Keep Your Media Reps Close

I was at a pitch recently, where one of our senior planners made a statement that made me extremely proud. She said, “An online channel is more than media buys and ads running on Web sites; it’s the relationships your agency has with the people who work at those sites.” Our company has always strived to build warm, honest, collaborative relationships with the media properties we work with, and here was one of our team members expressing that idea perfectly. It reminded me that many of our biggest success stories are due in large part to the great working relationships we have with our reps.

As founder of our media department, I’ve always tried to have our planners and buyers bring something to the table when we’re planning and negotiating media. Specifically, we try to get media reps to understand and embrace our clients’ goals the way we do. If you can achieve this, you’ll create a much stronger channel and, therefore, a more successful online campaign.

Based on that approach, I’m going to share a couple secrets I’ve learned over the years, secrets at the heart of this approach that have served the agencies I’ve worked for and, more importantly, my clients extremely well.

We’re All on the Same Team

The first secret is media planners and media reps are actually on the same team. Make friends with them. Don’t beat them up as though they’re your adversaries. Build a collaborative relationship with your reps that makes them your ally in the good fight. They want your online campaign to work as much as you do, more so if you have a cancellation clause in your insertion order. If the buy doesn’t perform, you can cancel and move the dollars to something else. It’s not a huge loss for you, just part of the optimization process. For the reps, however, it can be huge. Their commission goes flying out the window.

Be very nice to media reps. Treat them like partners in your campaign. Explain to them the metrics driving campaign success and ROI (define). Chances are you’ll get more from them that way than by beating them up on price. By no means am I telling you not to negotiate for better rates and value-added placements. But if you can establish early on that you’re partners with the same goals, and that success means a long-term relationship with you and your client, you’ll do much better in the long run.

Media Reps Know What Makes Campaigns Work

The second secret is many media reps know what makes campaigns work on their sites. They, or others in their organization, understand their audiences better than anyone else. They’re also aware of campaigns that soared and why they soared, as well as those that flopped and why they flopped. This holds especially true when an agency cancels its buy.

Want some ideas about what resonates with a certain audience? Want to know what works for businesses targeting your audience, or even your clients’ competition? Ask the people who have seen it all and who want your campaign to work as much as anyone — media reps and vendors. They have a wealth of information and real-world experience! On top of that, they often have access to a wide range of research tools and syndicated data resources that may surpass the information you have.

Get Some Insight

When planning your next campaign, here are some things you can ask your rep that could deliver some valuable ideas and insights to apply to your campaign:

  • Is there any third-party data you can provide on my client’s category? (A good rep will dig some up for you.)

  • Are you aware of any of my client’s competitors on your site (or on other sites)? If so, what are they doing? (Request creative samples and landing-page links.)
  • Do you have ideas or programs that what will help my client break through the clutter from a placement standpoint? (Give them some license to get creative.)
  • What works with your site’s audience from a messaging, creative, and offer standpoint? Can you provide examples? (Remember, they can see the click rate of thousands of banners and programs running on their sites.)

Not all the reps will be able to offer meaningful information from these questions, and you’ll have to filter fluff from fact. Asking enough reps these questions will deliver more than just a few nuggets of valuable information. Also, plenty may be communicated to you off the record, or without specific examples. A rep’s desire to make the sale and ensure your campaign’s success is often sufficiently strong enough that he’ll give you extremely valuable insight from his own experience.

Be friendly with your reps. Work together with them to create success together. These reps will fight on your behalf for the best deals and think of you when they have interesting opportunities. And, of course, don’t pass up free information just because it comes from the sales side of the equation. There can still be a lot of insight and value in it!

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