefBid helps media buyers get to ROI quickly.

Plan omni-channel ad campaigns in minutes, send RFPs to your existing vendors,

and discover new media partners. Free for marketers and media teams.

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