Online ad sales: How to make the best media packs

Media packs may not seem an exciting subject but they are among the most important marketing and promotion tools for publishers and media owners.

We canvassed insights from our own online advertising sales experts and several London ad agencies to provide some top tips about what separates a compelling media pack from a useless one.

What is a media pack?

In the advertising sales world, a media pack is a means for a publisher to tell advertisers about their website and why they should advertise there. Ideally, a media pack is a short document that grabs attention in order to attract advertising for your publication.

They generally explain what content is featured on the website, the size and demographics of the site’s audience, plus some ideas of sponsorship opportunities. You can keep it snappy or extend it with various other pages that dig down or expand these elements.

Format: PDF or online microsite

For a long time media kits were in Powerpoint presentation form (often with the final document known as a deck), as they were generally the prelude to a meeting and even printed out in ye olden days.

They are commonly put into pdf format these days, but to make them more attractive and function even better for advertisers and ad agencies, you can put your entire media kit on your website, preferable with its own subdomain or micro-site.

This allows the recipient to have a quick but insightful glance or a deep dive into audience stats, features lists and other calendar items. You don’t need to be a massive national newspaper to host yours online and so be able to include videos and other digital bells and whistles. And a cheap cheat if you don’t have the time and money for that would be to put a big media pack on as it provides a better viewing experience than a very long pdf.

guardian advertising microsite

Examples of media packs

Looking at some examples from well-known publications, The Times still has a media pack in pdf form – and doesn’t share much about its audience stats until the eighth page. Many big names still have their in pdf form – such as Hello!

For an example of some of the best online media packs, see the Guardian‘s site as a prime example, or the Economist’s for a numbers-heavy one. The Financial Times’ slick AdVantage microsite is another. It has a punchy first page strapline ‘world’s most desirable audience, with the largest purchasing power and highest net worth’ and a link to click straight from there to get more information: a video on the product, audience data and the group’s various products.

A relative media newcomer, Vice’s full media pack deck is in pdf form, is very well designed and is very long as it has so many sub-brands online, in magazines, TV and even a pub. It quickly tells us that Vice is the world’s fastest growing youth media company and sharply gets right into top-line numbers for its audience size and demographics. Then it delves deeper with information on all its sub brands such as Motherboard, i-D, Noisey and specs and sponsorship options, ad creative options, social media campaigns, the lot.

Even though it doesn’t host display adverts and is focused on ‘native’ ad contents, Buzzfeed’s online version of a media pack is a relatively simple webpage but skillfully designed to be clear and highlight the site’s arresting opportunities to reach its 200-million-plus monthly uniques, half of which are in the key 18-34 age bracket, and its strong social media credentials. Many pages have clickable links for more details and there’s always the menu offering About, Products, Success Stories, Resources and Contact along the top.

media packs example Buzzfeed

What needs to be included in a media pack?

The exact specifications and requirements of a media pack vary between types of publication. How they should look and how much information should be included is subjective, of course. So for those looking for help and advice I’ve gathered loads of expert opinions from seasoned salespeople here at The Internet Works, together with the views of several people who receive media packs at London ad agencies.

There was a general agreement over what should be included in a media pack and how it should look, but a number of different tweaks that each preferred.

“They must be short, sharp and snappy – you really just need the key information on the audience, the demographics and maybe also the features, advantages and benefits – the FABs,” says TIW sales director Kelvin McManus.

While he conceded that complex products needed more pages, he likes to stick to four pages maximum. “Page one is the intro. Two is on the audience. Three, maybe images or other visual stuff. And last maybe a rate card, just the headline numbers,” he said, as he uses media packs only as a tool to entice a media agency and set up a meeting.

Business development manager Matthew Ridley agrees a basic rate card is helpful. “I know some others don’t do this but I think people should have an idea of costs up front and I think it gets the ball rolling on money.” Matt also suggests keeping pages to single digits but suggests adding one or two case studies or testimonials can be vital.

TIW sales director John Waterson is also a big fan of adding testimonials from satisfied advertisers. “People don’t like to take risks as much these days, so testimonials offers some extra reassurance.”

“Trust issues, for smaller publishers, is something they come up against. People don’t like taking risks. Anything you can do to back up with facts – that’s why I really like testimonials from existing or previous advertisers. You get papers and magazines using ABC audits and we use comScore for data, it’s like a testimonial from an industry source.”

media pack examples - Buzzfeed testimonials

Testimonials: Buzzfeed scroll-down online media pack has a long list of Success stories that you can click for more details

…but focus on what advertisers want to know

With documents that you send out there into ad agency land, you have to think about different types of people there are in the world, advises John.

