Search Focus: Learning to Love Ad Reps

Like so many business relationships, the relationship between ad reps and online agencies is full of ups and downs; one minute you celebrate innovation and success, the next is filled with shouting matches and tense meetings.

When I spoke on this topic at the Search Engines Strategies conference in San Jose, I had no idea how my ad reps would respond. I've been known to say some inappropriate things at inappropriate times, but somehow breaking down this codependent relationship caught their attention. Before I delve into this subject, let me just say that I love my ad reps for all their help, quirks, and attitudes. No, really, I do.

We agency folks are vocal, to say the least. So it was not hard to come up with the list of complaints that the agency side has about ad reps. Agencies say ad reps are pushy and don't do their homework. We claim that ad reps are only interested in closing the deal and not worried about managing a relationship. We complain about the contract turnover and the lack of follow-through.

Ad reps likewise have their issues with agencies, but they usually won't mention any problems to our faces. They are sales- people, after all, and must keep that pearly white smile intact. However, we on the agency side know that ad reps feel agencies threaten their revenue potential by limiting clients' spend. Ad reps think we don't return calls as we should, don't pay attention to marketing calls (even when we schedule them), and that we are always in "fire-drill mode."

I'd like to say these things aren't true. But let's not lie to one another. Let's just determine how we can work together and keep the love alive. Here are some of my ideas for the ad reps: Let's all treat each other like a long-distance track team: If I win, you win. So let's stop going for the short wins.

It's all about the client: Clients' needs always come first.

Measurement is key: The clients' goals -- whether they focus on return on investment, sales, or brand awareness -- are paramount. We will not recommend a solution just to spend money (and as we are all now focused on the long-term win, we know this won't be a problem).

We need real partners: We should be sending you our press releases, research, and updates on a regular basis. You should be doing the same. Nobody wants to see news about their "partners" on a blog, or even worse, from a client, before they hear it directly. Conversely, I recommend that all agencies, mine included, work in the following way:

Back to the circle of trust: If we expect honesty and openness, we need to treat our ad reps as partners, rather than an information source.

Find a balance for the client: Realize that for ad reps to be successful, they must meet both your and clients' needs. Therefore, share enough information about the campaign and goals to help them help you. That said, agencies must always err on the side of caution and only release information approved by the client.

Vendors are people, too: Tell your ad reps how you want to work the relationship and what your expectations are. Trust won't come automatically; vendors must earn your respect and trust, and vice versa. Working toward a mutually respectful relationship is mutually beneficial.

Misty Locke is Co-Founder and President of Range Online Media (

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