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Stinkers: Reprobate Radio Reps and Arrogant Agencies

    • 1112 posts
    June 11, 2018 7:24 PM PDT

    Readers of RadioINK's daily emails (sign up here) were treated recently to a frank and unflattering critique of "radio advertising reps in general" by an advertising agent and her husband, both of whom have radio backgrounds.

    She related an experience involving "a presentation from the GSM and AE from one of the largest radio groups," which taken at face value paints the individuals as sleazy, unprepared, and unprofessional; she used the terms "arrogant" and "soaked in flop sweat."


    What she says about radio reps in general: 

    1. They don’t listen. They ask questions that aren’t relevant to the discussion or to her client’s wants, needs, and desires.
    2. She says this is especially true when the rep is accompanied by one of the big guns. The manager types she encounters listen even less and blow off legitimate questions. She feels they are trying to push a one-siz-fits-all program, no matter what the client is trying to accomplish.
    3. If she makes a radio buy, she gets inundated by radio reps from the competition and some (especially managers) go as far as denigrating her judgment and expect her to justify to them why she made the decision she made. Or they whine that if she doesn’t spend a few bucks with them they’ll lose the account or worse yet get fired. Radio is the only medium she works with that does this.
    4. She is never swayed by an offer of concert tickets, etc. Her interest is only in what will work for her client.
    5. Radio is virtually the only medium that always denigrates other radio stations and other media platforms. One of her clients, a family practice law firm, owned by a woman, uses the slick local magazines on a regular basis. It works for her firm. My wife can predict almost to the minute when the calls from radio reps will start after each new issue comes out.

    Today (6/11), a small market broadcaster (and fellow RSC member) articulated what many of us had been thinking after reading what the Christy's had to say. Brian Winnekins, owner of WRDN in Durand, Wisconsin, replied:

    We certainly don’t do things the way the California agency described station reps. We treat clients with respect, listen to their needs and concerns, and try to find ways to work with them. Over the years it seems like radio has decided  to skip the sales training and just have “order takers” and call them salespeople. I still do things “old school” by scheduling agency visits at least once a year to visit with reps face to face to give them updates on our station, and with new agencies to introduce them to what our station offers. I’ve also been willing to work with agencies to develop plans that would work for their clients, and frankly some of my best and most popular plans have been from working with a media buyer to develop something that works for their client and our station.

    How did we get to this point where agencies and radio reps treat each other with little respect? I have to say that over the years my hardest client has become one that is an agency. My experience with many agencies over the years has been the following…

