Let me preface this by saying that we work with dozens of dedicated, talented advertising agencies every year. Those that ask the tough questions. Those that review our audit statement. This is not about those agencies. We love you. You are our partners. But I’ve got to get something off my chest.
Ok, so here goes. An interesting thing happened the other day in our weekly sales and marketing meeting. I’d asked for takeaways from a study I’d posted for the team to review. (Side note: You guys use a project management tool for meetings? You really should! We use Asana.) Anyway, this study said that 67% of media buyers (ad agencies) found discounts extremely important. Yet only 46% found the audit/circulation statement important. (Side note: The study is from a presentation. It doesn’t appear to be public otherwise I’d post it here.)
One of the comments posted about this study from our team was: “Everybody expects discounts. We could make another version of the Media Kit that’s labeled ‘Media Kit for Buyers Who Want Discounts’ with the handwritten note, ‘Prices have been artificially inflated 50% so we can give you a 50% discount.'” The person who posted it went on to say that they were just kidding.
But I started thinking about it. That’s exactly what some media companies do. They assume that the buyer’s thrill of getting a discount is so great that they won’t bother to ask the pesky details that will assure they are buying quality. They want to show their clients that they are working hard for them. The money they saved the client represents that. Some RFP’s actually include a cell to complete for ‘discount off the rate card.’ They are baffled to learn that our rates are for real. (Didn’t we get the bogus 50% inflation memo?)
In the insurance industry, a policy is only as good as what it covers, right? A cheap policy becomes very expensive very quickly if you have an accident and it’s not covered. Heck, independent agents know all about this. National multi-million dollar consumer ad campaigns built around the idea of saving 15%. They work. They tap into human psychology. The psychology of winning.
I get that. It’s an advertising tactic that works. But in the media landscape itself, a media campaign that only a few people see or that the wrong people see…doesn’t help the brand. Even if you bought it at a 50% discount. And even if the creative itself is brilliant.
I see a lot of ‘cheap’ media buys nowadays. Some platforms with elaborate dashboards that make the user feel very powerful. Lots of metrics. Some relevant. Most not. We’ve all seen out-and-out fraud reported in programmatic advertising over the years. Inflated Impressions created by bots and domain spoofing. Not just the unknown guys either. Facebook agreed to pay advertisers $40 million dollars last year over inflated video stats. But these stats make the advertiser feel good.
I follow this guy on Twitter called The Ad Contrarian (@adcontrarian). His tagline is: “Making Marketers Uncomfortable Since 2007.” And he does make me uncomfortable. But I agree with a lot of what he says. By the way, if his January 6th post on Facebook’s Year of Disgrace doesn’t give you pause about feeding this platform, I don’t know what to say.
I understand the desire to show the client what a good deal the ad agency got for them. I really do. But what confounds me is that so many of these ad agencies (in this study anyway) would care more about the discount than the value of the product. All the media looks the same to them. But obviously it’s not.
It would be easy to create bogus rates so ad agencies can give clients a discount. But I’m not going to do that. What I am going to do is promise ad agencies and media buyers this:
We will always give you a great value. No tricks. We will be your partner and elevate your brand so the right people see it. And if we ever do something wrong, we’ll make it right. But no, you can’t have 50% off.
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