Home >> Media Buying is not for the fainthearted.

Disclaimer: Although I am pretty sure the basic principles would apply worldwide, this blog post is for the South African market.

One of the things I do for clients is make sure they reach the right market at the right price. Media buying is not for the fainthearted and if you’re tempted to buy a broom or feather duster every time that doorbell rings on a Sunday morning because “aww shame” then please step away from the media reps. They will eat you up for breakfast.

First they will make sure you feel like you’d be losing out on winning the lottery if you turn down their offer and then they'll shower you with invisible gifts in true Verimark style of “The deal of the century, not to be missed and this one time only ... but we’re about to go to print so you must decide now”. Then when your lips shape up to deliver some concerns they mollify them with some *free* stuff or more discount and all of a sardine your hand is scribbling what looks like a perfect replica of your signature on their contract. The deal is done and you convince yourself it was the best possible decision even though you can’t remember what all exactly was hurtled at you during that (very) one sided conversation.

Now before I get beaten with a rolled up rate card ... ahem ... not all media reps are how I’ve described above. There is no question that each and every one is relentless in their pursuit of getting your ad spend but they are not all con artists. I have some really amazing relationships with reps that date back many years and we have a mutual respect for each other and our respective industries.

So today I’m going to briefly run through eight things you ought to look out for before spending money, regardless of how swoosh their website looks or finely manicured his nails were.

Can you afford to advertise?

If you don’t have the budget to create a sustainable campaign then you should put your money back in your pocket until you do. Once off advertising is a sure fire way to throw it down a drain. A message needs to be reinforced and people learn to trust advertisers who make a regular appearance. It’s a psychological thing. Don’t let media reps sell you on this ‘once in a lifetime’ rubbish and at half price. Whether you paid half price or full price for your once off ad you threw away money. It was just the amount that varied.

Is the publication real?

With the onset of digital magazines this has never been a more frightful reality. If sales are being run out of an office in the UK or Europe then pop on your cynics cap and watch out. I know publications that even print 500 or so copies to show they are ‘real’. Amazing. I have so much more to add on this but it would end up being a blog post in a blog post. Do your homework. Properly.

How is the publication being distributed?

A magazine with a large subscriber base is always my favourite. It shows a readership that is committed to paying regularly for it which means they will see your advertising regularly. Publications that distribute for free are often tossed or not read at all.

How much are they charging?

When a publications cost per thousand is higher than R500 I crunch my nose a bit and when it goes over R1000 I demand an explanation and it better be a good one. Cost per thousand is worked out by taking the full page ad rate and dividing it by the number of thousand readers. If it was R20 000-00 to reach 60 000 people then we are looking at R333-33 which is an attractive spend.

Is the publication ABC certified?

If yes, then you’ve sorted out point two swiftly and it means the facts and figures you’re reading, bar them making an awful typo or lying through their teeth, can be counted on.

Are you reaching your target market?

This is probably the hardest of all things to gauge because ad reps are so good at presenting only the information they want you to see. Always ask for a thorough breakdown of their readership/viewership/audience. If they are not ABC certified then you should take what they give you with a lorry load of salt.

Never pay for your ads up front.

Advertising should be paid for after the ad has appeared and you have received your physical publication. Period.

Are they offering a kick-back?

It shouldn’t cost you any more to use an agency to plan and buy your media than if you go direct. The set industry approved commission is 16.5% for accredited agencies and 15% for non-accredited which the publishing house pays. Publications who “kick back” agency commission to clients are my pet hate. It is no skin off their nose since either way this commission would be paid out instead they benefit from the direct sale to someone who is not necessarily familiar with the industry. It’s exploitation, of the worst kind, especially when they bandy it around like a perk for ‘going direct’.

There is SO much more to say about media buying so this won’t be the last you hear from me on the subject.  

I would love to hear your thoughts!


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