Media buyers fail to deliver reach

It’s a provocative title, but it could have been worse – “media buyers don’t understand media” is almost as apt. The reality of modern media buying is that media agencies are essentially buyers of media, not planners. They have been pushed into this situation by uneducated advertisers who find it hard to know what is good media strategy from bad, but do appreciate costs. So media agencies have squeezed out costs, and by and large this has meant that their investment in media knowledge has shrunk to almost nil.

It’s a sad situation for advertisers, but of their own making, though Universities also share much of the blame for sending graduate marketers out into the world with almost no training in media.

Yesterday I came across an example of the distorted crazy market for media. According to Regional Television Marketing figures, 36% of Australia’s population lives in regional areas, but just 17% of the marketing dollars spent by national advertisers appear on our television screens. This is in spite of these regional areas featuring some large cities, and a population with higher than average spending power.

Why do big brands ignore regional TV ? They distribute their brands into regional Australia, but they don’t advertise them there. The reason is that regional TV is more difficult to buy, i.e. more costly for media agencies, it can’t be bought from a “single desk”. Also media agencies, under pressure to demonstrate their “buying power”, bulk buy metro TV space in advance. They seldom do this for regional TV. So they have a huge incentive to shift the space they have, if they don’t sell this their profits take a serious blow.

So it’s common practice to recommend metro TV and ignore regional TV. This can be subtle, just part of the company culture where all the attention goes to metro TV, or overt where regional TV is actively discouraged – this is unethical behaviour, but it happens.

So, for an Australian advertiser, the most simple cost effective way of gaining some pure reach is to split out some of the metro TV budget and allocate it to regional TV. It’s an astonishingly easy way to enhance the sales effectiveness of the ad spend.

I’m sure there are hundreds of similar examples, around the world, of silliness in the media buying industry.

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