Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Top 5 Online Media Planner Pet Peeves

In over ten years of online media planning & buying, not much has changed in the trenches. This week I reached out internationally to media buyers and sellers to catch a glimpse of the sore points of the roles that are responsible for making the dollars in this industry stick.

I interviewed a number of experienced planners and sellers. Although their comments where often generalized, with this collection I hope to shed some light on what media sellers should look out for and be conscious of.

The Planning Peeves
  1. Follow-up Spam
    Repetitive follow-up from the moment a proposal is submitted. Planners grieve that reps seem to think that creating a media plan takes 24 hours. The reality is that plans take time and the reception of a proposal is the first stage of many. There are after all, a number of media publishers that are RFP’d and each one has varying turn around times. Once the proposals are all collected, the planners can get to work and piece together a client-facing proposal. The onslaught of publisher phone calls during this process are distracting and take the planners focus away from what they are ultimately paid to do.

  2. Reps aren’t Listening
    One planner complained that reps are consistently looking after their own interests and developing proposals that either far exceed budgetary parameters or are underwhelming in creativity. When planners are looking for simple sizes and straight forward media opportunities, reps jam them with rich, complex offerings and when the reps are asked to provide out of the box ideas, they tend to propose boxes and banners.

  3. Contacting Clients Directly
    In acts of impatience or lack of trust, reps often email, phone or visit clients directly without contacting the agency or including them in the discussion. From an agency stand point, they are hired to be the broker, to protect the marketing directors from the ever-growing number of publishers pitching proposals that are often out of context or off in timing. The thought of a sales rep walking into a client’s office and asking about their business is horrifying to the media planner. It gives the appearance that they are not doing their job efficiently. Planners swear that no matter how effective the sales reps feel this is, the clients don’t appreciate it and at the end of the day, the planners are the ones to process the media strategies.

  4. Billing without Reporting
    Unidentifiable invoicing was sited as a major thorn. Media planners are barraged with invoices to approve before accounting can pay them. To date, publishers have not been successful at billing with comprehensive information. Some publishers don’t provide campaign titles or in worst cases they don’t even provide client identifiers. The result is an invoice that sits in a miscellaneous file until it’s followed up on.

  5. Pushing sales goals up the food chain
    There appears to be an accountability trend starting up where reps are pushing the planners to up their spends or face consequences. Penalties could include higher CPMs for future campaigns or forced non-guaranteed impressions. One planner complained that a rep actually griped, seriously, that he wouldn't be able to buy a cottage if the agency didn't increase spending for the year. To a media planner, who is often underpaid for the ridiculous hours he or she works, this is like nails on a chalk board.
The Bonus Peeve:

Under Delivery
This is a problem with smaller independent sites that have no network to depend on for inventory back-up. Clients are sold a set number of impressions and sites are simply unable to fulfill the requirements. Planners are frustrated with the lack of transparency at the early stages of the planning process. The media would be bought regardless, so it would behoove the publishers to be conservative in their estimated inventory proposals.

Interestingly, SEM was described as the "wild west" and that reps specializing in search were the most difficult to deal with.

Stay tuned for the sellers' retort and some thoughts on mediation...


Anonymous said...

on the point!

Anonymous said...

I think this is a really interesting topic! Good to know that my challenges are not mine alone. :)

One of my major peeve is when a sales rep doesn't acknowledge the receipt of an RFP email or any email, esp when they do not respond within 24hrs. Even when request is urgent.

Other pet peeves are pretty much illustrated in point 1 - 4. Glad to say I haven't encountered #5 as yet.

To your point #1, I have something to add. While I agree that it is annoying to be spammed by sales rep with phone calls, I think it really depends on the relationship between the them. Some phone calls are actually welcomed, but only when the sales rep has something valuable to add/convey. Those who excel at their jobs know their products well, and are able to give insights that the planner may not have. Especially since online is such a evolving industry. However, it's sad to say I sometimes have to probe and make suggestions on what they can propose.

One good sales rep said...

Planners are influencers, not decison makers. Decisoins are made with the client and the level of influence a rep has with the client will ultimately determine the the relationship with the planner and the amount they spend.

A good sales rep knows that they can have just as much or even more influence with the client. Why? Because Media planners are generally young and inexperienced, relative to good experienced reps.

Good reps can massage young ego's and eliminate their discomfort when approaching a client. A savvy way of saying, "don't worry, kid - you know I know this stuff better...and I'll will make sure you get your time int he spotlight too."

The biggest pet peeve (and this is for anyone in business) is the level of ego satisfaction they are getting. "Am I being made to feel like I'm an important part of the decision process?" Good business partners know how to manage egos while getting what they want out of them. This applies to clients, planners, but mostly - because they have the most to gain - sales reps.

Sonia Carreno said...

One good rep sales rep...are you suggesting that rep/client relationships are stronger than planner/client relationships?

One good sales rep said...

I'm suggesting that people who make decisions want to work with people who make them more comfortable about making said decisions. The more comfortable one can make a decion maker, the bigger the deal can get.

