Your agency is your partner, and that partnership extends to buying the media space for your ad campaigns. It’s a service with several benefits you might not fully recognize.
One of the four Ps of marketing is Place. While most of what your full service marketing agency is doing for you falls within the Promotion group, I’d argue buying your media resides within Place. Where you run your ads can be more important than what you run. This is true regardless of the medium: digital, print, broadcast, outdoor, etc. If you aren’t placing your advertising in the right media, you’re not going to reach your target audience as effectively. So media buying is critically important to your campaign’s success. It therefore seems obvious that you’d trust your agency partner to handle it for you. But, inevitably, someone will raise the issue of media commissions, and question whether or not you should just buy the media direct and save yourself the perceived markup. Far from being a windfall, in my experience, agencies do indeed earn the commission. Here are a few points to illustrate how:
1. You get more bang for your buck. As an advertiser, you benefit from your agency’s negotiating and at times bulk-buying power with the media to get better rates than you could secure yourself. It may seem that your agency has a disincentive to save you money if they’re making a commission on the buy, but that should not be the case. Assuming you’ve established a media budget, your agency should simply be working to cram the most into the budget, and the commission earned shouldn’t really change. Plus, agencies want to see their work “in the wild”, so the better the buy, the better the exposure.
2. Expert planning. Agencies are media experts, and their expertise should be a reason you hired them in the first place. Particularly if your agency specializes in your industry, they’ll be well connected with your industry’s media. So, you get the best recommendations for where, when and how to spend your limited budget. This includes your agency’s ability to look at all available media options and make an unbiased recommendation to you, rather than succumbing the pitch from the most persuasive media rep.
3. Let your agency take the sales calls. Media reps have inventory to sell, and it’s perishable. It can at times feel like the media reps are always calling you, giving a pitch that can make it feel like you’re talking to a used car salesman. The special deals good for today only. The upcoming special edition that you’d be a great fit for. The new program offering, etc. The reps are doing their job, but let your agency field all the calls and be the one to say no if necessary.
4. No cost difference for you. Negotiation skills aside and assuming all things are equal, your total media cost should be the same if you place the media directly with the publications and broadcasters as it would be if you let your agency buy it. The media company is taking the revenue hit, selling to your agency wholesale and to you retail. Media shouldn’t sell to advertisers at wholesale rates.
5. The media prefers to work with agencies. Agencies understand all of the lingo included in media kits and they know how to buy. Plus, they understand the file requirements and have the ability to supply creative materials in the formats the media prefers. Therefore, most media have a preference for working with agencies because they require less hand holding. That’s part of why they offer the commission in the first place.
6. Your agency handles the paperwork. Don’t worry about the details and paperwork involved in actually booking and tracking your media buys. Even in our digital age, there still needs to be an insertion order created and approved, the media invoice needs to be received, checked and paid. Free up your time from handling all of this by letting your agency buy the media.
At the heart of a successful relationship with a full service marketing firm should be open and honest communication about costs and the ways in which an agency makes money. Media commissions are not always fixed at 15%, and not all media buys will earn the agency a commission. I’d recommend having a dialogue with your partner regarding commissions during your media planning process. Keep in mind that all agencies need to be profitable in order to continue to provide services to their clients. So, why not reap the benefits of your agency’s expertise while also letting your partner earn additional income without a direct cost to you?