Is automated trading a risk to your Rate Card?

The Rate Card has formed an integral part of the Out-of-Home landscape since the very first billboard was sold. As defined by 2019 DOOH Glossary of Terms, a Rate Card is “a document provided by a media owner/publisher with its rates for advertising. It may also detail any deadlines, demographics, policies, additional fees and artwork specifications.”

But as we all know, Rate Cards are usually used less as a hard and fast rule book, and more as the starting point of a conversation and relationship between a buyer and seller. In the traditional way of selling Out-of-Home media, a media owner sales representative then has an opportunity to offer discounts or bespoke conditions depending on the buyer. And of course, this offers the buyer an opportunity to negotiate in return.

With the digitisation of OOH inventory and advancements in Adtech, media owners are now gaining access to the opportunities that have been tantalisingly close for so long. Connecting with automated and programmatic buyers, in particular, hold the promise of new revenue streams, big advancements in speed and efficiency and more flexible ways to buy.

What’s the risk?

Like any great opportunity, connecting with automated buyers is not completely without risk. Yes, allowing buyers to access live avails and the ability to purchase more granular campaigns is going to reward media owners. However, without that experienced media exec in between, there is a potential risk to your traditional Rate Card.

The same as any good negotiator, a buyer’s automated system is wired to seek out opportunities and loopholes for discounts. Sometimes they’ll find them where a media owner might not be willing to offer them. But, unlike a human negotiator, it will do this faster than you can say automation, giving media owners very little opportunity to react.

But, never fear, as there’s a solution that means you can have your cake and eat it too.

Restructure your Rate Card

Before you connect with automated systems, all you need to do is ensure your Rate Card is structured to handle the modern world of OOH trading. That way you can make the most of all that automated trading offers with the peace of mind that your commercials are protected. Given every media owner and buyer is different, this will probably be unique to you. At least, that’s been our experience.

For example, one of the big benefits of DOOH is the ability to sell more flexibly. Pricing your Rate Card by the hour (or a similar time-block) rather than the traditional fortnight or four-week period, not only allows you to sell more flexibly, but also lets you set a price that accurately reflects the value of that space. For example, you might have an advertiser who is, say, only interested in hitting hungry workers looking for lunch at 1pm on a busy High Street. This peak lunchtime slot could be priced higher than, say, the same panel at 10am on a Tuesday. The buyer is happy as they’ve been able to select the exact times they’re after, with less waste. And the seller is happy as they’ve sold the space for a price that reflects it’s actual worth.

But perhaps most importantly as we make the transition to automated buying, structuring your Rate Card this way protects media owners from automated buyers looking for and finding loopholes. For example, a buyer unlocking a weekly discount for purchasing one hour per day for a whole week! On the flip side, buyers are given more flexible incentives for gaining true discounts, such as purchasing enough one-hour slots over a longer period to access the weekly discount.

So automated trading does run a risk to the traditional Rate Card. But if media owners are clever and invest a bit of time to evolve their Rate Card structure, it has the potential to open up opportunities and make the medium more accessible and appealing to all advertisers and buyers.

For more information and advice on preparing your OOH business for automated trading, get in touch.