Media buying services are not a well-understood professional services category. It's like interior design; everyone thinks they would be masterful with a big enough budget. But, sadly, many a mansion ended up with disastrous results.
Media is big money. For many companies it's their largest expense. The prevailing truth about advertising is "the difference between a large company and small company is the size of their ad budget".
So, if you are interested in hiring a professional media-buying firm, what can you expect?
Here is a list of what a competent buyer would do for you.
1. Know the marketing plan.
Your marketing plan is the holy grail of where you are headed; it is the foundation to build the strategy of the media plan.
Your marketing plan will have financial, product, sales, advertising/merchandising, and marketing data. Alongside, your SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) and most importantly, your market segments.
Market segments provide the media planner with insight as to who your customers are and where they are going to be. With today's advanced media options, we can dig much deeper than just a gender and a basic demographic.
There are many tools media firms use to get the very best match for your market. These tools include demographic, psychographic, geographic, behavioral, and content sets. Using the right tools is the magic of experience. Your buyer will know which specific factors to use in properly analyzing your market.
3. Understanding your organization.
Having your media buyer understand your products and services is more important than you might think. Your buyer will do the best job when they have a complete understanding of your market segments, your customer personas, and understand your goals.
One little known media placement tactic is recency. Placing media when your buying cycle is hot can have a positive effect on your results. Recency is how close to the time of purchase a prospect will be exposed to your message. For a very simple analogy, a restaurant you would want to advertise a breakfast message before 8AM and then change to a lunch message through about 1PM. It’s surprising how much data is available about when people are making purchase decisions. When you match a digital strategy up with your media, you can really start to see behavioral patterns.
4. Media experience from the inside.
I am going to let the cat out of the bag. Huge ad agencies are not usually your best media buying options. The newest, lowest paid employees often start in the media department. These folks have aspirations of working on big accounts in creative or account management. New employees are not there to be in the media department.
Conversely, media buying firms are more often comprised of people who came from media companies. They know how pricing and negotiation works and have sold and negotiated millions of dollars in advertising. These are the individuals you want to work with.
During my 20 years in broadcasting, I ran across media buying training. These training classes offer participants negotiation training for media buying. Great negotiations should feel more like exploratory questions rather than price conversations. I like to use one round of negotiations for exploring value added options, which would include free web presence, contests, and sponsorships.
The long and short of it is your negotiator should go through at least three rounds of negotiations. And, be sure that there is a formula or best practice in place for negotiation at the media buying firm that you work with.
6. An organized approach.
Your media buyer will have very clear processes. Ask about the process for budget and expenditure approvals, creative sign offs, and traffic instructions. It sounds simple but small firms often have very close relationships with their clients and that can mean some things are assumed rather than approved.
7. Posting and accountability.
Did your schedule run as ordered? A media buy has to have an effective reach and frequency, the right message and the right audience. But, all of that is irrelevant if it doesn’t run or if it doesn’t run right.
For example, a radio station may have in their contract that they can run a spot within 15 minutes of the requested placement. Well, if you order a morning drive spot between 6AM and 10AM, they could run it at 5:45AM. This 5:45AM slot is an overnight spot, not morning drive. So, you paid a premium for the most expensive slot on the station in morning drive and received the least expensive slot in overnight.
Your buyer should have the right kind of software to manage all of your efficiencies and tell you if every spot, ad, board, tile, and message ran as ordered.
Once your advertising budget gets to the point where you are buying multiple media and multiple vendors, you should consider a media buying firm. They will have the leverage to get you lower rates and better times than if you buy on your own. The best part about this particular service is that because of the negotiating ability of most media buyers, you don’t end up paying more.