Frequently Asked Questions
Find answers to frequently asked questions regarding the Fahlgren Mortine (FM) university-wide contract below.
For purposes of this FAQ, the following terms are defined:
- Agency: A vendor, such as Fahlgren Mortine, that provides media-buying services and may provide creative services.
- Media vendor: A company that sells media spots (e.g., in a newspaper, on a TV/Radio station or on a billboard) directly to a customer (e.g., a university unit).
Q1. Why did the university contract with a designated agency?
Over the past several years, the university has made operational excellence a priority. Operational excellence is about identifying areas to increase efficiency and effectiveness. In order to do so, the university must think differently about how it has historically conducted business and use data to drive decision-making. During the operational excellence review of communications and marketing practices university-wide, conducted by University Communications (UC), media-buying services were identified as an area with high potential to optimize and modernize business practices in order to increase both efficiency and effectiveness.
A university-wide contract serves multiple purposes:
- Ensures brand consistency: Allows all assets associated with UB to have a consistent and cohesive look aligned with the university’s branding across all schools/units.
- Enables cost efficiencies: We are able to take advantage of scale when everyone is using the same agency.
- Saves time: Neither you nor the procurement office has to submit RFQs or RFPs for your projects. You can begin your project almost immediately.
- Increases effectiveness: Allows units access to the expertise of a seasoned agency that is capable of providing in-depth data to drive decisions. This means that each dollar invested will get a higher return on investment.
Q2. What are the benefits of using a designated agency?
There are numerous benefits to using a university-wide agency, a few of which include:
- Access to expertise and data for more informed decision-making. UB’s designated agency, Fahlgren Mortine (FM), possesses the research tools and expertise to analyze how target audiences consume media; they can help UB units identify the right paid media channels to connect with target audiences.
- Vendor relationships. FM already has established relationships with many vendors that small companies would not otherwise benefit from. For example, the agency maintains human contact with representatives at both Facebook and Google to troubleshoot issues with ad delivery, placements and other challenges that often arise with these platforms.
- Industry expertise. FM is very familiar with higher education, having worked with several colleges and universities nationwide, and has deep knowledge of the University at Buffalo. The company is also able to leverage key learnings and inspiration from other industries, such as health care, tourism and technology.
- Quality and reliable ad placement. FM utilizes preventative measures to ensure paid media campaigns are not infected with fraudulent traffic that artificially inflates ad metrics. FM’s services ensure valid “human” views and engagement with paid ads. In addition, the placement, display and integrity of the ad is guaranteed by FM, thus ensuring the ad is properly displayed in the purchased media.
- Brand integration and consistency. FM is extremely familiar with the university’s branding and can develop ad campaigns in a holistic manner, thus offering solutions that are integrated and cohesive yet still targeted toward an individual unit’s goals and objectives.
- Continuous monitoring to achieve greater ROI. Measurement is crucial to understanding the effectiveness of the media placements and the overall spend. It also helps optimize your budget parameters.
- Attainment of reputational, enrollment and business goals through a coordinated, consistent and collaborative approach to paid media.
- Time and cost efficiency. You have the ability to begin working with FM immediately upon submission of a media brief (no RFQ is required). FM can negotiate more favorable pricing based on buying larger amounts of media.
- Low contractual risk. Limits risk to the university by working directly with one vendor that has agreed to the New York State terms and conditions.
- University Communications is on hand to provide consultative services as needed.
Q3. How do I start working with FM?
You begin by filling out a short media brief. The media brief will help FM best understand your goals, objectives, budget, audience, geographies and timing. FM will schedule a kickoff call to review the brief with you and/or your team. FM will then formulate a strategic plan along with recommendations (including tactics, monitoring, etc.) that will be presented to you and/or your team. The cost breakout for the various facets will be included in this presentation. (Please refer to the step-by-step procedures for more detailed information.)
Q4. What types of costs/fees are associated with using FM?
The cost of using FM will be determined by the scope of the strategic plan FM outlines in response to your creative brief, as described above in the answer immediately above.
- The exact costs will be fully transparent and outlined in the proposed strategic plan. Recommendations will be thoroughly discussed and the plan agreed upon before moving forward. Each proposed recommendation (i.e., tactic/channel) will have its own cost and analytical measurement data (e.g., number of expected impressions), so you can clearly see the return on investment for each recommendation.
- FM charges an hourly rate for media planning, buying, monitoring and creative services.
- FM charges a percentage commission rate on media placement services.
- The hourly rate and the commission rate are set by FM’s contract with the university and will not vary by unit.
- The total cost will vary in accordance with the complexity of a unit’s plan. The unit’s cost is based on the hours needed to complete the elements of the plan and the cost of the media purchased.
- Please contact University Communications if you have specific questions about costs and the contract rates.
Q5. What if I’m already working with an agency for media buys and creative services? Can I continue to use this agency and not FM?
