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Media Measurement Brand Strategy Media Planning and Buying

Media buyers ask difficult questions so you get the best price

By Ryan Lewis, Head of media



The Drum Network article

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May 10, 2024 | 5 min read

What exactly does a media buyer do? Ryan Lewis of RocketMill explains the benefits of enlisting their services – and the dichotomy between cost and value.

A blank digital billboard in front of a blue sky

Media buyers scrutinize price to find the best value for their clients / Pawel Czerwinksi via Unsplash

In the ever-evolving marketing landscape, the role of media agencies has become increasingly pivotal. These agencies serve as conduits between brands and their target audiences, navigating the complex terrains of advertising platforms, media owners, consumer behavior, and industry trends. However, still in discussions about media agency partnerships, a crucial question often arises: the disparity between cost and value.

Cost is a tangible metric, representing the monetary investment required to engage the services of a media agency. It encompasses expenses such as agency fees, media buying costs, production expenses, and any additional charges incurred during the campaign lifecycle. For brands, cost is a significant consideration, especially in today’s competitive market where budget allocations demand careful scrutiny.

On the other hand, value is a more nuanced concept, encapsulating the outcomes and benefits derived from the partnership with a media agency. Unlike cost, which is quantifiable in financial terms, value encompasses a broader spectrum of factors such as brand visibility, audience engagement, market share, brand equity, and long-term growth potential. Value reflects the effectiveness of the media agency in achieving the business objectives as well as delivering tangible results.

Brands must recognize the disparity between cost and value and understand that prioritizing one over the other can lead to divergent outcomes. While minimizing costs may seem appealing in the short term, it could compromise the quality and efficacy of the campaign, ultimately diminishing its impact on the business. Conversely, prioritizing value may require a higher initial investment but can yield superior results, fostering brand loyalty, driving sales, and enhancing market share.

Long-term growth v short-term performance

Most businesses strive for long-term sustainable growth balanced with short-term performance, but unexpected business pressures can often change this. A media agency that is value-focused can help marketing teams navigate these pressures by achieving both.

To bridge the gap between cost and value, brands must adopt a strategic approach that emphasizes alignment between their objectives and the capabilities of the media agency. This begins with clearly defining what value means to the brand: it rarely equates to “hit this Cost Per Action (CPA)” or “improve platform return on advertising spend (ROAS) by 10% year-on-year”.

Being direct and fostering open communication and collaboration between the business and the agency is essential for ensuring alignment and maximizing value. Too often there is a clear disconnect between the agency delivering good results, and the brand feeling like they’re not getting value. A transparent partnership fosters trust and accountability, laying the foundation for a mutually beneficial relationship built on shared objectives and mutual respect.

The experience to provide good scrutiny

A media agency may, or may not, have greater buying power than the brand if it were to buy directly from a media owner. However, it’s the value that really sets apart a good media buy from a great media buy. Media agencies must demonstrate their ability to showcase their understanding and expertise across the landscape and highlight why buying direct with media owners is not necessarily the best route for advertisers.

Scrutinizing media plans often reveals hidden complexities. Understanding a high cost-per-thousand (CPM) compared to industry benchmarks is one thing. But the real challenge lies in understanding the nuance and context: why is the CPM overpriced – and can it be negotiated down to secure additional value? Why do those particular digital out-of-home DOOH screens have such good late availability? Is the radio plan’s high number of impacts due to late-night broadcasts in specific counties? These are just a few examples of questions raised when reviewing a brand’s media plan received directly from media owners.

The true value of a media buyer is in their ability to balance multiple objectives – on a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis. These include ensuring maximum visibility and reach and achieving impact and incremental gains, all while maintaining efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Ultimately, that value is founded in expertise and experience, not the cost of media, or whatever the CPA happens to be that month.

Media agencies that are focused on value tend to yield greater, deeper, and lasting relationships. Data maturity drives value over time and, by working with an agency to adopt a data-driven approach with robust frameworks, organizations can unlock growth through digital transformation. This value extends beyond media buying, by enabling education, optimization of time, and clear strategic direction for brands.

Creating a transparent yet mutually challenging relationship tends to breed better: better processes, better media strategies, better media executions – and more often than not, better value.

Media Measurement Brand Strategy Media Planning and Buying

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