Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Top 5 Media Rep Peeves - The Retort...

Well, we know that there are two sides to every story and as promised, I interviewed a number of media reps to get a better understanding of their gripes with media planners. I got a lot more than I asked for. It seems there's a view on agencies in general and their diminishing role in the marketplace.

Again, some of the comments were generalized and I may have reached some reps on particularly bad days but in the main, this is what they had to say in contrast to yesterday's post...

1. Inexperience
Media planning is often referred to as an entry level position within the advertising business. Often, media planners/buyers are hired right out of school and handle anywhere from 5 to 20 media accounts (of varying sizes). Sales reps are concerned that their lack of experience is a major barrier to positioning their products and proposals to the clients. They feel that a lack of understanding will translate into a lack of passion and enthusiasm for the products they sell. This not only results in poor sales but also in poor creativity when it comes to overall advertising on behalf of the client.

2. Hurry up and Wait
Sales reps are called in to provide out of the box thinking and to provide proposals with slim turn around times. From the time the proposal is submitted (which rarely gets a "thank you"), the sales reps are left with radio silence. While everyone understands that planners are busy, one rep pointed out that they are hired by clients to return calls and they simply don't do their jobs. While planners gripe about long turn around times for RFPs, some reps feel that unresponsive planners get what they deserve. The priorities naturally fall towards collaborative planners that treat the sales rep as a partner. Some pointed out that while planners blame their busy schedules for unreturned calls, they always seem to manage to get away to full day golf tournaments, expensive 2 hour lunches, media parties or other perks at the expense of well, guess who?

3. False Sense of Entitlement
A number of reps pointed out that media planners place expectations on them for swag, event tickets and other perks that are sometimes unwarranted or completely off base in terms of a rep's budget. There's a growing concern that planners base their buys on whether a supplier afforded them an iPod or tickets to a hockey game. Again, the results reach all the way up to the clients who may be losing out on effective media opportunities due to planner's personal interests.

4. Due Diligence
Planners are notorious for calling reps in the final hour to point out holes in their proposals. The reps gripe about the length of time the proposals sit on planners' desks before they are reviewed. "If only planners reviewed the hard work we pull together for them when they receive it instead of waiting until the night before the plan is due" was echoed across the suppliers. The same unresponsive planners then spam the reps that have been following up for in some cases weeks, with emails and phone calls expecting immediate attention followed promptly by cartwheels and fire eating. The reps feel they are in many cases, blamed by the agencies for their own lack of due diligence. They feel that planners mistake them for "the bottom of the food chain".

5. Cookie Cutter Planning
Reps cited that planners position themselves to clients as out of the box thinkers while in reality, they shy away from plans that are unconventional or may require more work. While the reps understand that planners are not the keepers of creative production, there is mounting frustration over the lack of internal communication at agencies that create hurdles to bigger opportunities for the clients.

Interestingly, a lot of reps felt that agencies were barriers to the growth of the industry. The middleman of the industry (the media agency) is faced with shrinking margins, a lack of incentive to promote fresh thinking and quite frankly, a lack of talent. One rep went as far as to say that if you cut agencies out completely, advertisers would still be buying media and the effectiveness of the media bought would not suffer by any measure.

This is an interesting point as it appears that networks and media publishers are starting to pour investments into hiring in-house strategists and self-procurement technologies that would allow advertisers to buy directly.

The reality is that clients use agencies to do the grunt work. Further to that, clients are much more likely to switch agencies these days making it more attractive for publishers to establish direct client relationships as they may outlast those of the agency's. Like media planners, marketing directors are equally wooed by fancy dinners and tickets to see a hot event. Looking through the eyes of a media rep and based on yesterday's comments by "one good sales rep", it's not hard to understand where they'd rather put their perks.

Can't we all just get along? There must be some ways to improve this dysfunctional relationship. Do agencies need to re-think their structures? Should agencies be training planners on the softer side of rep relations?

More on this shortly...


One Good Sales Rep said...

Sounds like you interviewed a bunch of terrible sales reps.

All of these peeves are just par for the course when playing with the "kiddies" at the agency. If a rep choosees to focus on them, they will surely be annoyed by the overall business structure.

Sonia Carreno said...

I interviewed a good representation of reps - at all levels of the "food chain"

Why don't you humour us then with the "real" peeves at the upper crust level you must surely be playing in???

First time caller.. long time listener said...

Having sat on both sides of the fence in the very recent past I can see the validity in both sets of issues. What I do not see from either side, or from subsequent posts, is a solution. It’s all fun and games to complain… and lord knows I do my fair share, but what can we do about it.

Cutting out the “middle man” and going client direct works today. A today when MD’s or AMD’s don’t see more then a handful of “good” reps that are aggressive enough to go client direct. What happens when every rep starts bombarding clients with proposals? Well… the same thing that happens now with the agencies. AMD’s will not return the calls. They won’t have the time to sift through the 50 proposals they receive to find the one “gem”. And like the agencies they will pick the ones that will require the least amount of grief.

I don’t think we can shift the workload of an industry of media planners onto the marketing team at a client and think that anything will change.

For now, I think yes, we can make better sales (BFDs or just stronger campaigns) by going client direct. But that’s because most sales reps call on agencies not clients. Clients are intimate with their brands and are willing to take a calculated risk. Agency planners (unfortunately) work on 20 accounts. Not much intimacy when you’re thinking about 20 clients all at once. So until clients start paying for talent in the agency model, we will be dealing with 21 year old kids who just want free stuff because they can’t afford anything on the $30k a year they make. And we have to “build relationships” with the client direct. I just hope the 21 year old sales reps don’t figure this out and start calling on clients… then the doors on that gold mine will be shut pretty quick.

Sonia Carreno said...

Thanks for your insight first time caller!