Media Buying: Lessons Learned

Due to the upcoming holidays, this will be my last column for 2003. By chance, it’s also my 100th column for ClickZ. With the New Year coming fast, certainly bringing new clients and new campaigns, this is an ideal opportunity to review the primary media buying lessons learned… so far.

Keep Your Friends Close

Building and maintaining positive relationships with sales reps and third-party ad suppliers needn’t be a chore when you abide by a few simple guidelines. Give respect where respect is due, and you’ll get the same in return. You can’t avoid sellers like the plague, then expect them to jump into action on demand. Send an RFP with one day’s notice, and you’ll fume when they decline to push other clients aside to fulfill it.

Sales reps have limits on what they can offer and when. Sellers can assist you, but won’t do all your homework for you. Going into a call with a basic knowledge of their properties is usually all that’s needed to make a friend — and expedite the deal in the process.

Stay Grounded, Connected, and Humble

In online media buying, the top priority (campaign success aside) is to maintain awareness and understanding of the target audience. Easier said than done.

A thorough understanding of Internet technology and online promotional techniques is practically a job prerequisite for media buyers. A profound knowledge of the medium is necessary for success, but it can also disconnect buyers from their audiences.

Although their intent isn’t to take a lofty view of their business and position, as Internet experts many buyers have a hard time staying grounded. It’s likely a good portion of their target audience are neophytes. They might not appreciate a concept you think is great, even if it receives adulation and support from industry peers (and fellow pros).

The best acid test for potential audience response remains what fellow ClickZ writer Bryan Eisenberg terms the Mom Test. Employ the services of a relatively inexperienced family member or friend to determine whether your concept will receive the appreciation you feel it deserves.

Always carefully consider the nature of your audience before trying a controversial or unorthodox approach. And above all, stay humble. Not every campaign need be award-worthy. It should succeed in capturing audience attention and produce the desired overall effect.

Educate Yourself

Though somewhat tedious, this lesson is near and dear to my heart. Incredibly, many buyers don’t keep abreast of industry news and research. They go about their daily lives blissfully unaware of major happenings in their industry. Imagine being a client on the other end of that equation.

Stay informed. Company mergers and acquisitions can affect current and upcoming campaigns. New research can sway media buying decisions, as can case studies illustrating the success of novel marketing endeavors. Just a few minutes of perusing industry e-newsletters every day will do it. Take the time to better yourself as a buyer.

Blaze Your Own Trail

I’ve written many columns addressing the latest format or placement, from reviewing the pros and cons of search engine marketing to demystifying e-newsletter ads. Following the trend is not always a good idea. Hundreds of stellar placement opportunities exist for buyers with open minds, the drive to explore further, and the mettle to try something new.

From video ads to customized home pages, media properties are always serving up new formats and promotional techniques that offer buyers the chance to distinguish their clients. What’s the best online ad you’ve seen (aside from your own buys, of course)? It’s not likely to be a 468 x 60 home page banner. When’s the last time one such ad caught your eye?

Great success is most often the result of taking chances. A truly unique online ad can quickly become the stuff of legend.

On that note, I wish you all a happy holiday season and successful new year. Thanks for sticking with me these past two years, and keep emailing me with your views and advice on the great business of media buying.

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