What Makes One Media Company
More Effective Than Another?
By Adam MacDonald
Have you ever wondered what makes one
direct response media buying agency better
than another? Are the agencies that book
hundreds of millions of media per year better
than the smaller boutique agencies that book a modest
$50-100 million per year?
Most agencies have gone head-to-head, competing feverishly for the right to be the exclusive agency-of-record
(AOR) for many of the top direct response marketers.
Why do some companies win more tests than others? Is it
that some agencies really get better rates than others? Or
is it, as some tout, that they have superior media buying
clout and an ability to move in and out of slots quickly?
You also hear about extensive research and huge
databases of information that help the account team to
put together a more targeted media buy, thus being more
efficient with better response rates. Some companies
even brag about their media buyers’ ability to negotiate
on behalf of the client, and that they are incentivized
by working on 100-percent media commissions — the
theory being that they only make money if you are making money. Theoretically, that seems like a valid reason to
get the best rates, but, more often than not, that can work
against the client.
Some agencies even argue that all media rates are
about the same, so outcomes of and head-to-head tests
are strictly by chance. As media rates continue to climb
and response rates drop, you can’t afford to pick the wrong
media agency. So what really makes the best media-buying
agency — or is there such a thing? The answer is simple:
yes, some media companies are better than others — but
what are some of the most important things to seek out?
It is a fact that media agency clout does help secure
coveted DR media time, but don’t discount the fact that
individual campaigns or shows have much more clout
than agencies do. For example, the stations are much
more interested in the buying power of a show at a given
time than they are on the past history of a particular
agency. The bottom line is
that stations want the hottest
shows in today’s market,
The product category,
along with the celebrities in
the show, also can help entice
the stations as well. Yes, they would rather run a show featuring Dell computers with an A-list celebrity like Pierce
Brosnan than a cheap sexual enhancement pill with a no-name porn star in it.
What about those huge databases and prior station performance? Yes, it helps when putting together a test, but
in reality the market changes so fast and each campaign
has unique variables that it really doesn’t help as much as
it may seem. There is nothing like current market testing.
What about the individual media buyers who are 100-
percent commissioned? Well this is not a bad strategy,
but because of human nature, over-incentivizing the buyers can work against you. The more they book, the more
commissions they make. It works the best if the buyers are
100-percent commissioned on actual net media efficiency
ratios. This means that the higher the ratio above the acceptable minimum, the more commission they earn.
Are freebies and bonuses really that effective? Yes, the
more an agency can include free media in your campaign,
the better — and the more the agencies ask the stations,
the more they get. What about good old fashioned customer service and overall campaign strategy? Nothing can
improve the efficiency of media better than driving more
calls and closing more sales. Some agencies employ expert
producers and back-end specialists to help drive calls,
close sales and reduce bad debt and return rates. ■
When choosing your media agency, take a look at seven concepts
in this order of importance:
1. Overall experience of the media buying team and their
track record of customer service.
2. Total campaign expertise — look for production and back-end expertise.
3. Call references and ask detailed questions about customer
4. How are the company’s buyers compensated?
5. Ask for disclosure of annual billings — remember,
though, the biggest isn’t necessarily the best choice.
6. What percentage of free and bonused media do they get
7. How is their reporting? Can they integrate short-form,
long-form and Internet sales into meaningful reports?