A "client/rep" relationship is always going to put an agency off. Good reps just minimize the negative feelings surrounding this through effective ego management.

And while these relationships definitely aren't the norm in media, they are almost mandatory when we're talking about BIG FUCKIN DEALS. (And if a sales rep isn't always thinking about BIG FUCKIN DEALS, then s/he belongs down there - cold calling and harassing media planners while knowing little about thier client's business.)

Sonia Carreno said...

My goodness...
Ok, so you don't think that media planners hired to do big strategies on behalf of their clients are capable of conceptualizing BFDs??? "BFDs" aren't necessarily the right deals for the clients - I think media agencies are hired to consult aren't they?
From an agency's perspective a BFD doesn't have to rely on one rep's offering does it?

One Good Sales Rep said...

The nature of all BFDs in business reduce the value of middle men. I'm sure you've heard this slogan in consumer business..."Buy direct!" Agencies have conflicting objectives beacuse of the way they charge the client. Its like the stock broker who gets paid buying my investments, whether I make money or not.

More important however, is the level at which the consultant or media planner plays - they are far too down the decison making process, and only get invovled once a problem has been identified. Sales reps need to get to the decison maker before they know they have a problem. Once clients' know they have a problem, consultants are hired, budgets are assigned, and strategies are laid out. At that point, all suppliers are commoditized and the agency is looking for the fastest/cheapest offering. No thanks.

Sonia Carreno said...

Sounds like you'd be happy to see agencies disappear. I'm not sure how realistic that is in the short term. They must be doing something right - clients continue to hire them and clients have even less time to hear about BFDs than planners do. Your analogy of the investment banker can be taken further - some clients want a balanced portfolio - BFD-seekers are simply not an option in those circumstances.

Media Planner said...

Let's be honest here, One Good Sales Rep. You like to approach clients directly because they will pay through the nose for BFDs, based on their inexperience. An agency can easily recognize the main kind of BFD - the Bullshit Fuckin Deal. An agency works for the best interest of the client. Why wouldn't we recommend a BFD if it offered true value and aligned with client objectives?

David Reich said...

"Agencies have conflicting objectives beacuse of the way they charge the client," said One Good Sales Rep. Possibly so, under the old standard commission set-up. But so many agencies and buying shops now work on a fee basis rather than a commission basis, so they can stay focused on getting the deal that makes the most sense for the client, regardless of cost.

One good sales rep said...

I am not suggesting that the agency doesn't add value - I use to work at one and know exactly what they bring. And as for this new fee based structure, its still doesn't go as far as pay for performance. There aren't many media agencies willing to get paid on a cost per sale basis. That's changing though.

Anyway, this discussion is about planner pet peeves I am of the opinion that the very peeves discussed are simply a function of the role (and that any sales rep wanting to succeed should focus their efforts away from those in these roles).

There are C-level executives, VPs of marketing, finance officers, and brand mangers who get a shot at the media budget before the media planner ever has a clue! (Don't be mad at the truth).

A rep can't go pissing off the agency and have a shot at making a deal with the client go off smoothly. One must balance the egos of the kiddies at the agency, but a good rep will also roll up his sleeves and get some work done with decison maker. One relationship with a high ranking executive is worth about 10 media planners. If you don't agree, then you obviously haven 't played at a high enough level.

People make decisons with their hearts, not minds. Which means you can take your blocking chart - which says my BFD is bullshit - and shove it. Why? Because I was at golfing with Mr Client and he loves the way I make him FEEL.

Jeffry Roach said...

All of the comments made by “One good sales rep” exemplify the feelings expressed in Pet peeve #2. REPS AREN’T LISTENING, as well as show the true colours of what reps focus on, their next commission cheque.

To be clear, I don’t fault them for that mind set. That is the nature of their work and what they are trained to do. Who wouldn’t push to sell more if it means they have the opportunity to make more money? That being said, I am a little put off by the comment that I am some sort of inexperienced “kid” who needs to have my ego massaged, when the fact is I (and many others) have been in this industry for many years and do our best work for the satisfaction of a job well done and not ego.

I do agree with the statement that “people who make decisions want to work with people who make them more comfortable about making said decisions”, but I fully believe that falls under the relationship the agency has with the client. The reality is, it is the agency’s responsibility to help get to the root of what a client’s issue is and to help build a full solution that can touch many areas of a client’s business. The media planning process is an important part of that solution, finding appropriate channels and placements to display the marketing message. While this may at times be a single channel (online only) it is rare that a single site or network can produce the results needed, no matter what a rep promises. A quick side note, I have never been conflicted in my recommendations over what I or the agency I work for will earn, I have always worked for the best interest of the client. I know this is not always the case, but I think it is more prevalent than “One good sales rep” implies.

Reps can, and often do, the BFD’s direct with the client, but I can not be convinced that they are anything more than short sighted as they are usually based on big promises of low rates and little more. I am sure this can be argued with specific exemptions to that general statement, but I am speaking of my experience with these types of deals where the decision is made “with their hearts, not minds" and usually takes place while “golfing with Mr Client and he loves the way I make him FEEL".

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