“Some people are ‘big picture’ and some are all about fine details,” he explains. “I often think about where I used to work as we had a CEO and the finance director who were perfectly opposite in this way. The CEO, if you gave him too much detail he’d switch off, but the FD wanted detail and got suspicious if there wasn’t any.”

He points to the Guardian media pack as one that provides the Big Picture reader with a clear visual of an important audience number for a quick top-level skim, and then for the Details people there is a link to click through to drill down into more detail.

One senior planning executive at a mid-sized London media agency, who we spoke to for this blog, agrees that verifiable facts and figures are the main thing her eye seeks out in a media pack. “The key thing for me when I look at a media pack is circulation number and then I’m looking for who the auditor of that number, to verify the information,” she says. “It’s really handy to have specs and delivery details in there too, a rate card can help too.”

Craig Surace, an account manager at media agency Maxus, who works with at the intersection between media owners and advertisers on a day-to-day basis so is a perfect specimen for this subject, suggests having two types of media pack.

“The first is a one-pager that shows the USP of your website or publication and how what you are offering can help the agency and client,” he says. “Then you should have a second version always on file that has much more detail with all the bells and whistles.”

He says to keep this more detailed second version held back because media agencies are so fast-paced and receive so much incoming mail – and a lot of cold emails – that the initial contact needs to grab attention quickly. “Your point needs to be short and succinct, you will only get maximum two minutes to show worth, especially if it is a cold contact,” Craig advises.

“If the site is going to be put forward for a campaign, the agency will then need much more detailed information and usually pretty quickly. Having a more detailed backup deck will make their lives and yours so much easier. If you have a digital offering, links to examples within the one pager are actually really handy, especially if your USP is based on visuals, like formats, environments, user experiences, etc.”

The online media pack from The Register may be a bit busy but the big red number grabs your attention nicely

The online media pack from The Register may be a bit busy but the big red number grabs your attention nicely

Ad agency likes and dislikes about media packs

Our research from other ad agency folk found that media packs are, as Craig says, often genuinely appreciated in the industry as a useful thing.

Senior planning executive Fiona, says “they’re really handy to have on file with all the information when you need it” but warns her bugbear is packs that have “too much information about how great they are – I just want useful facts and figures”.

Rick, an agency planning director specialising in digital media, says he always asks a company that’s new to him to send a media pack over before he agrees to a meeting, but emphasises how difficult it can be for people like him at media agencies to differentiate with the barrage of emails and calls received.

“So many companies that do pretty much exactly the same thing,” he says. “If we saw every one of them it would take up too much time so media packs give us the opportunity of working out what each one does differently, what they offer, and I try and look for them to provide USPs. Most of them seem to be 15-20 slides, that’s about right. Each one I get sent, I don’t want to spend more than a couple of minutes looking at.”

He adds: “Trying to work out what the company does can be a problem with some – a lot of companies are too fluffy, too vague about what they do exactly. Better ones for me go into detail about how they go about and achieve what they do.

“Case studies are good. A combination of how it functioned in situ and how it worked and looked from a creative point of view, with some results if possible. It does help in planning.”

Philly, also at London planning agency, likes useful and interesting information to put in the file.

“I prefer it when it’s less salesy and more informational, with things about trends or whatever new that’s happening, what the media owner thinks it’s going to be important in that area. If it’s specific to the media owner it’s less useful.

“At agencies time is always tight. The way you remember people is by meeting them but it’s very hard to get a foot in the door.”

That’s hopefully what a good, compelling media pack will do.

Craig at Maxus also is at pains to stress that sending in an expensively printed pack is a waste of time. “Hard copies don’t work! They just kill trees.”

Media packs are not the messiah…

Don’t expect media packs to be your be-all and end-all. In fact, one agency exec admitted that media packs are “really good for fobbing off media vendors”, something many salespeople fear.

“They allow us to tick the box that we’ve got the info and it’s there if we need it. If we’re being contacted by a media vendor and it’s not good for any brief we’re currently working on, but we don’t want to close the door then it’s a good option. We don’t waste their time or our time. There would have to be phone calls and face-to-face for anything to be taken further,” she said.

