The Ad Industry Boom: How Reps Can Profit

It’s a busy time to be a media buyer. Every report says online ad spending is going up. Last year, ZenithOptimedia forecast that global online ad spending will rise to $44.6 billion this year, an increase of 24 percent over late 2007. Online advertising, it predicted, will surpass radio spending this year, and magazine ad dollars by 2010.

In a U.S.-centric report released this spring, eMarketer estimated that online ad spending will reach $25.9 billion this year. Although the number was lowered from an initial 2007 forecast of $27.5 billion due to economic uncertainty, this is still a 23 percent increase over 2007 — a pretty sizeable figure, especially for media buyers.

That’s because we’re swamped — and not just with client work. At the largest of interactive agencies, buyers are getting an average of 5 to 10 new introductions and proposals from site publishers daily. The smaller shops are also being bombarded by requests to review new placement opportunities. It’s all we can do to get through our voicemail each day, let alone return all the calls.

This makes for a frustrating environment on both sides. Sales reps are increasingly annoyed by our lack of initiative. For our part, although we’re in need of new placements for our clients and are genuinely interested in what sales reps have to say, we’re too overwhelmed with the campaigns on our plates to think much beyond these plans.

Obviously, nobody benefits from this state of affairs. But there are some things site reps and buyers can do to facilitate communication and jumpstart conversations that can ultimately produce great new campaigns — the outcome all of us (including our clients) seek.

Meet the Media Buyers

Although it’s common for buyers and planners to provide sites with repeat business and count a handful of publishers among their must-buys, new clients, business categories, consumer segments, and industry verticals necessitate research into unfamiliar territory. That’s where meeting you and learning about your site can be invaluable.

In an ideal world, buyers would have time to speak with every rep who crossed their threshold and compile a list of potential opportunities even before we had a client onboard who was a perfect fit. Present circumstances considered, it’s only realistic to expect a buyer to respond to your inquiry if she’s working with a brand or product for which your site makes sense.

Before you call on a buyer with your pitch, research the agency’s client and project lists as much as possible. Scour the trade publications for new business wins and accounts going up for review. Check resources like LinkedIn and Facebook, as turnover at agencies is high and buyers tend to keep their profiles updated with recent work. Do all you can to avoid calls like the one I received last week, wherein a rep pitched his site for a brand we’d never worked with, then a brand we haven’t represented for years.

Pitch a Concept, Not a Site

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the days when buyers were buyers and planners were planners are done. Interactive agencies worth their salt know the benefits of planning and buying in tandem and instead hire strategists who can handle both tasks. When you call to speak with a buyer, know that you’re likely speaking with the person who’ll conceptualize the campaign and that he’s probably looking for new placement ideas right now.

After researching the agency to determine which clients might be a good fit for your site, contemplate what type of placement will deliver the best results. You’ll be working blind without knowing specific campaign objectives. To offset this disadvantage, look to the agency’s client case studies (often displayed on their corporate site or featured in online trade pubs) for a sense of what’s been done before — and therefore made it through both the buyer and client approval process — and, most important, what has worked.

It’s worth the time required to devise a placement strategy that you can present when you first correspond with the buyer. This approach is more likely to grab our attention than a general site pitch, and get us thinking seriously about the fruits a potential partnership could produce.

To make the buyer/rep relationship work at what promises to be the busiest time our industry has seen, buyers must also do their part. Next week: what we can do to ensure we all profit from this industry boom.

Meet Tessa at ClickZ Specifics: Online Video Advertising on July 22, at Millennium Broadway in New York City.

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