In Today's Media Marketplace, Clout Is Overstated

You know that uncomfortable feeling you get when you do your grocery shopping in bulk? At first, you’re attracted to the idea of getting a deal on that Jello pudding snack pack. But, after your kids plow through all the chocolate, you’re stuck eating 20 cups of vanilla over many, many months. And you don’t even like vanilla that much.

The same can be said for media buys.

Many large agencies win business based on promises of their clout delivering access to the lowest rate—a bulk-buying promise that’s been part of the traditional media game for decades. But that advantage has shrunk in a world where performance measurement and near-term accountability have become more important requirements to clients.

The truth is … much of that media tonnage gets foisted onto various clients with little relevance to specific audience targeting, or proof of behavioral results. Lots of vanilla in there.



What we all know to be true is that agencies don’t have rate cards.  Rates for programming fluctuate wildly on a daily basis. Supply and demand in the upfront and scatter markets are obviously the first line of defense for the media sellers, but inventory commitments—and the timing of them—make up a good deal of the rest.

So it’s up to the modern media buyer to find the best ways to advantage a client on inventory commitments. It’s all about right place, right time…and of course in today’s marketplace, that has a lot to do with access to data.  And perhaps more important (and the reason for working with an agency), the experience and wisdom to know what to do with data. 

Here are just a few of the tools that should be used to provide ROI advantages that are way ahead of the rate game:

  • Advanced targeting In today’s fragmented marketplace, addressing a specific consumer is more important than blanketing based on age and gender.
  • Behavioral measurement Smart marketers are optimizing media plans based on what’s proven to drive demand and/or sales. 
  • Portfolio diversification Just like your 401(k), a successful media strategy will have some placements that drive immediately measurable results, some that have a more latent impact, and a lot in between.  
  • Real-time access to inventory Like the promise of programmatic, buying organizations who can be nimble (through technology or people) offer an efficiency advantage for their clients. 

The majority of buyers can easily negotiate a schedule to hit the lowest CPMs. With no other information in front of you, it’s no different than your typical haggling over the sticker price of a new car. A well-informed media buyer has more data and insight behind the negotiation—as if they know the cost of goods and longevity of every part of the new car before the salesperson even reveals the price.  

A deeper understanding of audience, marketplace and performance—and the ability to shift dollars quickly—are keys to negotiating a well optimized media plan. And that carries much more clout than the amount of media you buy.

2 comments about "In Today's Media Marketplace, Clout Is Overstated".
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  1. Eric Fischer from HJA Strategic Consulting, March 2, 2018 at 10:02 a.m.

    The problem becomes when the large agencies place agency-wide commitments with the vendors and have to "burn off" those dollars over the course of the deal.

    This forces buyers to have to utilize certain networks without regard as to their actual effectiveness.  This situation is the conundrum with big agencies as often times they are forced to act against the best interest of their clients.

    A real fix to the problem would be clients not registering upftont budgets with their agencies far in advance.  If the agencies don't know the budgets in advance, they can't make those commitments.  All the big agencies get the same pricing so clients wouldn't be at a pricing disadvantage.

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, March 2, 2018 at 10:39 a.m.

    Susan the main stumbling block in the case of "linear TV", is the client CMOs' and higher ups' disdain for the media "numbers game" and their use of bean counters to demand better performance---by which they mean holding CPMs in check. To support this the corporate buying system remains in full force on the assumption that the "clout"it affords allows the AOR to get low CPMs. Let's face it, until a fair portion of national TV buys moves to brand by brand negotiations with the sellers, "advanced targeting"isn't going to gain traction. To gain audience delivery guarantees you need a unified metric as currency and there is no meaningful way this can be done for a 20- or 30- brand corporate buy---hence 18-49, 25-54 and, gulp!, 35+; AOR "targeting" will remain in vogue.

    The underlying assumption in all of this and one which is rarely discussed openly---or admitted to---is that most advertisers assume that their brand positioning strategies and the agency's skill at commercial execution are virtually the whole ball game. In other words, the commercials will select those in the audience who are receptive and that's just about all it takes for a successful campaign---lots of eyeballs and connecting with those in that mass of "impressions" who will respond to the ads.

    While this is true to a considerable extent, far too many advertisers remain oblivious to the concept that placing the commercial in a context where a higher proportion of the audience has a mindset that matches what the ad is trying to convey can be a major positive stimulus and this is a distinct possibility via more selective single brand media buying. Until that mental block is removed---and this requires media people to overcome the "media is boring" attitude held by so many CMOs, marketing directors and other client big wigs--- progress will be slow---very slow. To do this, media people will have to learn to talk and think like marketers, not media buyers, and not rely so heavily on GRP, CPMs, etc. to make their points. They will also have to take risks as venturing into uncharted waters isn't always going to pan out. The agency "creatives" who still rule supreme have always thrived under such circumstances. Those who score many more wins than losses are successful--- losing here or there isn't the end of a career, it's part of an extended process---and often you learn from the experience. Media people must learn to take similar chances. Then,they too, will be listened to if their ideas are proven winners more often than not---especially is such proof is sought and presented to the client---just as the "creatives" always do it. 

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