Technology Could Kill the Media Buy/Sell Relationship

With the increasing automation of the media buy/sell relationship, there has been a shift towards forcing a square peg in a round whole when it comes to a buyer gleaning information from a media seller for consideration as part of a media program. It's only natural to try to streamline the process but when it eliminates viable media properties, simply because the media property can't fit its (very worthy) square peg sell into the buyer's myopic, square buy hole, that's a very bad thing. And, seemingly, it's all done, not without merit, just to get all potential media vehicles on the same proverbial playing field so the buyer can then compare them using the same set of metrics. Well, an apple isn't an orange and it never will be but apples and oranges are both, still, food worthy of consumption.

We've seen advertiser buysheeet requests that ask not just to fill in the basic info like ad size, CPM and cost, which is all perfectly acceptable, but also to request insanities like "Can you revise the buy sheet to move the row for Flight X up to the row for Flight Y?" Having recently moved from many years on the buy side to the sell side, we're not really surprised. We did our fare share of asking sales reps to do far more than, in hindsight, they should have been asked. But, as a publisher, all requests, however odd, are always completed because no publisher wants a snit fight over nudgy stuff to ruin a deal. Not to mention the dirty, not-so-secret fact that it's the buyer who's in the position of power.

The streamlining of the buy/sell relationship boils down to a combination of the natural tendency for humans to find the path of least resistance, the rise in technology enabled automation and the decline in social skills because all we do now is send email rather than talk/discuss/negotiate on the phone or meet physically. All of the wonderful tools that have been created to streamline the buy/sell interaction have also chipped away at the very important human element, crucial to any form of interaction. That said, one could simply argue there's no need for the human element and that the buy/sell relationship need only to mirror the stock market which requires minimal human interaction to determine costs.

Automation might be killing the art of the buy/sell relationship but it doesn't have to. The solution to retaining a healthy relationship, though, is not a one sided proposition. With the rise of automation, both the but side and the sell side need to realize there's always going to be exceptions and there's always going to be elements of a media property that are unique, unable to be compared equally and only fairly judged when both the round and square pegs are chucked out the window.

by Steve Hall    Jul-22-05   Click to Comment   
Topic: Agencies, Opinion, Publishing   

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Thank you for this post, you have articlulated many of my own frustrations in today's online ad sales market. One thing that should be added though is the tendency for advertisers to blame media outlets for poorly performing campaigns and poor conversions.

Though it is understandable that everyone wants to cover their own toosh, especially agencies and marketing managers, I have taken a ridiculous amount of heat over campaign elements that I have no control over. Some advertisers make it the responsibility of the media outlet for the success of their campaign and are not willing to accept that their creative strategy, online creative, messaging, or landing page could possibly be a part of the problem. This is especially true when advertsing in niche specific (gay and lesbian) media properties such as ours that do not fit the norm.

It seems unfortunate that most clients fail to undersatnd that it is in our nest interest for them to succeed as well. Those clients that build relationships, ask questions and use these new technological tools to learn and improve are those that tend to be the most succesful with us. We know which campaigns have been succesful and a little bit of listening from both sides about goals, expectations and realities coudl go a long way in buliding better relationships and succesful campaigns.

Posted by: consumerNoise on July 22, 2005 2:07 PM


Glad to see you bringing this topic up with a well articulated piece...and having the foresight to bring in the connection to financial trading. It's very much my belief that we are heading that direction, not just in the planning and buying process, but in the TRADING of inventory as well.

Although I wouldn't say there is a black box/algorhithm in place today that can supercede a good human planner (and I emphasize GOOD, because unfortunately we know there are many heads in this industry who don't qualify for that title or above), I will say that the day is coming, and coming fast. Better measurement (of who users are, what they are doing across their entire media experience, and so on) is the catalyst from turning "dumb" attempts at buying, planning and optimization into applications that will surpass the human planning process, possibly within the next 3-6 years (or sooner if bubble 2.0 picks up speed).

The best scenario for human planners will be if companies developing such platforms, over promise and underdeliver, it will probably buy the current process another 2-3 years. But seeing as we've got a MUCH more globalized and efficient development community, the chances of everyone getting it wrong (a la 97-00) have narrowed drastically.

Long story short, the buying and planning process is inefficient, commoditizing rapidly, and ripe for disruption. Get ready or get a fucking helmet.

Posted by: Greg Johns on July 22, 2005 4:48 PM

That article was well written, articulate, and on point. However, that type of technology can also prove helpful to the buyer, most especially if the buyer need only hit certain and specific parameters, without the hand-wringing efforts that sometimes come in a contentious buy/sell process.

In certain areas of media, it makes sense. Obviously online is a huge example. But there are others as well. My company created an online auction of last minute radio airtime. For buyers who would like to achieve specific CPM limits, clear a large spotload, but without all the negotiations and communication with traffic deparments, it proves a worthwhile alternative.

Not all technology is bad, it is dependent on the objective of the technology to determine its value.

Posted by: Jared Klein on July 25, 2005 11:32 AM

First you ply us with lunches, then with treats, and tickets to our favorite events all in the hopes of getting on the buy. And you wonder why a buyer doesn't see it as unreasonable to ask for other considerations. When you stated "We did our fare share of asking sales reps to do far more than, in hindsight, they should have been asked" what you are really saying is when the shoe was on the other foot...

It seems that you would put the the blame for the relationship erosion squarely on the shoulders of the buyers. It's all about receiving good customer service, as a buyer this is a right not a priviledge. Technology has made this easier on the seller than ever before.

I agree that automation doesn't have to kill the relationship, buyers and sellers are the ones doing that.

Oh, by the way I have also been on the seller side, I gave each client the utmost customer service and was handsomely rewarded for it.

Posted by: Cheryl on July 26, 2005 4:26 PM