In this episode, Daniel Parscale talks with Gail Williams about the art of media buying and how a good media buyer can help save you both time and money in reaching your customers.
Read the transcript:
Welcome Gail to Reach. How are you doing today?
I’m exceptionally well. How are you?
I’m doing really good, thanks. I had a huge cup of coffee today. So I’m a little bit more excited than usual for this show.
And you and I talked a little bit in preparation for this show about what we were going to cover, and it occurred to me that one, this topic we’re going to be covering today, media buying, is big enough that we could go multiple, multiple shows for this.
And it also occurred to me that I know a lot less about this particular topic than I do about some other ones. So I’m really looking forward to learning from you and your more than 20 years of experience in this field.
Yeah, gee, be careful there. Don’t date me, though, Dan.
Sorry. I didn’t mean to do that.
So I guess the place we should start when we’re talking about media buying is trying to come up with a baseline about what we’re actually talking about. So could you tell me, maybe in one or two sentences, top, top level view. What is it that media buying is? What does it cover?
Well, media buying is basically whenever someone needs to advertise, be that in a newspaper, or with any broadcast stations, radio, TV, outdoor billboards, any kind of media outlet vendor, a media buyer will reach out and establish a relationship, and negotiate costs, particular placements, deadlines, when will the materials be due.
And if they’ve followed through with all that, then they’ll look at how it actually worked out, if everything ran as scheduled. And if necessary, they’ll follow up on any discrepancies that may have occurred.
So you’re coordinating not just the actual purchase, you’re coordinating where the ad is going, presumably the strategy that goes into picking that location. And then you’re following it throughout its entire lifecycle to make sure that it did what you wanted it to do.
That’s a lot of work.
Yeah, it can be.
So let’s talk a little bit about some of the different places that a person might be buying advertising. I was surprised to find out that there’s a lot more to this than just digital ads or print ads. Well, we could start with those two, but there’s a lot of different places that media can be bought and used, right?
Oh sure. Basically, I always say anywhere you can put an advertising message, I think it basically could be purchased. And that list grows constantly, as you can imagine.
I personally have purchased advertising on radio, TV– be that cable or broadcast TV– newspapers, magazines– both in the United States, Canada, and abroad in Japan and the UK. Also, even movies theater slides, the pre-roll screens, before the main attraction. I’ve purchased advertising on bus benches, and on the MAX trains in Portland, the sides of the MAXes. And even have been approached by people wanting me to put advertising on coffee cozies, or pharmaceutical bags, the tops of taxi cabs.
And what’s really interesting to me, and hopefully to others, is that there’s something unique and different about, basically, every type of media. They all have their different way of requiring materials, or what types of materials they need, how they put them together, even how their measurements are. For example, a newspaper ad is measured by the width and then the height. With an outdoor billboard, it’s reversed. Its by the height and then the width.
So just keeping those kind of things in mind all the time, it can be a lot to just keep up with. It’s very, very, very detail centric.
So hypothetically, let’s just say that I own and operate a t-shirt business. And I’ve wisely chosen to hire you on as my media buyer. And I say, OK Gail, here’s a billion dollars. Go and buy me some media. But I don’t know where to start you. What’s your thought process look like there?
Well, I’m going to ask you a series of questions, things like, what types of t-shirts do you sell, and do you have categories of t-shirts that you sell? Do you sell transfers to go on t-shirts individually? Someone just walks into your shop, or do you also sell in bulk to sports teams and things like that?
So I would want to know those kinds of things. I’d want to know where’s your main focus? Do you need to bring in some dollars from a particular part of your business, and is that where we should focus first?
Also I’d need to know, do you do mail order? Do you have a website? What are your hours of operation?
Why are things like that, the hours of operation going to be interesting to you?
Well, because if you’re going to focus on moving– say moving some of your transfers out the door. Say maybe these things don’t last very long, and you need to get them out of stock or something, then if you were going to focus on that, then that’s really going to be– you’re going to try to target people to get them in the door.
Well, if you’re not open on Saturday, you’re not going to get anyone in the door. So maybe we don’t even want to advertise on a Sunday if you’re not going to be there.
One of the things that I think is really fascinating about media buying is there’s kind of a– I mean, it’s always negotiating. It’s very social. And you as a media buyer, or somebody who’s calling what, an agent I guess to make these buys, they really have to be able to feel out the person they’re working with, build a relationship with them that’s ongoing. And it can be tricky to navigate, right? I mean, sometimes, you have to deal with some insincerity as well as other personality quirks that you don’t get in other kinds of fields of marketing, I would imagine.
