Digital Heroes, or Everybody’s An Online Buyer

Everybody's a dreamer and everybody's a star
And everybody's in show biz, it doesn't matter who you are
And those who are successful: be always on your guard
Success walks hand in hand with failure along the Hollywood Boulevard

(Ray Davies/The Kinks: Celluloid Heroes)

In our world, everybody’s an online buyer. It doesn’t matter who they are. They all think that they can do a better job than those who do it full time. The list includes:

Clients -
Now don’t get me wrong, I really like my clients. But sometimes, the further an individual is away from advertising, the more they seem to know about what sites to buy or which search engines to use. To those on the client side, let your agency do their work. Just because you and your employees visit a site regularly or all use one search engine, does not mean that the rest of the world follows this pattern.

Anybody who provides any interactive services of any sort for the client -
If this happens again I am going to scream! Companies have a need to hire a number of different vendors to work on their site. But inevitably, whether they are hired for UI, eCommerce, other back-end aspects, SEO or whatever, they all think that they should be the one making Google and Overture placements and that they can certainly do better than the agency.



Biz Dev -
I thought this one was going away with the demise of the dot-bombs. But it seems like many companies have brought this back and now believe that they are not only the best to make long term Web deals, but that they should drive cross-media deals too.

Sellers, especially portal reps -
“Why do you need to RFP all of those sites, just give us the money, we will take care of you”.

Senior people who should be managing -
Does your boss stay out of your face on this, or is he as bad as the others? Sellers salivate when somebody besides a buyer gets involved in the buy. It usually can mean a heavier commitment, higher CPMs and more power to the site when making the deal. We all need to a) give the buyer better direction and then, b) get out of the way and let them do their job.

An analogy to make my point:

Everybody who reads this could probably build their own deck in their back yard. But should they, rather than use a specialist (called a contractor or carpenter)? And whose design are they using?

Maybe the emphasis should be on the designer, not how cheaply you can get the wood. (Remember your family is going to sit on this deck). Oh, right, your company is not as important as your family so you can go cheap. Why is this any different? Quality matters in all things.

I once had a client who said that it didn’t matter what radio stations I bought. They were all the same. I tried to point out that certain formats had higher indexes of composition against his target than others and that should affect the decision. I could show him some examples. He said that they are all the same and all impressions were therefore the same.

I went for analogy. I asked him if he ate ham. He said yes. He was warming up again. I asked him if he could not appreciate the difference between boiled ham and Westphalian Ham, trying to drive home my point nicely. He responded that he used so much mustard it did not matter. I slowed down my concentration on strategic services for this client and declined the next review.

It does matter WHAT you buy. Sure, it pays to get the best price, but if you do it on the wrong person, what does it matter? I don’t care how finely tuned your CPA is. Registration, registration and first use, download, sale, whatever - you cannot compute the lifetime value of a customer. Sure, we have models. “I have a bunch of models in my drawer” (Scott Kurnit, 1996). But the point remains that there are some things in media that you cannot measure. Especially when you are looking at a single dimension or clickstream.

Enter the planner. The planner will ask you lots of questions that will create a tremendous amount of work for you. You may have to spend some additional money on outside research (think of it as a survey on your lot, to make sure that after you spend $20,000 on this deck you are not infringing on the neighbors yard and incur a lawsuit costing much more than the deck).

And the planners’ questions will never stop, even when you have started to implement. This is a person paid to live with your business and translate to the media world. The buyer’s job should be to understand the media and the technology, and how to interpret the direction the planner provides in the buying guidelines.

Still at an agency that has the same person do Interactive planning and buying on your account? Find a new agency. Ask them how they execute EVERY OTHER MEDIUM and why they haven’t gotten around to understanding that planning and buying are different things.

And it doesn’t matter how many people tell you that they can get a cheaper price on Ovation, Yahoo, Google, AOL or What if they’re buying the wrong site, the right site in the wrong areas because they’re thinking about efficiency of the buy, not the marketing perspective.

How about you? Is your buying operation set up so that your buyer and your budget can succeed? Do you leave them alone and evaluate what they propose? Or, are they barraged with outside inputs that they spend their time answering rather than optimizing buys that are in place?

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