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Publisher vs. Agency



Linda Zebian By Linda Zebian
05/09/2007

It happens all the time: Smart magazine marketers and salespeople come up with a killer integrated sales plan for an advertiser;combining print, online and events;but when they pitch to the agency, the idea disintegrates because the agency has a separate person dealing with each medium. The value of the package is diminished, and the client never sees the end result. So, if advertisers want integrated packages, why don't agencies integrate? We talked to a magazine marketer and an agency head to see who's doing what to solve the problem.

The magazine guy:

Jeffrey W. Hamill
SVP Advertising Sales & Marketing, Hearst Magazines

FOLIO: What problems occur when magazine marketers try to pitch integrated packages to non-integrated agencies?

Hamill: The most common problems are budgets and skill sets. Often a publisher will pitch an integrated program on request that may include television, digital, mobile, events, retail and other consumer touch points, but the buying agency may only have print responsibility and budget. As a result, the program is being evaluated at least initially by people without experience in the non-print components and without access to budgets for the other areas. The most common result is either a reduction in scale to fit the print budget and a devaluation of non-print parts or a deconstruction of the program for evaluation by buyers with competing interests.

FOLIO: Are agencies moving toward integration?

Hamill: Today virtually all marketers are looking for ways to solve the engagement dilemma and connect with elusive consumers who have shifting media consumption habits. As a result, I think most agencies of any size are strategically thinking this way and trying to adjust their own structures to facilitate integration as best they can.

FOLIO: What's being done to fix this problem?

Hamill: In talking to the largest advertisers I hear some consensus that the issue needs to be addressed, and I see agencies that hold multiple buying and planning responsibilities for their clients moving towards more integrated structures. I think the ultimate solution probably is tied to agency compensation plans.

FOLIO: How much do compensation agreements get in the way of integrated buying?

Hamill: Without knowing anyone's specific compensation agreements I would think that in an era of agency specialization, compensation that works across disciplines is very important.

FOLIO: Can we point to specific examples on what agencies are doing to better integrate?

Hamill: The number of requests for integrated marketing solutions that we receive every day tells me that there is a lot of movement towards integration at the largest agencies. Most have now named a senior executive to be responsible for "activation" across media platforms.

FOLIO: How can publishers work around these agency roadblocks?

Hamill: The best integrated programs are organic and are designed with a great deal of brand knowledge. The best place to get the necessary information is with the client, and in my experience, most really good integrated projects have direct client involvement.

FOLIO: Is it the client's responsibility to communicate with the publisher and the agency to come up with the best marketing plans?

Hamill: The more they are willing to let us under the tent the better our work will be. The common practice of issuing an RFP with a short brand brief and tight deadline to media companies for integrated big ideas is almost counterproductive. Without real information or time it encourages either a random bundling of assets or programs that over-promise and under-deliver.

The agency guy:

Roger Hurni
Co-Founder & Executive Creative Director, Off Madison Ave

FOLIO: What problems occur when magazine marketers try to pitch integrated packages to non-integrated agencies?

Hurni: That depends on the size of the agency. It's not going to be a one-size-fits-all solution for magazines. For larger non-integrated agencies it's going to be hit or miss: Either they will welcome the package because they don't know what they're doing;which won't be likely;or they will ignore the package altogether because they are either trying to partner with an interactive firm or they are afraid that they'll seem stupid to their clients.

FOLIO: Are agencies moving in significant ways toward integration?

Hurni: Agencies are trying to become as integrated as fast as they can. However, the bigger the agency the more difficult that is.

FOLIO: What's being done to recognize and correct these problems?

Hurni: Agencies aren't doing anything to fix these issues between them and magazines. Most agencies are unaware of the problems and the opportunities. Plus, they don't want to lose control of the client relationship and they lack the foresight to recognize that publishers are acting more and more like marketers every year and so they don't know how to partner with them.

FOLIO: How much do compensation agreements get in the way of integrated buying?

Hurni: This goes back to agencies not wanting to lose control of the client relationship. So, yes compensation can get in the way. Agencies have a lot of fee structures and altering them can be problematic.

FOLIO: Can we point to specific examples on what agencies are doing to better integrate?

Hurni: Most agencies are buying interactive firms to complement their other services. Other than that, they are in turmoil. Agencies are trying to figure out how to create new services organically or incorporate an acquisition into their culture.

FOLIO: How can publishers work around these agency roadblocks?

Hurni: Publishers will have to work pretty hard to find out who the decision makers are from each group and find a way to get them in the same meeting. Another way is for a publisher to work with the brand manager of the account at the agency. They are more inclined to make decisions based on opportunity and they can navigate the departmental issues more easily.

FOLIO: Is it the client's responsibility to communicate with the publisher and the agency to come up with the best marketing plans?

Hurni: For clients that publishers work directly with, I would recommend publishers invite eight to 10 of their clients to a roundtable discussion. We bring clients together each quarter to share marketing ideas and get exposure to new trends in the marketplace.

It's a win-win situation: Agencies potentially have the opportunity to get new clients, and the publisher will be able to develop a true partnership with the agency.

Linda Zebian By Linda Zebian
05/09/2007







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