Buying Media Direct

By The Drum, Administrator

August 2, 2002 | 6 min read

‘Strategy’ is one of marketing’s most over-used buzzwords. A quick scan across any number of agency press releases or brochures will reveal a multitude of companies claiming to be ‘strategic marketers’, ‘strategic thinkers’ and ‘strategic solution providers’. But, as strategic as marketing has become in recent years, it’s still the much more sexy front-end creativity that makes all the headlines.

Needless to say, the strategy is what drives a campaign forward and, ultimately, what ensures that it is seen by the right people at the right time and in the right places.

Which is where the multimillion-pound world of media buying comes in.

Lurking behind the scenes of every marketing campaign in the land are the planners who decide where that campaign should be placed in order for it to have optimum impact on its target audience.

It’s one of the nightmares faced by clients on a daily basis. What if my agency creates a powerful campaign, but nobody sees it?

To make sure that never happens it’s obviously imperative to make sure the right person (or people) is at the helm of your media-buying machine. But this, in turn, presents its own dilemma: whether to take care of it yourself or to appoint a media agency to buy your advertising space for you.

The majority of client companies are now choosing the latter, with media accounts worth millions of pounds changing hands every month across the UK marketing scene. There are other clients, however, who still insist on playing a more hands-on role with their media planning and buying.

Companies such as GBL International, Kaymar Group and Ryanair, to name but a few, take charge of buying the advertising space for their own ad campaigns.

Ryanair media and advertisement manager Santina Farinella, explains: “Ryanair books about 90-95 per cent of its media direct. The reason we like to deal direct is it gives us much more bargaining power, both in terms of rates and positioning. For example, in newspapers the front-of-paper position is a really difficult one to get, and it can be very slow going trying to secure it. With a direct relationship we are in a position to constantly be in contact with them and this ensures that we get front-of-paper position in papers such as the Observer and the Daily Telegraph.”

International health and beauty company the Kaymar Group is another to favour buying its media direct.

Marketing manager Claire Pritchard explains: “As all of our marketing department is in house (from the conception to the final designs), it makes sense to keep the media buying in house also. Buying direct gives us greater control and flexibility, which in turn makes the process more cost efficient. If a campaign isn't working we can quickly pull it and replace it. Similarly, if a campaign proves to be very successful, we can extend it and build upon it.

“We feel that as we know our product best, the less that comes in between our message and the customer the better! On the occasions that we feel we need an independent view, advertorials can provide us with this balance.”

The two main arguments for appointing a media independent, on the other hand, seem to be broken down to two key words: ‘time’ and ‘expertise’.

Planning your own media campaign can be a full-time job. For the agencies, of course, it is a full time job. The importance of expertise, both in dealing with the media and in knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each medium, also cannot be overestimated. Media independents are paid to know the industry they work in. They have forged relationships with media owners and pride themselves on getting the best deals for their clients.

As regional sales director of National Magazines, Keeley McIntosh does business with both direct clients and media independents. She says: “With an agency you’re buying expertise. They can concentrate more and that’s all they think about. Buying direct, it’s your company and you know the marketplace. You can’t doubt that a client will know their business better, but an agency will know the media better.”

At the moment the trend certainly seems to be to appoint a media independent, with most of the biggest spending clients putting their media budgets into one of the country’s many agencies. One such is drinks company Halewood International.

“Having a number of varying brands, Halewood International uses a media buying agency in order to target media both effectively and efficiently,” remarks Fran Draper, brand manager. “We have a long-standing relationship with Mediacom North, who not only give us exceptional and cost-efficient service, but also stretch the boundaries by constantly striving for new media solutions. Combining this with more traditional routes such as TV and poster advertising gives Halewood an impressive media strategy, which works exceptionally well to reach consumers bombarded with advertising messages.”

Also singing the praises of her media independent is Kate O’Brien, the marketing manager at UCI Cinemas. She says: “Our media buyers at Mediaedge: CIA Manchester are a hugely important part of the way the UCI marketing department operates. They have a really thorough understanding of the tactical nature of our business, and the way we work with them tends to be more as an extension of our in-house marketing team. We involve them in all our planning and strategy to make sure that we end up with a truly integrated campaign that hits all our targets.

“Mediaedge: CIA Manchester also keeps us right up to speed with on-the-spot analysis and consideration of our various audiences to make sure that we make the most of every pound we spend.”

The amount of business being grown and won by the North’s media independents clearly points to an increased confidence in their abilities. After all, marketing directors wouldn’t entrust their media accounts to these agencies if they weren’t benefiting from the deal.

It would seem that the direct client is currently a dying breed and, with the testimonies of several big spending clients encouraging it, this may be no bad thing.


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