If the agency you work with provides the same services that FM provides, you will need to work with FM through the university-wide contract. The one exception is creative services. You may continue to work with your agency for creative services, which includes ad design, copywriting, website development, etc. We are aware that every unit has unique needs. We have every confidence that FM will be able to get up to speed quickly and provide exceptional service to your unit. University Communications is available to ensure a smooth transition from your current agency to FM.
Q6. What if I am in a contract with another agency? How do I start to work with FM?
If you are in a contract or formal agreement with another agency, please contact University Communications and Procurement Services. Together, we will discuss how you can best transition to FM while adhering to any current contractual obligations.
Q7. Am I still able to use my short list of media vendors for digital, traditional paid media placements? I have a relationship with them and they understand my business model best.
Relationships with our media vendors are very important, and many units have spent years cultivating those relationships. FM are experts in their field; they understand the value of long-term relationships and will place a priority on preserving those relationships. Please include in the media brief any current media vendor relationships FM should be aware of. You will discuss these relationships during the kickoff call with FM, and a plan will be developed as to how the relationships can move forward.
Q8. I get a special discounted rate with the media vendors I use because of our long-standing relationships. Why can’t I continue to purchase directly from them?
Relationships are very important to the university, and we know they can take time and effort to develop; they often lead to value-adds or special discounts that are only available to the university. FM understands the value these relationships bring and is invested in protecting them. When working with FM, please be sure to include detailed information about these vendor relationships and any special rates or value-adds that the university has historically received. FM will work with you to develop a plan to maintain your relationship along with any special pricing or value-adds.
Q9. What if the fees I am paying my agency or media vendors are lower than the contracted price with FM?
When selecting an agency to perform the services that FM provides, several factors were considered in addition to price, including quality of the work, experience in higher education, and monitoring and measurement capabilities. If you feel that your agency can provide superior services and is quoting you a lower price, please submit all information to University Procurement and University Communications for a review of your pricing and services versus the university-wide contractual pricing and services. We will provide feedback and next steps.
Q10. Does this apply to the purchase of limited, one-time targeted ads on social media?
If your social media ad is a one-time purchase of less than $500 - not to exceed five one-time purchases per year - you may proceed with using a Pcard to purchase directly. However, you must follow the process outlined within the contract addendum first for approval.
Q11. I spend $200 a month on social media boosted posts. Does this qualify for purchase outside of the contract?
Yes, because you are still spending within the $2,500 per year maximum.
Q12. Does this apply to ads received through event or program sponsorships?
If the event or program sponsorship is a one-time purchase of less than $500, you may proceed directly with the vendor. However, you must follow the process outlined within the contract addendum first for approval.
Q13. My unit sponsors an external organization each year by purchasing admission to an event hosted by the organization. As part of the event’s registration fee we receive a table for ten attendees and a full-page promotional acknowledgement in the event program. Does this need to go through the contract?
No, this does not. The sponsorship is primarily for the support of the entity and pays for the admission to the event. The promotional acknowledgement in the event program is an opportunity for your unit to recognize the entity for the work that they do, communicate UB’s relationship with that entity, and foster good-will—it is not considered a media buying opportunity for the purpose of marketing the university or its units.
Q14. Should this contract be used to advertise for faculty and staff positions?
No, this contract is not for staff or faculty recruitment. Please refer to information provided by Human Resources in the Recruitment Toolkit.
Q15. When working with FM, will all creative services automatically be included in the media planning and buying?
Creative (development of ad copy, images, videos, etc.) is not included. You have several options for your creative needs:
- Develop in-house: FM will advise on specs required by each channel.
- Sub-contract to a freelancer, with specs provided by FM.
- Request creative services from FM. If you choose this option, include the request in your media brief; FM will advise on the costs of all assets when they present the plan.
Q16. Do I have to use FM for creative services?
No, you do not. The FM contract is for media planning, buying, placement and monitoring services. As part of the contract, you may elect to use FM for creative services in support of your media buy, but that’s optional.
Q17. Which funding source can I use under this contract?
You can use State, Research Foundation (RF) or UBF funding sources.
Q18. What if I’m not sure whether FM can provide the services I need?
Please review the comprehensive list of services provided under the FM contract. If you still have questions, you may contact University Communications or Procurement Services for clarification.
Q19. Who was on the RFP committee responsible for the selection of FM?
Every effort was made to assemble a committee representing a cross-section of the university. Those who served on the committee include:
- School of Management: Courtney Walsh
- School of Dental Medicine: Ed Morrison
- Enrollment Management and Educational Affairs: Dawn Reed
- School of Law: Lisa Mueller
- Student Life: John Lambert
- School of Engineering and Applied Sciences: Sarah D’Iorio
- Division of Athletics: Elaine Russell
- Division of University Communications: Jeff Smith, Elena Conti-Blatto, Devon Jerla
Q20. I have more questions. Who do I contact?
Please reach out to University Communications for any further questions.