Commentary

To Make TV Advertising Better, Clients Must Talk Directly To Sellers

  • by , Featured Contributor, March 22, 2018
TV advertising can be made much better: better for brands, for networks, for viewers. But this won’t happen until TV advertisers speak directly to TV ad sellers.

With a new array of advanced TV ad products, there is so much that they need to talk about — but unfortunately, the traditional TV media agency’s aperture just isn’t wide or robust enough to facilitate all the communications that need to happen today.

I’m aware that what I’m suggesting is blasphemous in some quarters. The long-established practices of the TV market are that when advertising “clients” are present, TV ad sellers should be seen and not heard.  It’s okay for them to chat socially at industry events, but meaty business conversations should only occur when advertisers are properly chaperoned by their agency account execs.

The historic wall between TV advertisers and TV ad sellers hearkens back to a day when media agencies acted more like exclusive sales channels between their clients, the brand advertisers, and the TV networks, which  provided them platforms every week to reach hundreds of millions of their current and prospective customers. In those days, TV networks focused on telling unique stories about their programming and audiences — and then stayed out of the way and let agencies do the hard work to market and sell in TV across the advertisers’ business enterprises.

Times have changed. Now, large media agencies need to focus the majority of  “selling-in” efforts on bringing new digital offerings to their clients. Google, Facebook and Snap are big and complicated and have the attention of the CEOs of most major advertisers. Professional service resources tend to be deployed where CEOs’ attention is focused.

With massive reductions in agency fees over the past 10 years, it’s difficult for agencies to fully staff both the emerging digital areas as well as keep investing in their TV teams. For example, TV research departments at large agencies have been decimated this decade.

The timing could not be worse. Just as agencies have fewer people that know TV data, TV is becoming a very powerful data-driven advertising platform, with most of the major TV networks now selling sophisticated audience targeting and ROI reporting products.

Selling advanced TV advertising requires a lot of data sophistication on the buy side, as well as a tremendous amount of direct client interaction to manage the movement and matching of proprietary data on both the client and TV side.

Google couldn’t build the deep integrations it has into advertisers’ e-commerce platforms and customer relationship management systems without having direct client teams driving its efforts.

If clients want their TV advertising to become as predictable, provable, performant and integrated into the enterprise as search or social, they need to get to know their TV partners better. Clearly, that's the path of the fast-growing direct brands, marketers like Casper, Warby Parker and Peloton that choose to tightly control their data and their media partner relationships. As I have noted before, direct brands are likely to dominate the consumer economy over the next decade.

To be clear, I believe that agencies serve a critically important role in the media process and will continue to exist for a long time. However, things need to change. By not talking to advertisers the way Google and Facebook do, TV sellers are fighting with a hand tied behind their backs. They won’t be able to chase out all the industry’s antiquated processes, including how TV ads are bought, sold, packaged, measured and accounted for, without significant changes in how advertisers, TV companies and agencies interact.

It’s critical for agencies to take stabs at disrupting the process, too. Just this week, Omnicom Media Group announced that it's creating a special three-day upfront with media sellers, including TV companies and digital publishers, to pitch their teams and their clients with special opportunities. This kind of direct interaction can only be good for the business — as will recognizing that TV sellers will sometimes need to go visit clients on their own.

What do you think?

14 comments about "To Make TV Advertising Better, Clients Must Talk Directly To Sellers".
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  1. Jack Wakshlag from Media Strategy, Research & Analytics, March 22, 2018 at 2:55 p.m.

    Strong agencies who clients trust won’t fear this advertiser-seller connection. TV can be bought and targeted to great effect with today’s tools. Sophisticated mass marketing takes thought, and new tools show what can be done. 

  2. Tracey Scheppach from Matter More Media, March 23, 2018 at 9:14 a.m.

    This is a good reason to hire smaller expert agencies that have no legacy business model to defend and are motivated to help clients regardless of those tiered business models. Also there is a lot of ingrained behavior that will be very hard to break on the agency side...some motiavted by business models and others on control.  

  3. Darrin Stephens from McMann & Tate, March 23, 2018 at 11:39 a.m.

    Many clients take the view that they pay good money to an agency so they don't have to talk to the sellers.

  4. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, March 23, 2018 at 11:56 a.m.

