I was at a slight loss for words when I was asked if I would pen a South African version of an article about media buyer do’s and don’ts. There was much agonising, complete with thoughts of “out the box thinking” and many more of those often used agency catch phrases. Is it not amazing how we like to mouth off about disciplines in our industry but when we are asked to put our opinions to paper, we feel like Machu Pichu is a more achievable goal?
The reason for this reaction? For many years I have been a buyer advocate (for clarity sake, I still am). I constantly lament about how they are perceived within the South African context vs how they are revered in the international one. How they are undervalued locally, to a point where they refer to themselves as “just a buyer”. Order takers, data capturers.
With this comes remembrance of a concept often used by now departed media guru/commentator/chief-shaker-upper, John Farquhar. I cannot quote his precise words but his comment alluded to always having an opinion. Even if it is the wrong one.
And therefore here’s my stake-in-the-ground-hate-me-forever-opinion. Contrary to popular belief, buyers are at the top of the media agency food chain. Yes. You heard correctly. Right. At. The. Top. This obviously has nothing to do with the fact that I started my career in that role and therefore display an extreme affinity, loyalty and a good measure of bias towards the job.
Buying sounds simple, but if you have not experienced it for even a three month period, you will never be able to truly understand its true complexity or wonder no matter what your job title may be five, 10 or 20 years down the line.
To return to my top of the food chain comment, here is my motivation. Have you ever had to cancel an ad with no cancellation charges? (I am not talking about modern day contract negotiations that include this clause). Have you ever had to extend a deadline beyond the norm? Have you ever mistakenly quoted your plans to a client, excluding fees or made a mistake with a discount amount? Have you ever had to move a booked campaign without penalties?
For sake of simplicity, answer just the following: Have you ever needed a plan to be booked? If the answer is ‘yes’ to any or all of the above questions, you have used the services of a buyer. Maybe I should rather have asked, have you ever needed anybody to bail your butt out of some or other tricky situation? Chances are, your buyer did it. And she/he did it because that is just what they do.
Having gotten to this point I acknowledge that I could have kept it even simpler. Supplied five do’s and don’ts, but I do realise that despite the fact that buyers feel unappreciated some of the time, that for the die-hard buyer, it is not about a fanfare of recognition but rather of raw passion, pride and a sense of accomplishment and given half the chance, they gush about what they do and how they do it, much like it is their only kid’s first smile.
Having now digressed quite a bit and acknowledging that African and South African buying/media trading in particular, is a different kettle of fish when compared to Europe and the rest of the world, herewith my top do’s and don’ts:
Media buyers do….
- Get the best possible deal even it is just one lone placement
- Build on relationships on a daily basis, saving favours, like a chipmunk with acorns in its cheeks
- Get on with the job against impossible odds sometimes
- Have a sixth sense. It is what makes them pause and reconsider and relook some things. It cannot be explained. Just accept it.
- Start negotiating from the first word. It starts with “Hi, how are you?”
Media buyers do not….
- Ask a media owner for gifts when they did not get included in the gift run. They might be a bit miffed at first, but do realise that it has more to do with their client portfolio/media owner mix rather than the media owner’s willful exclusion.
- Ignore problems where they see them brewing, even if it means a world of trouble and a mountain of work. They get their hands dirty. In the best interest of the client.
- Assume everything is ok.
- Take passage instructions. Goodness, have you seen their filing?
- Take sole credit for what they do. They acknowledge The Journey. The Team, The Agency, The Client and The Media Owner.
Jacqui Grigg is buying director of MEC Global, Johannesburg.
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