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Angry Young Media Buyer

  |  November 18, 2003   |  Comments

How do media buyers view their clients, agencies, and vendors? Well, Mark's having one of those days.

Every once in a while you stop and... no, not smell the roses. Unload. The stuff that makes you roll your eyes and grind your teeth. It's one of those days, and you're my sounding board. If your glass is half full, you may want to hit delete. But if your day is shrouded in pessimism, read on.

Client Complaint

Given the sheer number of these, it could be a whole column. But there's a word limit. And a handful of clients actually read my blather, so I'll tread lightly.

About a week ago, we went to one of our largest clients' headquarters to march out some of the latest, greatest cross-media research to their media team. These are the folks with 30-plus years of data that suggest the optimal media plan is 52 weeks of TV, period.

In the most politically correct way, they recognize and acknowledge a mix is better than a myopic plan consisting of one medium. Give them a mix, they'll blow it away.

So we trotted out the data from our friends at the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). The client said "We get that a mix is good, but we just don't see where this Internet thing fits in yet." I should pause for a rant, but with 750 words left, I'll press on. After a spirited (but fruitless) debate about where it all fits, the meeting adjourned.

I approached the head curmudgeon for a last, timid shot.

"Mr. Mephistopheles, we've generated some planning inputs over at the ranch and thought you might find them useful. It might help your other agencies view the Internet in a way comparable to other media. We'd be happy to share them with those other agencies. You know, rating points, reach levels, and such. We're aware a print plan hasn't been sold in here for the past decade, the medium being only a 100 and some-odd years old and all, but you might be interested in seeing the information."

Mephistopheles replied, "You know I'm not. Interested, that is. Your best shot is to turn around and walk out of here and hope money falls from the sky. There's a better chance of that than of me approving a plan with your voodoo magic on it."

Despite proof their core audience is watching less and less TV and the competition is using more and more media mixes, they refuse to react. The media landscape has changed dramatically in the past 10 years, yet a plan from 1993 is not materially different from one written in 2003.

I'm grinding my teeth.

Office Complaint

I'm losing one of my planners. She's an all-star. The shop she's going to is lucky. She's leaving for the right reasons (not because she doesn't like it here). I applaud her for following her inner voice.

In a management meeting the week she turned in her resignation, we were told by our director that staffing is screwed up. We're too heavy in some places, too light in others. Altogether, we use too many freelancers. Every department in the shop has experienced tremendous fluctuation, save mine. We've been a steady group for three years or so. I pipe up to ask about replacing people (vs. adding). Response, "Well of course we can replace people. I'm talking about incremental hires."

So I proceed to run candidates and move toward replacement. Then, "You can't replace her. Where did you get that idea?" This from the same person behind the quote above, mind you. Compounding my exasperation is the fact we're the most efficient, profitable department in the shop. I'll cut this short in the interest of retaining my current employment status.

Site/Vendor Complaint

My word count's running out, so I'll be brief. These should resonate, even in short form.

  • We signed an insertion order (IO) for inventory, to start within a week. We told the client. They were pleased. We get a call from the site later that week. "We must have lost your IO, and, by the way, we resold the inventory and have no more." What kind of business are you running?

  • When introducing yourself for the first time, do not leave me three minute voice mails and do not send me email messages longer than this column. They aren't listened to or read.

  • Under-delivery. We bought it because you said you had it. So why can't you deliver it in the timeframe you said you could?

  • On the phone, it went something like this, "Mark, we've submitted a lot of proposals to you guys lately and still haven't gotten a buy. I'm beginning to wonder if this is worth our time. I'd be happy to work directly with your client, though." I am speechless.

  • Research recruitment: All those calls, with less than a week left in a campaign, informing us, "We haven't recruited enough people from these eight sites to make the site-by-site analysis valid." What? That's half my buy! Why didn't you figure this out six weeks ago, when we could have done something about it?

Not sure if I feel better, but any more of this might prove unhealthy. Those of you who stuck it out are true warriors. Take the rest of the day off!

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Mark Redetzke Mark Redetzke is vice president of online media for Zentropy Partners, a unit of MRM (McCann Relationship Marketing). He's led Zentropy's Minneapolis online media department since 1999, where he develops integrated online contact strategies and oversees all planning and buying. Current clients include Nestle Purina, General Mills, H&R Block, Microsoft, Overture and Sprint. Earlier, Mark planned traditional and online media for Campbell-Mithun. He's a frequent guest lecturer at conferences and graduate advertising and communications courses at St. Thomas University; the University of Minnesota; Minneapolis School of Communication Arts & Design and the 4A's.

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