Right. A lot of times, I tell people that it’s a profession that is basically founded in people skills. People skills are very important. The details, the people skills, because a lot of times whenever a business owner is approached by a media rep, I mean, they’re not just going to come in– well, the better ones aren’t– going to just come in and just go right into their pitch. They’re going to be coming in with maybe a latte in one hand for the business owner. How are you doing today?
And they might actually– and again, the better ones– will even take time to learn the kids of the business owner. What are the kids’ names? What’s even the kids’ birthdays? Do they have a dog or a cat? Oh, I have a cat too. Have you used this cat food? They will try to engage with them on other levels that affect their lives, and basically become sort of friends with them.
And some are disingenuous, and some aren’t. Some are actually very genuine and really mean all of it, and really, really care about and certainly grow to care about the business owner.
But, at the end of the day, they have a job to perform. And they have to answer to their sales manager. So they are trying to get that sale.
And that is how they feed their own cat. They work on commissions. A media buyer doesn’t necessarily work on commissions. Or I’ve never heard of that kind of thing. Usually it’s an hourly rate. Or if they’re in a situation where they’re at an agency of course, a salary base. So they’re salaried. So they’re not working on commissions. And their job is to be a good steward of the client’s resources.
So can you talk a little bit about– I mean, that can obviously make this whole process more tricky. Can you talk about some of the ways that that might affect the actual transaction? I mean, surely you get to know people, and you offer them lattes, and you get to build this relationship over time. But why are you actually doing that? I imagine that there’s more to it than just wanting to be a good person and be easy to work with. There’s got to be some sort of business aspect behind that too, right?
That sounds awfully pessimistic of me, but–
No, I mean it’s true, because there is that whole tricky human nature thing.
People are genuine and they want to get along and everything, but they really want everything to be smoothly. I mean, of course it’s going to be far easier to get a yes on a media buy when you’re at good terms. If something’s always no or always gruff, then you’re not.
Now there’s a lot of business owners that are quite capable of having those conversations. And they’re like, it’s easy for me to separate business and pleasure. And it all works out fine. And then there are some that it feels awkward to them.
And so oftentimes, for those kinds of people, it’s nice to have a buffer in between and put a media buyer in there so that they’re not the ones having to have the awkward conversation and give them the no. And whenever that friend goes back to them and said, well your media buyer told me no on this, all the client needs to say is oh, yeah. You know, that’s why they’re there. They need to vet these things for me. Thank you for working with her or him. And just keep it at that level, and it should work fine for them.
As a media buyer, you’re building these relationships with the vendors who are working at the newspaper, or the website, or wherever the media location is. Talk to me a little bit about those relationships and how critical they are to getting the right buy.
So I always want to you strike a balance between being a tough negotiator, and fairness. Because after all, we’re negotiating. And there’s two sides. One side’s not always going to get everything in a good negotiation. You want to come out the victor where it matters, and you have to be able to pick and choose your battles and find where it does matter.
And sometimes you’re wanting to hammer somebody because maybe something ran wrong and you need restitution for your client. And you want a make good, and they owe it to you. And you’ll get that and everything.
But then maybe two weeks later, ugh, the art’s not going to be ready right in time. And kind of need a solid. You need a favor from this person. And so, I often say, I don’t want to step on the toes of the person whose toes I’m going to need to paint the next week.
So I have to be really careful sometimes and just manage that. And my personal style is a little more friendly or kind of folksy.
Well, you’re painting their toenails. You kind of have to be.
Yeah, that’s pretty friendly, right?
By the way, we’ll talk after this podcast.
You haven’t seen how bad I am at painting toenails though.
But yeah, so I try to be more folksy and throw some jokes their way, be happy with them and everything as long as everything looks like it’s going well. Now when things take a turn, as sometimes they will, and it’s not going so well, or there’s something I’m extremely serious about that we really need for our client, then my tone gets extremely serious, and sometimes a little cranky maybe.
And my reps, they know what that means. Because they know what I’m like consistently. So whenever they see that change up, they know it’s for real, that things just got real. And so I’m able to work it through that way.
