‘What are we paying agencies for?’ This is a question asked by many media owners and most recently by John Baker in his column about SMI. I understand media owners’ frustration when agencies engage the services of media companies to plan their campaigns, are anti their particular medium, won’t make time to see the media reps and are seen to be driving the commoditisation of media (although the last point I dispute, because I think media owners themselves are just as guilty of that particular sin). But the core issue is that the relationship between agencies and the media is not as strong as it should be and needs to improve.
Part of the solution will be for media owners to pay agencies based on the services they use as opposed to standard commission for everyone. And before you cry about how difficult this will be for accounts, ask yourself if Steve Jobs was wondering about the impact on accounts when he was thinking up new ideas for consumers.
So here are my thoughts on how media owners and their reps can help to improve the relationship.
Show an interest, take ownership
Processing bookings is a given. Where good reps can make a difference is by taking a genuine interest. Ask how the campaign is going? What could we be doing better? Are you happy with the placements, the positioning? The more interest you show in the business, the more the agency will involve you, otherwise your role is one of a processor adding no value. Keep in contact and determine what level of contact works best for both parties.
Challenge the agency
If you don’t know the target audience, the strategy or the objectives, then challenge the agency to provide them. Similarly, if you are dissatisfied with the brief or any part of the briefing process, challenge the agency. The information provided can determine how well you can respond, so don’t allow the agency to compromise on what you can offer.
Every proposal should be customised for the recipient. A customised proposal that shows a clear understanding of the advertiser’s objectives and how you can help meet those objectives makes a much greater impression than one where the advertiser’s name can be replaced with any other.
If responding to a brief ensure your proposal meets it. This may seem a given but some proposals are driven by the media owner’s objectives as opposed to the advertiser’s objectives.
Know your medium/product
By this I mean provide insights on your medium, the target audience, those qualitative insights that are not available to us. Provide insights, feedback, thoughts and opinions from editorial, programming and others responsible for putting together the product that is designed to resonate with their core audiences. These are the insights that our clients pay us for and expect from us as media experts, so please empower us. And please stop turning up with quantitative-focused presentations. This information is readily available to us.
Win some/lose some
I know you love your product but it cannot be on every schedule. The easiest way to get offside with the agency is to imply they have made the wrong selection and don’t know what they are doing because you are not on the schedule. This is insulting. A solution is to find out what has driven the selection processes then go away and re-evaluate whether you should be on the schedule and if so present your case based on the decision process.
Own the discussion
We are constantly bombarded with PR releases, mostly propaganda pieces with no real relevance. The problem with these releases is that if the media picks them up and focus on the negatives, which the New Zealand media excels at, and if advertisers read, see or hear it, then it becomes gospel and can help determine their perception of the medium.
Media owners need to own the discussion by going out there with not just the good news but warts and all to agencies so we are better informed as to what is really happening. This needs to occur especially around the release of survey results.
There is nothing worse for the media planner than survey results coming out and the radio station or magazine that has featured on a schedule has bombed. So then it’s left up to us to decide what to tell the client and whether to keep it on the schedule.
Marathon, not a sprint
We may seek instant gratification but the reality is everything requires time and effort. The great media reps are those who don’t take rejection personally. They back themselves that, over time, by delivering great service, providing relevant information and keeping in contact, they will eventually get on the schedule.
Be a great listener
Those who listen to the agency’s issues and objectives and understand the business can respond appropriately. Don’t kid yourself that you can talk your way into it. If you get some success that way, chances are you were going to get the booking anyway. But your success will be limited.
If media owners lift their game then media agencies will be forced to lift theirs and the overall relationship will become a great deal healthier.
- John Dee is director of J Dee Media. firstname.lastname@example.org
- This article originally appeared in the August/September edition of NZ Marketing.