    1. Not phone calls or emails. I’ve contacted agencies about our station just asking for a 30-minute meeting to see if our station would be a fit for their client. I always tell them up front that if we are not a fit, no harm. I can’t count how many times I didn’t get a reply or return phone call.
    2. Not following through. There have been many times that I have met with an agency and they respond that in the next planning stage we should submit a proposal. So I follow up later in the year, at the time they suggested, and have been told, “Sorry, we decided to plan early and our next year’s budget has already been allocated.” Gee, thanks for telling me. I have also had the experience of scheduling a meeting with a buyer, only to get to the agency and being told, “The buyer has another meeting and won’t be able to see you.” Instead, I meet with an intern or an assistant-assistant-assistant person. A waste of time and money for me.
    3. Asking to lower rates. I get the email from the agency asking for rates for a client. There is no mention of who the client is or even what the client’s business is. All the agency wants is rates…nothing more. I send the rates and then get the response that I need to lower my rates because the metro stations are lower. Never mind the fact that the metro station is a group and is charging $49 a :30 and spreading that out over seven stations for an average rate of $7, and four of those stations will give no benefit to the client. It’s also just a tad hard to put something together when all that I was asked for was rates for a “client” that wants to have a “campaign” in the next month.
    4. Asking for free stuff. This is one area that just gets me mad, but radio sales needs to share the blame for agreeing to all this “value added” garbage and thus lowering the value of radio as a whole. As a farm broadcaster, I do attend many different conventions, etc. The instant I register for the conference, my email lights up like a Christmas tree with requests from agencies to stop by Company A’s booth to do an interview about some new or amazing product that my farm listeners would be interested in. So I respond that I do have a package available for just such a request.  The reply is “we are the PR agency, you need to contact the advertising agency.” So I contact the ad agency and, if I get a response, it’s usually, “Oh we have no budget for that” or “Your station is way too small for us to do a buy with, but we would really appreciate it if you would stop and do an interview.” Seriously? So my station is not worth the buy, but it’s valuable for the free interview? Plus, what do I tell Company B who is Company A’s competitor — and who DOES advertise with my station? That I’m  giving Company A a free interview? Why can’t the PR and the ad agencies work together?
    5. Slow pay. I get the buy and run the schedule as requested. I send in all the correct paperwork and I have to make a call 90 days later asking for payment. The normal response is “Oh our accounting department is working on it.” No offense, but I can’t tell the electric company or BMI or ASCAP or other bills that “The agency is processing our advertising invoice and when I get paid you will get paid.”
    6. Asking for free coverage. So an agency calls and tells me Company A is having some fundraiser or other “non profit” event at their business and want us to cover it, with either a “news story” or some “plugs on air.” The agency won’t buy us because “we are just too small” but want something free. Meanwhile, that agency buys a big ad in the newspaper. Sorry, but my those I owe money to are not going to say, “Well Brian, you were so nice to cover that fundraiser that we are going to take a chunk off your bill.”
    7. Making terrible buys then blaming me. I had an agency wanting to make a buy and be a sponsor of my farm programming. Great! So I get the buy — one time per day for four weeks and please rotate the following 10 commercials. I called the buyer and suggested we only run one of the commercials and/or up the schedule. Of course, the response usually is “That’s what the client wants” or “That’s all we have for budget.”  When the campaign doesn’t get the response they expected then it’s my fault. Since that happened I have now turned down buys like that as it makes my station, and radio as a whole, look bad.
    8. Wanting the “agency discount.” Why do agencies think they deserve a discount and then charge the 15%? Sure, I’m willing to give a discount for a bulk purchase. I offer that to all my clients, but an additional discount? Okay, I’ll do that if the agency gives me a “local radio” discount and drop the commission to 7.5%.

    You can read both articles in their entirety here and here, respectively.


    Three questions:

    1. Have you encountered radio reps as awful as the ones described by the Christy's?

    2. And the local/regional ad agencies with whom you deal -- do they behave as badly as the one Brian describes?

    3. To what extent are we, as an industry, culpable, based on practices we've permitted to perpetuate?







    This post was edited by Rod Schwartz at June 13, 2018 4:47 PM PDT
  • June 12, 2018 6:02 AM PDT

    Yes and yes.  The vast majority of media reps are not prepared for their meetings.  Managers, already overwhelmed by the tasks pushed down to them due to company downsizing and the needs of expanding technology, have no time to train their teams effectively, spend any adequate amount of time in the field. or prepare for customer meetings.  AEs push packages because that's what they are asked to do.   Customer needs often are secondary.

    On the flip side, unfriendly agencies often portray themselves as the Keepers of the Gold.   They have their client's purse strings and they are going to dangle those strings above every rep that contacts them.  "You want the money, do as I say."   The irony is that it's the client's money, not the agency's.   The agency often forgets that their job is to serve the client's best needs, not manage their ad budget.

    A very good agency owner told me something the other day that I was pleasantly surprised to hear:  Media reps and agencies have a symbiotic relationship.  One can't live without the other.  He said that if there were no media reps, he wouldn't have a job.   That's clear thinking.  

    AEs/Managers:  Be prepared, stop spewing station media guide mumbo-jumbo and listen to what the client/agency needs then respond.   Agency Folks:  Stop treating media reps like they're bottom feeders.   Their job is ridiculously hard to do.  Have some empathy and help them help you.


    • 1112 posts
    June 13, 2018 4:45 PM PDT

    Valuable post, Dennis. I wonder if that symbiotic relationship is what Howard Gossage had in mind when he wrote: "Advertising utterly fails to recognize its dependence on, and responsibility for, the media whose very existence it controls."