It’s also very important– I should put this out there– it’s really, really helpful whenever a media buyer can initiate the flow from the beginning and carry it on through, and never change horses midstream with a rep. For example, if I’m working a negotiation and I’m just about there, and perhaps a client decides that they need to talk to them, or the rep– this happens a lot– decides that, well, I’m just going to circumnavigate the media buyer, and I’m going to go directly to the client to get my better answer, the answer I want. Or maybe they don’t know the whole thing, and I can get a yes quicker from them.
And that’s like a house of cards, and it’s just all falls down. And then I completely lose leverage. So it’s always best whenever that happens, for any client to just keep directing that rep, that vendor back to the media buyer to get the best outcome.
If I’m the business owner hiring a media buyer, how do I know that I need a media buyer? What size company do I need to be before I should really consider that? And what can I expect, and how do I measure that?
It’s a really good question. I would say, you have some people– of course you have street vendors, down to that, like people selling t-shirts on the street or selling hot dogs on the street. They don’t really need anything because they hardly advertise anyway. They might have fliers that they put on cars, or whatever, and that kind of thing in there. They’re drawing from who is around them.
But just like your show, it’s called Reach. So what you need a media buyer to reach people and draw them in. So if you have a business that’s relying on that kind of traffic and to bring people in, you could very well need a media buyer.
If you have any role within your company, and you personally are having to take action daily, then you probably could use a media buyer. Because it can take a lot of time. Depending on how many rounds you have to go back and forth in on a negotiation, that can take time. And gosh, even just there’s media jargon. There’s rankers to pull out. If I wanted to buy radio in the area, how am I going to know which is going to reach 18 to 49-year-olds most effectively?
And of course, everyone’s heard of Arbitron ratings that’s now–
I’m not sure everyone has. I don’t know if I have actually. What is that?
Well, have you ever heard of a Nielsen Family?
A lot of people have heard of Nielsen Families. Nielsen is a measurement company that measures media performance. And Nielsen used to be only involved with television. But now they’ve grown and expanded so much that they’ve purchased Arbitron, which is the measurement for radio primarily.
So I would reach out to at least one– I would make a wild guess that, say, in the Portland area, Z100 would reach my targeted demographic. What I’m going to ask that rep is, can you send me a ranker and show me, based on reaching 18 to 49-year-olds, which stations, how they rank their performance in this demographic area. And I will get a report.
So just to knowing to ask that, and then taking time to get all of those in, because I’m going to want to compare it with another rep to make sure that one’s on the up and up. So I would ask at least two for the same thing, and then compare those. And then I go oh, OK. This is definitely one I want to buy.
And then reach out to that rep yet again and go, give me a proposal. Give me your rates. What would it cost?
So all at once, if I was my sole operating person at my small business, and I’m buying an ad. All of a sudden, my ROI is looking drastically different if I’m having to put in all these hours on educating myself, and making a proper decision, and making that connection. That’s a lot more time, and therefore money than if I paid you to do this for me, because you already know it, and because you’re doing it while I get to do my primary job focus too, which is in this case, maybe just selling t-shirts, or printing them, or whatever it is.
So I mean, the ROI change there is perceivable, easily right?
Oh yes. Oh yes. Totally. I mean, not only in– because, I mean, I’ve been doing this for 20 years. So it would take far longer than our session today to go over everything, all the knowledge that I’ve amassed over the years in how to do this.
And then you get all the time of actually doing it, like I said. And then knowing that you got a really efficient buy, that you used your dollars wisely. Because you know, you’re going to look out there and you’re going to find the rates are different for a station that’s at the top of the ranker versus of course on the bottom of the ranker.
Well just because it’s cheaper doesn’t mean it’s an efficient buy. So you want to be able to reach as many people as you can. And then your buy becomes more affordable. It becomes less money, less cost, I should say.
And so then your ROI kind of goes up just by knowing that your buy was efficient. So yeah, it really can make a huge difference. And I like to say that my main job is to save the clients resources.
Now of course that’s money, and money’s what comes to the top of our mind. But that also means in terms of their time, because if their time is not taken up with an appointment with their client, or if they have a patient, or whatever they have to do, or if they’re not waiting on a table where somebody’s getting served, then they’re not making money in their own business. So then they lost that. It’s their lost opportunity becomes another cost.
So really, the media buyer’s job is to save for resources for that client. And that’s how they know that it’s a successful relationship.
