POV: The New Era of Forecasting Availability

Maximize revenue by managing ad space with precision

Forecasting ad inventory availability—especially for your business’s highest-value real estate—is a crucial aspect of campaign planning for any media company. Yet, a complex, ever-expanding product portfolio, combined with constant inventory flux and scattered spreadsheets, has made forecasting availability notoriously tricky for publishers. 

“Think of all the time-based inventory out there,” said Jeremy Hines, Enterprise Account Director at Boostr. “Or your most highly prized inventory. You have to know how that inventory is selling, how it will sell, and what you have left—and you should know in real time. Forecasting availability is visibility.” 

After more than 15 years in media bringing data-driven insights to publishers, Hines has lots of wisdom to share on how businesses can scale through revenue management and forecast accuracy that grows the top and bottom lines.

Inventory forecasting challenges

The multifaceted nature of forecasting availability has kept many Sales and Ad Ops teams from maximizing revenue—and avoiding the headaches of double-booking and under-delivery.

The issues begin with the inventory. Most teams pull inventory avails from ad servers and build media plans based on that information, returning later to book them. Yet, during the time between pitching a media plan to booking it and going live, avails inevitably change, putting many media plans at risk. Unfortunately, most systems don’t force sellers to recheck real-time avails before selling through. The results? Oversold inventory and products sold for less than their maximum value, creating conflict internally and with clients. 

“Things get especially tricky when you have audience targeting overlap,” Hines said. For example, you might have enough pre-roll inventory to meet the demand of an advertiser who wants to reach Gen Y women, but only if other campaigns targeting a similar audience don’t book it first. “You want to understand how these overlaps impact each other and whether the ad server can still deliver what you’ve booked. How can you trust your forecast when it is so complex?” 

The human element can add havoc to an already complicated environment when proactive Ad Ops staff bumps certain clients and campaigns up in priority. “When people try to do the work of the ad server, deciding what is the best ad to place at the right time, things can get hairy,” Hines said. 

“Add to this the difficulty of trying to manage all this in Excel,” Hines added, “which isn’t plugged in. That means you’re relying on people, to be honest, remember to update it, and hold inventory business rules.”

Changing the status quo

New technologies are elevating the possibilities of availability forecasting, making things like category exclusivity for high-value SKUs attainable and actionable, giving publishers a competitive advantage. “You can’t indicate category exclusivity on a spreadsheet,” Hines was quick to note. 

With connected systems that break down data silos and unify CRM, OMS, and ad server information, the software can also generate sales and sponsorship calendars tied to inventory. With this robust data, it is easy to indicate if a product is CPM- or time-based, filter calendars by product type, and gauge availability for specific time periods. 

With an accessible audit history, pricing becomes more strategic. “You can make much better packaging decisions,” Hines said. “If there’s lots of interest in a placement, it's obvious when to raise rates. But you can only know that there was lots of interest if you have a system that shows every time a product was pitched, something you won’t see in an Excel sheet that gets continually overwritten as things are held and released. When you have data behind these things, you can do analytics to land on the right pricing strategies at the right time—which can significantly improve revenue.”

Best practices for improved availability forecasts

For most publishers, this level of strategic forecasting is aspirational but feels out of reach. Many have tried solutions designed to ease inventory woes and make planning more forward-looking and tactical. However, they have found them extremely complex and struggled to ensure that their teams actually use them. “Implementation is hard, and when a software is so complex, it doesn’t really deliver the value it needs to,” Hines said. 

New technologies like Boostr are designed with today’s Sales organizations in mind. Intuitive, customizable, and straightforward, Boostr’s sales calendars are easy to create and put to use. Once your business has settled on the right technology to predict availability, Hines has a few best practices to follow for the best results, such as: 

  • Define business rules. Create clear triggers, rules, and expectations for all aspects of selling. — Establishing protocols—for when ads can be booked and placed, when yield specialists must look at results, and exceptions for these processes—will guide the use of the software and how sellers interact with it.
  • Package inventory. “Know what products are in demand and identify like inventory you can sell when that stuff sells out,” Hines suggested. Packaging comparable inventory can have a tremendous impact on a publisher’s bottom line. “When you put money everywhere, not just in one product, it increases revenue holistically—and that is a huge advantage,” Hines noted. 
  • Stay connected. Your OMS, CRM, and ad server must connect for maximum ROI. Those solutions must also all connect to “where you can manage bad behavior—where you can look at audit history, where you can make sure people are respecting business rules,” Hines said. This matters because “good behavior internally can get you 99% of the way there—but you need technology to support that good behavior.” 
Boostr was designed by former media executives for media businesses, with all the features that support success in such a dynamic environment. “The bottom line is that people want inventory and forecasts they can trust,” Hines said. Boostr makes that possible. 

Ready to take availability forecasting to the next level? Let’s start a conversation. Book a personalized demo today!


Boostr is the only platform that seamlessly integrates CRM and OMS capabilities to address the unique challenges of media advertising. With boostr, companies gain the unified visibility necessary to effectively manage, maximize and scale omnichannel ad revenue profitability with user-friendly workflows, actionable insights, and accurate forecasting.

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