The Rep Factor

With all the talk about how major publishers can differentiate in this rapidly evolving content and advertising landscape, the single most overlooked factor is client service. The best content, inventory, rates, ad models, targeting and measurement all can be undone in an instant by a missing rep. And it's happening all the time.

The missing rep syndrome looks like this: The rep who pleaded to take you to lunch doesn't respond to your request for a program, inventory, rate, big idea or...worst of actual RFP. Then s/he calls you days later to schedule an outing with the ad director, who's in town for the week.

We're not in the lunch business. We're in the advertising business. The publishers that heed this charge will outrun their competitors every time, even if their sites aren't quite as robust.

Take a recent buy for one of the many luxury brands (including Grey Goose, Callaway Golf and Mandalay Bay) that KSL Media represents. We issued an RFP to 12 publishers for a summer promotion focused on travel. Three didn't even respond. Another sent a perfunctory email with rate-card pricing. These are quality sites with attractive audiences, and they never stepped into the batter's box.

Of the eight publishers that responded, three crafted high-impact programs that combined their assets in creative ways. They made the finals. In the end, everyone on the agency and client team picked the same publisher: JustLuxe.

JustLuxe is represented by LA-based Razavi Global Management (RGM), which focuses on luxury web sites. JustLuxe is a pre-eminent site where a luxury brand can actually behave like a luxury brand. While that pre-eminence played a role, RGM actually won the assignment with exemplary client service that provides a blueprint for distinction. The essential elements:

Respond to the full RFP. This sounds a lot easier than many major publishers evidently find it. Publishers can't pick and choose which questions to answer; it's an all or nothing proposition. If you're not going to address an issue, you have to tell the agency why.

Take it to the top. Senior management involvement is always appreciated. RGM chief Kamran Razavi managed JustLuxe's response personally, and at one point he had us collaborating directly with the JustLuxe publisher.

Prove the numbers. RGM provided Media Metrix runs, site surveys and anecdotal information without being prompted. That might seem ordinary, but it's not. Far too many publishers either don't have audited audience breakouts or refuse to divulge them.

Weave a program, not a buy. RGM bested the competition in several areas: the number of travel packages, the robust content and functionality of the program micro site, the variety of high-impact ad units promoting the program, and pricing that was aggressive in light of the demonstrated value.

Make pricing simple. The more complex the program, the more important it is to have clear pricing guidelines for CPM-based, fixed-fee and value-add program elements. RGM actually provided rates and pricing for three scenarios, with clear rules on what was included in each. Just as important: All of the scenarios synched perfectly.

When I thought about our best shot at succeeding, I remember saying, "I'll go with Kamran over anyone." And then telling I told our team, "We can trust RGM. They deliver."

That's the competitive advantage every publisher should be striving for



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