    Very good point Jack. Yes. Agencies that are confident in their client relationships have no problems with their clients and sellers meeting directly.

  5. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, March 23, 2018 at 11:58 a.m.

    Tracey, I totally agree. Smaller expert agencies, like yours, are really stepping up in complicated areas like advanced TV and recognize that there must be triangular relationships among agents, clients and media sellers, and don't have baggage that prevents it from happening.

  6. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, March 23, 2018 at 12:02 p.m.

    Darrin, Yes. Some clients want all media issues to be totally outsourced, and don't want to ever have to deal with sellers. Those advertisers are likely to find it difficult to leverage first party data for audience targeting or focus their TV campaigns on closed loop ROI reporting and specific business outcomes. Making their TV more digital-like, and more performant, will be difficult to achieve for media directors who don't want to get their hands dirty dealing with sellers and all of the data integration work required for advanced TV advertising.

  7. Rocky Kurland from The Magazine Guys, March 23, 2018 at 1:41 p.m.

    As more agencies are strapped for time because of lower margins leading to fewer employees this cycle will continue across all media being sold. Getting face to face meetings with most agencies is nearly impossible. Clients are finding out that relationships withthe sellers lead to better media programs, better ROI's and better margins. As outlined in comments above smaller boutique agencies are winning the battle many times against larger shops because of open relationships with both sides of the industry. Agencies started out representing the sales side, then it flipped. Now many play both sides against eachother. A hard place to be as the industry changes so quickly.    

  8. Raymond Nunes from KDOC TV, March 23, 2018 at 1:48 p.m.

    Great article and perspective.  There are some "Shampoo Agencies"  who year after year repeat same buys, with same stations, with same sales people going through the motions.  This freedom has created a false reality with the only measure of success being CPP goals and that morphed into the only level of expectation.  Which then changes the perception that there is no need to do more.  Unfortunatly, this has and will continue to result in the mass exodus of clients jumping ship and wanting someone who will bring them new opportunities. The time spent listening to all opportunities available has become viewed as " waste of time"  when in fact that is the exact "Time" the client is paying them for.   I could talk about this all day,  but I got work to do.  Have a great weekend. 

  9. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, March 25, 2018 at 2:49 a.m.

    I agree Rocky. Many agencies have found themselves in a tough position, between clients and media owners and not well aligned with either.

  10. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, March 25, 2018 at 2:50 a.m.

    Great points Randy. Without question, clients have to "make" the time to meet with new opportunities. It is impossible for any one conslultant or intermediary to connect them with everything and everyone that they need to know today to be successful in media.

  11. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, March 26, 2018 at 6:37 a.m.

    Raymond, hope you had a great weekend sorry for my thumb-driven typo of your name. Hoping this week brings more clients and sellers talking directly to each other about how TV can work better and harder for them.

  12. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, March 26, 2018 at 9:42 a.m.

    Dave, in my role as a consultant as well as in other cases, I have seen quite a few attempts by media sellers trying to talk to advertisers---over and above the media buying watchdogs---the advertisers' "media directors". Most of the time the sellers have no idea how marketing directors---CMOs---or brand managers think and the latter are so poorly versed in media that they are reduced to pontificating, using terms like ROI, "attribution" , etc. which they, themselves haven't a firm handle on.

    In short, while I agree that there should be much more communication between media and advertisers, until both sides take the time to really study what the other does and how the various functions might interact for mutual benefit, nothing much can be accomplished. To date, I see no such inclination by media sellers or advertiser marketing types to bridge the gap.

  13. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, March 26, 2018 at 10:21 a.m.

    Very good point Ed, and one that I should have addressed. Since most of the TV sellers in place today have built their careers "managing" the TV agency sales channel, they may not be the best media owner execs to engage client peers. Very likely, they will need to leverage some of their digital sellers, many of whom probably know marketers better. Better yet, they probably need to recruit new talent to help in this area.

  14. Dan Modisett from Maxair Media, March 26, 2018 at 3:41 p.m.

    There was a time when going directly to the client was unthinkable.  Today TV AEs have no choice but to talk directly to the client if they want their TV and Digital platforms presented properly.  Agencies have to understand that making sure the advertiser's needs are met is more important than being afraid of losing some control.  Good ad agencies should welcome collaboration. 

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