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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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...