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Set the right requirements when creating a public procurement for advertisng

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Since the start in 2010, Keeparo House of Employer Branding has helped many businesses within the public sector. Paid advertising for employer communication on social and digital channels is often part of the work that HR and Marketing/Communication do in the public sector today, and with that, they also need to create procurement requirements for these services.

Carrying out these procurements and setting the right requirements can be difficult if you do not have detailed knowledge of the service you wish to purchase. Given the massive amount of work that goes into evaluating different suppliers, it is a prerequisite to have a well-designed requirement specification to not end up comparing suppliers like apples and pears.

"We see all too often that procurement documents open up to incomparable tenders, which could have been avoided from the beginning by, for example, a market survey that ensures the requirements are properly adapted to the procurement object.", says Peter Riiga and Fanny Fernlöf, experts in public procurement at the Swedish law firm Cederquist.

But the market is filled with different suppliers, and they all seem to say the same thing - so what is important to consider in a procurement of advertising in social and digital channels? How do you create a good specification of requirements and ensure that the invested money gives optimal results? Below follows a guide to which components you should consider in the requirements specification when a public procurement of this kind is made.

  1. Clear requirement specification of the product
    Since this is advertising with a third-party supplier and that the marketing money should be determined based on the budget and what result you are asking for; it is very important to have a clear explanation of the product you are aiming to procure. Clarify what the purpose is with your advertisements on social and digital channels, what you wish to achieve and how long you wish to have the advertisement live. There is, for example, a big difference in advertising for 3 days compared to 2–3 weeks. Results differ and so does also the budget that should be spent on your advertising. In cases where it is difficult to know how long you wish to advertise, it is recommended to give 2 different ranges as suggestions to see how the prices differ depending on the duration of the campaigns.

    The same applies when it comes to the choice of channels. Where you want to be seen also plays a big role, the different channels vary in cost and are used for different purposes depending on which target group you wish to attract. There is no reason to assume that, for example, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn are needed for all your ads for a year on from now. A good supplier guides you in the choice of channel and gives recommendations based on the best way to ensure that your money is spent most efficiently. The different channels also have different types of products. At LinkedIn you can, for example, choose from different marketing options including everything from a sponsored post to Premium Jobs. In the requirements specification, you should therefore be clear about what type of product you wish to procure.

    Key take away: Set clear requirements for the procurement item. You cannot be too clear in what you wish to procure. The more details, the easier it is for you to distinguish between the suppliers and save yourself both time and effort in the evaluation process. 

  2. Set demands for results
    A half page in a newspaper cost less than a full page, a spread in a local newspaper is cheaper than in a national newspaper. This makes total sense to many! And the same applies to the social and digital channels – you get what you pay for. The more money you spend on marketing, the more people you reach. The challenge for the supplier is to deliver good quality at the lowest possible price. There are general guidelines from all platforms as to what an advertiser should spend for it to be "worth" being seen.

    Key take away: Be clear about your expectations on what you buy. Make demands on how many people your ad should reach if your goal with the marketing is to create awareness. And if the goal is to generate actual conversions, for example in the form of applications, you must set demands on the numbers you expect.

  3. Set requirements for how your advertisement should be distributed
    Several suppliers today have partnerships with the social and digital channels, and it is therefore worth evaluating how such types of partnerships work. At LinkedIn, it is for example possible to buy 4 different types of ads. Job Slots, Premium Job Ads, sponsored Posts and Job Ads with paid bidding. A partnership with LinkedIn means that the provider offers Premium Job Ads which have the same high quality as Job Slots. The only difference between Job Slots and Premium Job Ads is that Job Slots are sold as annual subscriptions via LinkedIn and Premium Job Ads can be purchased individually or in packages directly through their Partners. Marketed or sponsored posts mainly aim to spread the word about you as an employer and not to convert job applications. When procuring job advertisements, it is therefore not marketed posts that are most suitable. The fourth option on paid advertising is job ads with bidding. These job advertisements are not as highly prioritized as a Premium Job advertisement or a Job Slot.

    Key take away: Set requirements for how you want to advertise. Evaluate what it is you are buying and the purpose. For example, if you want to convert applications via Linkedin, a requirement for Premium Job Ads is recommended.

  4. Set requirements for experience
    Experience is about the supplier's habit of delivering large volumes as a company, to a good quality, and at the same time having healthy finances. When it comes to experience, there are components that are of great importance as public procurement usually includes large volume handling. If the supplier itself cannot handle the large volume, there is also the risk of a third part demanding their cut of the deal.

    Key take away: Set requirements for references regarding similar assignments where the reference must be able to certify that the assignment has been performed in accordance with the agreement and with the expected quality.

  5. Set requirements for the right competence
    The result of the service you buy depends on marketing money and on the competence of the supplier's staff. To get the maximum return per invested penny, a high level of competence is needed from the person doing the work. Consultative advice regarding copy, images, video etc. is crucial for your marketing to succeed. One ad is not the same as the other, one target group differs from another. Knowing how to target your specific target group and what attracts them is therefore also crucial. This requires competence and trained advertisers within social and digital media. There are certifications within the platforms that is there to ensure that the specialists who are actively working on this have the right skills. These certifications are personal and not linked to a supplier.

    Key take away: Set requirements on CVs for those who work with the advertising at the supplier. This to ensure the required competence regarding design as well as analysis, distribution, tracking and management.

  6. Evaluate both price and quality 
    Cheap is rarely best - especially not when you buy services from suppliers who in turn must buy the advertising itself from a third party. Here, there is a big difference between buying, for example. a newspaper ad direct from the newspaper, where a page will reach just as many regardless of the price paid. When procuring marketing in social and digital channels, a service is purchased from a supplier who does not own the channel they are to distribute your marketing in. This means that a price that is too low – a price that does not reflect the actual cost of advertising – means that fewer individuals will see your ad. The challenge here is to get a good price based on the requested quality and results. For that reason, procurements should not only be evaluated on price but also on quality. As a procurer, you should also bear in mind that different target groups are different expensive to reach.

    Key take away: Demand transparency from the supplier and a guarantee of how many you will reach on average. A good supplier is open about what results you will get for your investments.

  7. Platform for advertising
    Today there are requirements for the supplier to provide external tools that extract data on users from the social and digital platforms to match the candidates between the different channels. This even though no such tool exists on the market. Furthermore, according to, among other things, the social communication platforms, it is not legal or possible to extract user-level data that matches users regardless of platform.

    "A requirement that turns out to be in conflict with legislation is seen as disproportionate and thus risks being subject to unnecessary review",
    says Peter Riiga and Fanny Fernlöf at Cederquist law firm. Such demands should therefore be avoided.

    There are many companies that have tools that they have developed on their own for creating and publishing marketing on social and digital platforms. Today, however, there is no tool that can compete with the results that marketing through the channels' own advertising tools provides, given that the user is properly trained in the tool.

    Key take away: Require the supplier to be trained in the platforms' own tools. Please also read about what policies the communication platforms themselves have and what limitations exist in their systems in cases where providers automate the publication of marketed advertisements.

Today, the requirements specification for public procurement usually comes out before the opportunity has been given to educate buyers of these services in what they should include in the requirements specification, and many are also doing this type of procurement for the first time. We have produced this guide to spread knowledge about which variables should be considered when public organizations choose a supplier for marketing in social and digital channels. With an industry that is relatively new and a service that is complex, it is difficult, but even more important, to set clear and correct requirements for the supplier. Everyone can be the cheapest – the only question is how well the invested money is managed and what you see as a good result.

Keeparo House of Employer Branding in consultation with Advokatfirman Cederquist

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