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Media Drum Focus Group in association with News International Newspapers (Scotland) Limited

By The Drum | Administrator

June 18, 2003 | 8 min read

Gill Eatwell of Faulds

We all know that one of the key steps towards an effective advertising campaign is successful media buying. But are Scotland’s media buyers and media sales teams working together as closely as they could be to guarantee a harmonious relationship that benefits their clients? In a move to get under the skin of media buyers in Scotland and to really understand what buyers want, News International (Scotland) sponsored a recent dinner at which media buyers voiced their opinions. Dave Hunter had his dictaphone at the ready. Game on.

Being psychic would be a bit of a boon in marketing, don’t you think? Being able to tell exactly what your clients are after before they have even spoken would, I’m sure, be considered a somewhat useful talent.

For media sales teams this is particularly true. Fighting it out with each other over client spend is hard enough without having to second-guess how best to approach the media agency. An element of telepathy would definitely be useful in improving communication between these two groups. Sadly, however, mind reading and the world of marketing are, at least for the time being, incompatible. At least, outside the confines of a Mel Gibson movie.

In the meantime, thankfully, The Drum is here to help. Last month the magazine, in association with News International (Scotland) played host to a selection of Scotland’s media buyers at Edinburgh’s Malmaison Hotel. The aim of this prestigious gathering: to establish once and for all what media buyers want from their sales teams.

In attendance were Morven Gow of The Media Shop, Stuart Bell of Feather Brooksbank, David Shearer of Mediacom and Gill Eatwell of Media Faulds.

The round-table debate was kicked off by The Drum‘s editor Richard Draycott, with the straightforward question, “What makes a good sales team?”

Gow was the first to respond, stating: “Very, very simple and straightforward. It’s good service, returning calls. When they go off on holiday there’s someone else there to cover for them and knows what’s going on. Basically, that’s it. Just generally being swift to respond when you want them to respond.”

After the initial speed of response issue, Eatwell was quick to raise the subject of information. Buyers, she pointed out, are keen to know what’s going on with Scottish sales teams and products.

She said: “I really do think what’s missing is information about what’s going on. Being told about product changes, circulation changes, leadership changes, promotional activities. All that kind of stuff, I think, is really lacking. There are very, very few sales houses that actually actively come round and talk to agencies about changes and developments and all that kind of thing. I feel quite disappointed at the level of service in Scotland, to be honest.”

Information itself, however, is not enough. Rather than flooding media independents with reams of information that is completely irrelevant, the assembled buyers were keen to stress how relevant updates should be. “You can just get totally bogged down in it,” warned Bell. “It’s taking it beyond information and just getting to the crux of the matter, if you like. It’s deciphering that information, interpreting that information and turning it into a good idea.

“If there are changes in the product or a new supplement or something then, yes, we want to know about it. But it’s important to know about it from the relevancy of our clients – to see if there’s an opportunity, rather than just coming and saying, ‘Bang, this is happening, this is happening.’ It’s just trying to make it much more relevant.”

One way that this can be achieved is for buyers and teams to work closer together – to have a more open communication and build stronger relationships. At the MediaDrum debate Shearer was keen to point out that the process of planning and buying should be collaborative between agencies and sales teams, as opposed to aggressive.

He said: “I do believe that over the years the industry has maybe brought that on itself. There has been that adversarial approach, so there is one of those things where you don’t invite debate and you don’t invite collaboration and therefore you do have that ‘I’ll speak to you when I need to’ mentality. And then that translates because, when you do get somebody who approaches you and says, ‘I want to talk to you about this, I’ve got an idea about that’, you’re less amenable to that and I think that’s maybe the problem. We probably, internally, kind of three-quarters blame them and a quarter blame ourselves, but it’s probably fifty-fifty, because they probably think that every time they came to us we just blanked them and vice versa. I think we’ve generated that scenario where there isn’t that collaboration.

“And that’s when I go back to the point that it shouldn’t be adversarial, it should be collaborative. So the fact is that you know if somebody wins a new bit of business there should be an ongoing debate about what the aims of that business are. And then how you can help that business, work round it, deliver it or not deliver it. I think that’s the issue more than anything.”

In addition to improved communication, the group also felt that innovation, particularly in Scotland’s press sales teams, is lacking – especially compared to their London counterparts. This, apparently, can often be down to Scottish newspaper editors refusing to take part in the process.

Gow observed: “Just look at the editorial opportunities available, particularly in the press in London. You try and do something a bit more imaginative in Scotland and sometimes you’re surprised your head isn’t left bleeding. It’s like beating your head against a brick wall. It is just editorial resistance, more than anything, whereas with editors of London titles everything appears to be an open book, you can do what you like. As soon as you want to try and do something a bit spicy up here in certain supplements and sections of newspapers it’s, like, ‘Oh, you can’t do that.’”

Also tabled was the question of “how proactive should sales teams be in approaching buyers?” The answer to this seems to be: more so, but with caution. The assembled buyers agreed that there was sometimes a lack of sales teams coming forward and regularly contacting them. Again, closer relationships were touted as the way forward. “I think the market’s small enough up here that the sales people should understand their clients and know their clients and understand the buyers and vice versa,” said Bell. “We don’t want someone knocking on your door because they’ve got to make four calls that week and that’s you ticked off the list and then they can go onto someone else.”

Eatwell agreed, saying: “There are some sales teams, and I won’t name names, that do not make contact, they just don’t, until you have a brief and you have something that may be relevant to them.”

It wasn’t all criticism, however. When asked about the level of talent in Scotland, Shearer stated that the sales teams and, for that matter, buyers in Scotland are at least the equals of their London counterparts. He said: “I think there’s a common myth up here. Is it the Scottish psyche or London arrogance? It’s probably a bit of both. The feeling that the people up here, whether on the buying or selling side, are poorer compared to London and I frankly think it’s utter rubbish. Because you speak to sales people in London. You speak to buyers in London and believe you me there are as many good people up here as there are down there. And it is one of those things that is driven by the arrogance of London. If you work in London it’s the epicentre of the advertising world and certainly that’s the way they act. You end up on the back foot, and you do start to doubt yourself. If you deal with people in London you kind of go ‘Am I actually worse than I am?’ And you’re not.

“The fact is when you look at the detail and you look at the job that you do it’s the same industry and there’s good people and bad people. And it’s the same in London.”

After the dust had settled, food was eaten and wine drunk the table was in agreement that, from a media buyer’s point of view, the sales teams of Scotland could do with being more proactive in their contact with media independents, with a view to forming closer relationships in the future. Certainly increased communication should, in theory, reduce the need for psychic skills when dealing with agencies and, hopefully, lead to an even more effective service for clients.

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