White Light

Online ad buys have so many moving parts there are bound to be "misunderstandings" and/or revised needs by the time the buy gets posted. The fluid nature of our business can turn closed buys into battles very quickly, as publishers find themselves faced with proposed promises they are not in a position to keep, or unforeseen client needs not articulated when the deal was put together.

For example, if a buy includes a scheduled home page roadblock and the client's launch schedule slips a week, buyers will need to reschedule their day in the sun of exclusivity. Publishers are often unable to accommodate this shift, so they say "no." Or a late piece of creative never ran where it was supposed to, and now it's too late to run it without jeopardizing the delivery of another advertiser's campaign. So publishers again say "no" to a request made after an insertion order has been received.

These are just some examples, but there are many others that create this breeding ground for publishers to serve up "nos" they may have said yes to, when the buy was being negotiated.



So why does the switch flip? Publishers won't admit this, but there is a sense of guilty pleasure that comes from this position of leverage they rarely experience. So when given the opportunity, "we" say no because we can. Less superficially, there is a cost tied to inventory slippage. So this "sorry, but the train has left the station" mentality is easily supported.

But sellers beware -- make buyers eat too many nos, and they will find a way to stop dining with you. So how do you say yes and no at the same time, in a way that makes your buyers happy instead of agitated?

The first step is turning on the "white light." A former colleague introduced me to this phrase. It's a spiritual term meant to bring positive energy into a meeting in order to best solve a problem, or arrest an issue to everyone's mutual satisfaction. My colleague's name was Carrie, and she would literally repeat this phrase, like Dustin Hoffman in "Rain Man," during internal meetings or with clients if she felt the meeting was veering into the dark side of negativity.

This sounds insane, and it was kinda weird at first, but allowing a meeting to nose-dive into negativity and not say anything is crazier. So Carrie became our energy meter. We got used to hearing her verbal red flag, and we would adjust the discussions accordingly. This was all happening at a crucial time in the life of IGN. We were collectively stewarding the company through a turbulent market, knowing inherently that we were going to land safely in greener pastures. Our confidence stemmed from Carrie's positive nature, which fueled a subtle transformation in our thinking from telling clients "no, we can't" to "yes, of course we can" as often as we possibly could.

"Yes" is a beam of white light. But saying it is not as easy as it sounds when your initial reaction is to say "no." You have to practice compassion -- especially in business. One big step to finding ways to say yes is to wear the client's problem as if it were truly your own. To be clear, I am not suggesting you compromise the value of your property trying to land on a media plan, but once you secure a spot, make it your business to say yes to whatever incremental requests buyers feel pressured to put forth after they have agreed to advertise.

If you can't say yes immediately to their specific request, say yes to trying your best to fulfill it while offering an alternative solution in case you are unsuccessful -- and let them know what the other solution looks like. Then try really hard to unlock the one they requested. If it shakes free, you are a hero, and if it doesn't, you have something else to hand them that doesn't appear foreign.

We are in the yes business. Don't ever forget that. Saying it isn't always easy, but finding a way becomes easier when you shed white light inside your own building.

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