So, it finally happened. I wasn’t sure it ever would, but it did and all I can say is that I was shocked! Like WOW, HOLY COW!
Being in the media business for 25 years I thought I had seen and heard just about everything. But that notion was smashed last week during a call with a CMO of a regional company.
My agency sent promotional materials to a large local food manufacturer that has been purchasing media for decades. Their CMO contacted us, said he was intrigued by our information and agreed to speak with us. So, we set a conference call.
After the niceties, we got down to business and he asked us to explain exactly how our agency differs from most media agencies. After a general explanation of the methodologies that are unique to our firm, we dove deeper and gave him some very specific examples.
During each segment of the call he acknowledged that everything we discussed made sense and that he could see it being a better method and a real money saver to his company. By now I’m feeling as if the meeting is going well and then it happened. The punch in the gut, I wasn’t expecting.
He then openly admitted that he knew his media buyers weren’t the ones doing his buying and they probably weren’t the best option to be handling their media budget, which accounts for approximately 80%+ of their ad budget. So, I asked him to allow us to do a free media audit and return with our findings. Only one of two things could happen. Either he would find out that they were already being serviced properly by his present agency or he would see a noticeable difference in strategy and costs and then we could further our discussion.
He respectfully declined and went on to explain that he feared that if he pulled the media from their agreement that he would no longer be serviced properly for his creative needs. Huh? They’re a creative agency, that is what they really do, not media. But he stayed fast that his creative would suffer, so he was going to stay put.
While I’m the first to admit great working relationships can be priceless, “great” by my definition is someone who really cares about the Client’s business, is extremely knowledgeable and talented, watches their money like a hawk and supplies superior service. What he was saying, wasn’t that at all.
It was “easy”. He didn’t want to deal with more than one agency for convenience and I truly believe that he knowingly is letting them mishandle their media budget to secure his creative and make his life easy. I can’t even remember the last time a client was afraid to lose an agency. Today, it seems just the opposite, even when it shouldn’t be that way.
Whether you’re a regional or national company today more than ever it’s imperative to optimize every budget within your control and most companies are whipping their agencies until they bleed, I found the one CMO afraid to lose a creative agency. The worst part is their creative isn’t very creative, so I’m not sure what the appeal is all about. Now, I know some CMOs think exactly like this one does, but what amazed me was his willingness to openly say it aloud!
The better CMO’s completely grasp that they are to manage their internal staff, their outside agencies and also every dollar as if it were their own. It’s a daunting task and to those that do it well, you have my admiration and complete respect.
While I could argue the validity of the single agency process all day, just the thought of possibly forgoing millions in budget for a little more work on his part is just mind blowing and unacceptable to me. Competition has never been fiercer, and every business needs to find every edge they can to advance and succeed.
Instead of shying away from work, imagine how this conversation could have gone. “Boss, while we are content with our existing agency, I found a media company that may be able to save us 3, 5, 10 million a year. I’m going to see where this situation leads; okay? I’m thinking it leads to being seen as a leader, a dedicated employee and a substantial bonus for that employee, that’s where it’s leading.
While many regional companies are privately held and don’t have to answer to shareholders, they still need to be sharp and nimbler than their national rivals, if they intend to grow and continue to succeed. It’s just smart business.