written by Adam Ortman, Group Director of Innovation, Generator Media + Analytics


This article was published by MediaPost on October 15th, 2020


The COVID-19 pandemic has put the U.S. economy through the wringer, and the impact has sent shockwaves through the agency world. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, 46% of media buyers, planners, and brands were forced to adjust their ad spend this year — and 24% of them halted spending altogether.


Media is the largest expenditure of modern-day advertising budgets, and dollars are scarce at the moment. Brands and agencies rightfully feel anxious during these uncertain times, which means they require 100% confidence in their media-buying partner’s ability to manage their investment.


As the pandemic persists with no clear end in sight, agencies need to vet their media-buying partners carefully and make sure the relationship is built on a solid foundation.


Build Upon Trust and Transparency.


When searching for a media-buying partner, agencies often overemphasize the importance of industry experience. If an agency has a client in higher education, for example, it will only look for media buyers with expertise in that specific vertical. In reality, industry experience doesn’t always equate to media expertise. Agencies are better off looking for partners that have worked with a variety of business objectives, communications objectives, and budget levels across numerous industries to make sure all of their bases are covered.


On the other side of the relationship — and just as importantly — media buyers need to provide transparency and instill trust. They can start by bringing the right people into the relationship at the right time, devoting plenty of firepower to each project. Accounts should be staffed to meet client needs instead of being designed to align with a corporate or holding company FTE formula. The firm’s employees should be humble and willing to have frank, open conversations about the account’s performance. They should also be driven to learn, innovate, and improve, asking their clients plenty of questions and consistently leveraging new technologies and tactics.


The media-buying agency’s approach and philosophy are also incredibly important. Look for a firm that manages all media in-house and is collaborative, flexible, and nimble. It should follow a disciplined approach to develop the proper strategy, and it should offer full campaign transparency. The firm should measure its success by that of its clients — meaning it will focus on delivering business results rather than media metrics.


There’s No Substitute for Experience.


Sometimes, agencies have a history of being hot today and gone tomorrow. Many will struggle to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, and partnering with one that is in the process of sinking isn’t a smart use of resources.


During these uncertain times, it’s extra important to find a solvent media-buying partner that has been around the block. If the firm has weathered past economic storms — be it 9/11 or the 2008 recession — it will likely make it through this tumultuous period as well.


Given the rising importance of media in modern advertising, now is the time to be diligent and vigilant when auditing media-buying partners. Do a deep dive into their teams, approaches, and philosophies. While you’re at it, demand transparency and accountability throughout the relationship. Putting in the extra effort now to find the right partner for you will help ensure successful results as a product of your relationship.