OK Gail, I’m going to put you on the spot here. Because when I hear the word media and buying, the first thing that comes to mind is a newspaper, right? So an ROP ad or something like that that’s in print. But people around the way are saying that newspaper is dead as a format. Still, you’re doing these buys, right? So what’s the deal? Is newspaper dead? Does it have value still? What are we doing here?
It’s not dead, but it’s walking on a cane. It’s aging. But no.
Of course it’s a very valid question right now. Digital is king. And it will be for some time. And always the new thing coming in, ever since the dawn of media and media placement, there has been a prediction of the demise of something that preceded it. Like whenever we had radio, and then in the ’50s, there was television, and well, video killed the radio star, right?
And then OK, well, we’re going to have cable, and so broadcast TV is going to be nothing because you’re going to have all of these channels. Then suddenly there’s this dish and this satellite in the sky, and that’s going to kill that. And it just goes on and on and on and on and on. E-readers are going to kill books. And libraries will shutter their doors.
So really though, the one area where this actually has some teeth to it is with newspapers. Because admittedly, of course over the last few years, they have seen steep declines.
But really, it more morphs into something else. It seems like media never really completely dies off. It just changes and adapts. And it has to, or it will die.
For newspaper, they have really gone the way of their digital product. And so what they do is they lesson the time spent talking about their printed product, and then just try to shift a little focus over to their digital placements so that then they still have something viable in their house to sell and to have advertising on.
But what they’ve done, a lot of them have done, is they’ve just cut down to where instead of being a daily paper, they’re a semi-daily paper. Maybe they are printing Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or maybe they only print Tuesday and Sunday.
So they’re doing things like this. And it is shifting. And it’s changing a lot. And for some it’s dead.
I could go out there and ask any 20-year-old, have you read a newspaper today? And they’d look at me like I have seven heads. No, I haven’t picked up a newspaper. Why would I do that? My dog is trained, right?
But, there are others though. It’s still viable for. The whole reason there is a paper today is because of the senior set that have been so used to having it their whole lives, and they want that feel in the morning. They want their cup of coffee and flap open that paper and read it. So it is still there for certain demographic.
You know what this reminds me of is I had a conversation with a family member a couple weeks ago. And we were talking about cable TV and making some changes to his plan. And he was thinking about going with Apple TV and just, something.
And one of the things he was curious about was whether or not he could still get his news shows on that format. As he’s like, well how do you get your news? And I was like, well, I tend to read it on the internet. And he’s like, oh, I never even thought about that before. Because the only way that he was getting his news– I mean, he reads the newspaper. But he also watches it on TV.
And it occurs to me then that if you have a specific demographic that you want to hit, then that media, like you’re saying, it comes alive again in a certain sense. You would use the newspaper presumably to hit people who are reading the newspaper. So you have to know that.
Exactly. And also with newspaper, the huge benefit that it does have over some other media is that you can linger with it. You have all the time in the world to put your message out there. You can use a full page ad. You can use a quarter page ad. And you have a lot of space to put a lot of information. And so you can explain and present your message with a lot more time and a lot more fully, completely, as opposed to say a 30 second TV spot where you’re going to get in and out.
So yeah, every media really has its place. And I’m here to say that it’ll grow. I fully believe that one of these days– there’s been a lot of talk lately about Back to the Future. I believe, one of these days, there’s going to be a hologram just standing right in front of me telling me what kind of things this place has to offer. And I fully believe that’s not too far off.
Thanks again Gail for coming in today. This has been really informative for me and for our listeners. We’ve really just start to touch the surface of what media buying is. And I’ve already learned a lot.
So I’m going to put you on the spot one more time and ask you for your three main takeaways. Can you just kind of summarize what we’ve gone over for the listeners?
Sure, I’d be happy to. Media buyers are here to make sure that the client’s message is seen in front of the right people at the right place at the right time at the most efficient cost, and for the most efficient use of their resources.
Second one is that it’s really all about the relationship between the media buyers and, not only the clients, but also the media vendors. Sometimes I say a media buyer is like an Oreo because we’re all stuck in the middle.
The third one, I would say that all millennials are definitely using the newspaper for puppy training. No, no. Well, they may be.
But seriously though, there are so many viable forms of media all over the place. And some are just simply better at reaching other people, or some people better than others.
Sounds great. Three great takeaways here.
Thank you again Gail for coming on Reach, and it’s been a pleasure having you.
Thank you. It’s been my pleasure.