Media Sales & Buying Relationship Building: Common Planner/Buyer Faux Pas

All lasting business is built on friendship.

~ Alfred A. Montapert, author

I should start by saying that I have immense respect for my friends in media sales. It’s one of the few professions where, on any given day, you are competing among thousands of competitors. I should also say that I have immense admiration for my colleagues on the receiving side in media planning and buying, as you are the recipient of those thousands of companies soliciting you for business. It’s a far cry from where we all were in the Mad Men days.

Regardless, the goal is to make our clients happy. Sometimes, however, our zeal to make our clients (and bosses) happy interferes with the relationships we’re trying to develop between the sales and buying side. Therefore, I’m dedicating the next two columns to the pet peeves and annoyances I’ve heard from both sides. We’ll start with four main grievances I hear on the planning/buying side, since that is the world I live in. Feel free to add your own; just remember, it’s a two-way street and no one is innocent.

“You Called My Client/Boss?”

If you really want to ruin a buyer’s day, then drop their client or boss an email asking for a meeting or clarification on the campaign. Usually this happens for three reasons. First, the buyer won’t call you back and this is your next stop. I totally get that and have no issue with it.

Second, you have a good relationship with the buyer, but you haven’t made it on a plan yet. Trust me, going over their head won’t earn you a place on the plan. The client and boss will forward your message to the buyer asking for some insight and they will follow up with a defense that could rival the OJ Simpson defense (i.e., charts, histograms and the numbers of the last three girls you dated are likely to accompany such a task).

Third, your publication is on the plan, but you want to increase your sphere of influence (or your boss is making you). I don’t have an issue with this, per se, but why not have your main contact initiate this meeting or give you feedback if it’s even necessary? Instead, what happens is a client or a supervisor gets your email/call and forwards it to the buyer (who’s now perturbed) and asks them if they can handle this and they do (while they’re perturbed). Instead, develop the relationship with your main contact at the agency and let them advocate on your behalf.

“You Won’t Stop Calling/Emailing Me or Showing Up.”

Sometimes, buyers feel like they’re in a twisted version of Fatal Attraction. I’ve had reps track me down on my personal cell phone on a weekend. I totally understand the desperation of making your monthly or quarterly goals, but interrupting someone while they’re watching their kid’s soccer game on a Saturday morning will only get you on their “do not call back” list.

Here’s the deal: buyers are swamped. On average, they receive at least ten or more solicitations a day from new vendors. This, in addition to client meetings, new business pitches, time sheets, negotiations, so-and-so calling out sick the day before the plan has to launch, etc. Instead, send them an email and ask them how best to proceed. 

“You Won’t Call Me Back.”

On the flip side, buyers are dealing with the rep that will not return their calls.

“Our rich media won’t expand.”

“There is an article about porn that our ad is appearing next to.”

“The proposal didn’t include impressions and it’s due in an hour.”

Where is the rep? Too often, reps are away or have left a company and no one notifies the agency. Tracking down the right person can be an exhausting exercise. Instead, be proactive and let them know how to reach you in case of an emergency.

“You Don’t Prepare or Listen”

Being prepared for meetings is critical. Most of the information you need can be found online. No one is expecting you to understand the insight and creative inspiration, but be familiar with what the advertiser does and their latest work. Also, in the meeting, take notes and listen carefully. It’s so hard to get meeting these days, therefore, let’s make the best of the time we have together.

What other common grievances have you experienced on the planning/buying side? Share yours in the comments!

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