Contrary to much of the evidence of our research and long time in this sector, another industry player we spoke to argued that “nobody reads media packs” but that they are useful only afterwards to justify decision-making once an ad deal is done. “They are a way of media agencies fobbing off sales people. If they say ‘Can you send me a media pack’ on a phone call it’s just a way of putting salesmen off.”

At TIW one or two salespeople suggest pitching to an agency should not require a hugely detailed media pack, but just enough to say ‘I think this audience is so perfect for you – let’s have a coffee so I can explain’. Then once the deal is in motion, media packs are very useful for the media agency to have on file with audience numbers and other figures that back up the decision-making.

…a media kit needs a salesperson

A media kit is a tool within the marketing plan. Once you have a media kit, you will still need to employ usual sales strategies and pitch to ad buyers to win any advertising. Just sending out an eye-popping media kit will be a start but advertisers are not going to beat a path to your door without taking the time to build relationships, have meetings and engage in the usual to and fro of media sales.

This takes substantial effort, working the phones, pounding the pavements of agency land, with the media kit a powerful tool but of only so much use unless it’s in the hands of a skilled salesperson.

Show and tell – media packs we liked

We asked sales director John to pick out some slides he likes and why.

media packs example

Starting with a trade title where the media pack was moved online and proved very successful. This has a nice opening page, which is matched to the advertisers the pack is aimed at – investment banks and big consultancies. We think it is a good example of matching the content to the target audience.

media packs example 2

A second section of the same pensions pack (above), which looks clean and has a great user interaction, as clicking any of the boxes gives you a little more information, then with another click of a button you can get in touch with the sales team. 

media packs example Vice1

Vice: It’s a pretty cool pack. On the good side, the use of graphics is fantastic, you get a lot of information and it is presented really well. You get a good understanding of what they are offering and is also an example of how the spec sheets can be used well to show examples of clients advertising. The offering across multiple platforms, how you can segment audience, all the targeting and reporting they offer is excellent. The bad, is only a minor one, as there seems to be no contact details of who to follow up with after you have read it and got all excited about their super cool offering, meaning you have to search about on the site.

Media packs example: Vice

This leads us to our final tip - always finish by driving the reader to get in touch.

The only reason anyone has a media pack is because they want to get advertising. So don’t beat around the bush – make it easy for them to get in touch and give your number and email address.

(On that note, feel free to email us TIW with any questions, criticism or praise.)

Other suggestions and further reading

– A page of all your ‘key advertisers’ is pretty powerful idea, graphically indicating the quality of the site by highlighting several well known brands that have been featured, suggests amid an article looking at seven killer media kits. “If you have an impressive list of past advertisers, this type of feature can be a great “social proof” for your media kit takes substantial effort, working the phones, pounding the pavements of agency land, with the media kit a powerful tool but of only so much use unless it’s in the hands of a skilled salesperson.”

– It might not be enough to sell your publication’s benefits to advertisers, suggests Picante Creative in their tips on media packs, so they suggest you go one step further and make it very clear to prospects what it is that makes your publication unique, and why they should advertise with you over a competing title. “For instance, are you taking advantage of a hot new emerging trend? Or tapping into a segment of the market that is currently underserved by magazine publishers? You will likely already know how you plan to position yourself with readers — make sure you communicate that to advertisers as well.”

– Media kits can be useful to all sorts of small business, not just those looking for advertising, says designer Branch as it looks at 10 things that should be included in all media kits. “To be completely honest, I didn’t even know that media kits existed until 2007 when a print magazine hired me to create theirs. I built that first media kit from scratch and the second it hit my portfolio, bloggers started asking for their own versions. Since then, I’ve done dozens of media kits for clients including accessory designers, burlesque performers, wedding photographers and more. In some form or another, every small business needs a media kit.”

– A sponsorship kit can be great for bloggers looking to move up to direct advertising, says theblogmaven, partly as it is a good tool for showing potential sponsors you know what you’re doing. “You might think it’s just dry, boring facts like your Google Analytics stats and your pricing, but if you stop there, you’re selling yourself short. A media kit is an opportunity to show off the best of your blog: your personality, your style, and what makes your blog unique.”


Written by

TIW's head of content. He writes things, mostly content for clients but also TIW blogs. Client content ranges from bespoke web copywriting to business and sports journalism for the likes of ITV, Digital Look, Reuters and the Olympic News Agency.

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