How to buy TV advertising


Below I touch on the types of organizations which can buy for you and how to deal with them. If you’re not sure still, call us at Starship (03 9428 4411) and we’ll try to help.

Who can buy TV for you? – Suppliers

Before we start – philosophy – the thing to remember about buying TV is it’s not like buying a house, where you have to show you can afford it, or buying a shot-gun where you have to prove you have a need, ie foxes, and you’re unlikely to kill anybody. In buying TV air space, there are absolutely no rules.

There are three main groups you can deal with in any TV purchasing negotiation.  No-one can guarantee you better deals.

TV Stations/ Groups

The stations themselves have large teams of sales reps talking to people like you all the time.

They divide their sales team into two key groups. Agency and Direct. Agency reps are trained to give lots of lurverly theoretical ‘research’ stats to young agency staff. So they sound great, but can’t do much of a deal. (And the chances are your agency will only be repeating what they say/deliver.)

Direct reps are trained to get the most for spots no-one else has pre-booked, which is often quite a swathe of time slots, so they are better at doing deals. If you’re from a bigger company, you’ll find in most cases they’ll try to fob you off to an ad agency or buying group, cause the money side is handled more easily, and they are looking after their mates.

You can always insist on dealing direct and many do.

Media Buying Agencies/Large Ad agencies

Set up to take a slice (1-10%+), depending upon their relationship with the creative agency or client direct) the media buying agencies claim they can get you the best deals because they are the biggest in the world or South Eastern Australia or whatever. They can’t do the best deals. Because if they did, with their percentage of the total buy, the TV stations would go broke.

So the deals they do are almost always the ones with more fat in them than what you can do direct. You are buying the right shows, but you could be paying 20-50% more than you have to for that particular show.

Smaller Ad Agencies

Smaller, ‘creative’ agencies often buy under the umbrella of the big media buying
houses, claiming they are focusing on their own particular expertise and allowing the professionals to do their part. The fact is juniors usually do the work in the big media buying groups, so there’s stuff all professionalism and the best deals go to those who own the media buying houses (share holders often being the big ad agencies). It’s nice for the smaller agencies to have someone else carry the credit risk. And if your relationship with a creative group is helped by them getting a little slice, fine.

Direct Buyers/Buy Direct

You can deal direct with any of the TV stations and get good deals. You can also bandy together with a few mates and buy in bulk. Remember, there are no rules.

How the purchase process works

You should decide who your core target market is by demographic (age, income, sex etc) and psychographic (attitudes, personality, values etc.) and even time of day viewing (Business people often watch late night. Families with young kids may often be watching TV at 700 am, but don’t expect to see those show up on a ratings analysis).

You may write it up as a brief with timings, flighting, budgets, what you want
to achieve etc. and have it ready to email. Then ring the agency or station rep and go over it. Ask them to respond with their proposed buy. You’ll get that back within 24-36 hours. There will be things you don’t agree with etc., so you might repeat the process a few times. You eventually agree on a buy. They send you a final which you sign off. They do a credit check and off you go. They advise you about 24 hours before hand exactly when your ads will appear and if you want a list, that can be provided afterwards for your records. You’ll get 45 days or so to pay the bill, but contrary to everything you hear, this can also be flexible.

If you want to know what things should cost, or more of an idea how it works from the inside, give us a call us at Starship and ask for Ebba, she’s the tall, very good looking blonde ex-media rep who knows everybody who matters. Or call and ask for Geoffrey, who’s short, balding, knows no-body, but writes these blogs when he’s bored.

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