05/03/09

Media Buying: seven mistakes made by business owners

We’ve been around buying media for more than 20 years, so we’ve seen just about every sales pitch, rationale and strategy there is. I’d say we’ve seen them all, but there’s always the slim possibility there might be one out there we haven’t seen yet.
More to the point, however, is that along the way, we’ve also heard from a great number of business owners and managers who are convinced they are getting the best media buy possible. No one, despite their credentials or experience, could possibly negotiate a better deal than they did.
In no case, ever, have we come across an owner-made media buy that could not be improved. And most of the improvements needed were significant. Here are some of the pitfalls of a business owner or manager negotiating his or her own media buy.
1. CHEAP SPOTS DON’T MEAN VALUE
It is in a business manager’s makeup to measure the value of something by its cost. All to often we have witnessed a business owner proudly showing the super low costs of his TV or radio commercials without taking into account the size of the audience. A half hour in timing can make a huge difference in the numbers of people who will watch or listen to the commercial. The super low cost spots are super low for a reason. There’s no audience.

2. BEST RATES COMPARED TO WHAT?

While we’re on the subject of rates, most do-it-yourselfers are convinced that they negotiated the best rates in town. What they fail to recognize is that part of a good media salesman’s job is to close the sale making the buyer thinking they got the best rate in town. And, they’re usually pretty good at doing that. A client of ours is one of the best negotiators I’ve even met. But, he turned his media buying over because he wisely recognized that he had nothing to compare his rates to in order to verify what he was paying. A media buyer buys for a number of clients, therefore has a view of the playing field that a single business owner cannot have. This client actually lowered his media costs by going through a buyer.
3. ELIMINATE ANY POSSIBILITY OF SELF INTEREST.
Objectivity is extremely important when it comes to media buying. In almost every direct situation, some media rep has managed to create a close relationship with the business owner. Often, the business owner will even consult their favorite, trusted media rep for information not related to the rep’s station. This is a huge error, regardless of the trust factor. No media rep is without a self-interest in selling his station. It can and absolutely will color any advice provided. Only an independent media professional is in a position to recommend a media mix without bias.
4. DON’T BUY WHAT YOU LIKE.
People who buy their own media tend to buy programming that they like. It’s hard to spend $3,000 on a schedule, then not see it because it’s not where you are watching or listening. But, that’s what must be done. Media has to be purchased where your customers are watching, not you. And, too often, business owners believe their customers have the same media habits as their own.
5. SPREAD IT OUT AND WATCH RESULTS DIMINISH.
Stations like to sell schedules that are convenient for them, not schedules that deliver customers to you. I have never been able to understand why they do this, but it happens repeatedly. A station will push direct advertisers into a buy that is spread out over all day parts as evenly as possible. This is so they can sell their time slots evenly, thus leaving time in all day parts to sell to other advertisers. The trouble is, it dilutes the effectiveness of they buy for the advertiser. Media professionals have information that shows audience levels throughout the day and can balance the buy to maximize the fluctuation.
6. RESIST THE $300 PRIME SPOT PITCH.
Too many smart business people get lured by the promise of a prime spot for a fraction of its regular price. Smetimes you can get a cheap prime spot. But, it’s almost always at the expense of the overall efficiency of the buy. Sometimes when you pay a small amount for a bank of commercials that are allowed to rotate throughout the day at the station’s discretion, you can get lucky. But, by the time you add up what you paid and measure it against what you got, it is a very bad gamble. Even if you landed a cheap spot in a prime time television slot, you can bet the rest of your schedule ran in garbage times because that’s where stations have most of their inventory.
7. HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU GOT WHAT YOU PAID FOR?
After a schedule runs, how do you know if it delivered the audience that was promised? Even if a business owner is sophisticated enough to know how to buy programming based upon audience levels, he rarely follows through with the station to measure whether the program actually delivered. Most don’t know that if a TV station delivers less than 90% of the promised audience during a campaign, they have to make up the difference. An independent media buyer will use her own rating information to analyze the buy after it has run to make sure the advertiser got everything he paid for.