In 2017, we came to a realization: Our jobs should be easier. We worked on opposite ends of the advertising and media buying process. Lynn came from the buy side as a digital media manager at Macy’s, who had also previously handled agency work. Mollie was on the sales side, working at AdTheorent as director of New York ad sales [O1] and managing a team of sales reps. We were frustrated—we knew our industry well but kept thinking, “This is ridiculous, why is this [buying and selling] process so difficult? It shouldn’t be that complicated to understand what is out there and how much it costs.”
As many in the industry know well, the process of direct sales is time-consuming. It is inefficient and very cost-intensive. If you are selling, you need to hire a whole staff to go after clients, but the win-rate is extremely low at just 20 percent. Often when you don't win business, it's because you can't get in front of the agency for a meeting, or they didn't realize you also could do “X” because they thought of you only as “Y.” Why wasn’t there a space where sellers could promote their media company, showcase everything they can offer, to ensure they are always being considered, when relevant, by advertisers with the budget to deploy.
On the ad buying side, the process for partnering directly with a great media company is still really old school—writing out a manual brief, individually emailing different partners. Regardless of whether you're at a large client or an agency, teams big and small take about a hundred hours culling through options and dealing with individual back-and-forth information-gathering. As a buyer, why wasn’t there one place that you could go to learn about your options on your own, have access to information on demand and educate yourself in order to make faster decisions?
Our solution was BrandVerge. Our whole goal was to make it easier and more efficient to plan premium media partnerships—not only offering people more access, but also giving everyone the ability to plan much faster and waste less time. The platform we created streamlines the RFP process and gives both sides of the media ecosystem the ability to find, buy and sell premium partnerships at scale—in many instances in less than half the time. We’ve found that most of the programs on our platform are planned 60 percent faster than the normal RFP process, and our win-rate is more than double the industry standard, at 43 percent. The sales cycle is shorter too, at just around 45 days.
A better way to pod
Now, imagine doing all of those hundreds of hours of work for a new or emerging market that you’re less familiar with, such as podcasting. It’s a confusing space, and soon after launching we started getting a lot of requests for help with podcasts. Buyers would come in and say, "My client is asking about podcasts, and I really don't know where to begin." For example, are individual podcasts represented by someone? Is it better to go for the larger parent company or only the podcasts in the demographic the advertiser wants?
What we’ve found is that people actually will come in and search for a particular audience of listeners, and a certain media type. Most partners want custom host reads, and they want to make sure that they're going to be targeting a certain audience, whether it's C-suite or business executives, sports enthusiasts or fashion and retail, and then they'll narrow things down from there. It's all about discoverability, with both sides saying, “I’ve never heard of this company, they look really cool,” and leading to “I want to work with them, let me reach out.”
More than half—58 percent—of all searches run on BrandVerge in the first quarter of this year were podcast-specific, and more than a third of all advertiser outreach on the platform is now podcast-specific RFPs. Sellers want an opportunity to be considered and be top of mind when they're unable to be in front of a buyer physically, and buyers rely on our ability to give them quick information—and quick wins.
One company that has found a lot of success with this process is Her Campus Media, a media and marketing company focused on college-aged Gen Z women. Her Campus uses our provided analytics well and adapts quickly to how they see advertisers behaving and engaging with the platform. In one win, they were able to get in front of an athletic brand that they’d been targeting for years but hadn’t been able to reach. In another, they launched a whole sustainability content hub with a partner they might never have considered (Earthbound), and the project was so successful that the companies immediately began planning their next, longer-term collaboration.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, we're seeing increases across the board in terms of the number of proposals that are uploaded and the amount of activity coming from both sides of the platform. As media plans need to pivot based on everything that's going on, they appreciate having a platform where they can find something quickly and get it into market within a week, versus slogging through the offline RFP process.
We have always been rooted in developing our platform and its tools based on what our customers tell us they need, and making the immense world of media buying easier to navigate was part of that mindset. If one platform can proactively surface the terms and information that both sides of the marketing landscape needs, and do it in a template that's easy to digest, it democratizes that access for everyone.