Mobile Reps: Call Me, Maybe

Data Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media. Today’s column is written by Sacha Xavier, Partner, Media & Innovation Director for Neo@Ogilvy.

The mobile media space is as exciting as it is daunting. As a digital media director, it seems there are more ad networks emerging in mobile than in any other medium. Not only are there ad networks, but there is inventory available to buy on the exchanges, premium publishers selling mobile, and  of course  garage band-type startups that buy mobile inventory, mark up, and try to resell to us.

My emotions are torn on the space because while I truly believe in mobile media, I worry about the dilution of reach and quality of partnerships when I hear from 20 mobile ad networks that they work with the same properties.  There are about five apps that have “partnerships” with 20 ad networks, and whenever someone name-drops any of those apps as their core partner, I assume the opposite of what they are trying to convince me of. In my head I hear, “I have no strategic partnerships or agreements with anyone, but I do have a well known app that has agreed to let me send them a check if you buy from me.”

What excites me is when a publisher says something like, “I know you have entertainment clients, but our inventory isn’t the best for that. We have a lot in [Business, Pharma, B2B].”  It’s not about what the category is. It’s about the fact that he/she is not a Yes Man. Every mobile publisher wants to be on the buy obviously, and they are convinced that whatever is out there that we want — can be found by them with the help of an insertion order. Well that doesn’t work for me at all, because I have fallen for the “Yes Ma’am” and ended up with under-delivery and unhappy clients.

This doesn’t just go for inventory — it’s about pricing too. I recently had a publisher accept a special pricing model only to be able to deliver sub 4% on the contract. The campaign is over and the money committed was given back to the client. Had they just told us “No, only a CPM model will deliver,” they would have gotten paid, we would have delivered to the client, and a nice case study could have resulted for all three parties, as it was that client’s first mobile campaign. I don’t know if that client is going to invest in mobile again… with anyone. With traditional “desktop” digital ads, I’ve always trusted that what my rep tells me they can do — and what they have — they can deliver on. But it’s not the same in the mobile space. I don’t want to be the first person buying something from a publisher unless they call it a Beta and set my expectations that way.

It’s not just the small networks that are ruining it for everyone. I once asked a major Internet company to speak with a few teams at my agency about its mobile network– and they sent an agency account lead who repeated over and over again, “I don’t know very much about mobile, but I’m the key contact for your agency.” The same publisher had another chance, but this time it was to present at the leadership meeting in front of all Media leads across all accounts, and in the 30 minutes given, a different agency lead spent 25 minutes showing us photos from his mobile phone of a cross-country family road trip he took. The ah-ha moment was that the sales rep’s entire trip, from maps to lodging to photography, was made possible by his mobile phone. That would be an amazing sell if he was speaking to the leaders of the “Society for the Abolishment of Mobile Phones.”  Dude we get it, and your presentation is just making us want to use our mobile as a distraction toy.

So that said, here is my guide on how to win mobile agency friends and influence media buys — based on the publishers who are doing it right and have impressed my team to date:

  • Consider bringing someone from the technology side of your mobile company to a meeting with clients. These people are extremely powerful because they are not on commission and are truly passionate about the technology that differentiates their company.
  • Tell us what you suck at. Everyone sucks at something. You don’t have to dwell on it but it shows honesty and integrity.
  • Tell us what you rock at. If you have a campaign that you are truly proud of, show us a case study and let your passion come out. Bonus points if it is in the category of a client at the agency.
  • Validate claims. If you want to convince me that you are the “only,” the “best,” the “exclusive partner of” something, then be prepared to validate that in the same claim. Superlatives come across as untruths in sales pitches without facts.
  • Include the following key points in your pitch: Apps vs mobile web capabilities, operating systems you work with, HTML 5, rich media, video, availability on exchange, global reach (meaning places that you have actually run ads), areas of specialization (e.g. Games, LBS, Music, etc)
  • Send me one email personally showing interest in my company and my clients. (Do not send me an intro email of more than one paragraph automated from Salesforce. As soon as we see that Salesforce stamp, we know you sent it to 100 people and won’t notice if we don’t reply.)

Follow Sacha Xavier (@sachaxavier) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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  1. Hi Sasha,

    Our team over here at Mobile Theory has passed around and thoroughly enjoyed your post today and are taking it to heart. Looking through your bullet points, we patted ourselves on the back for some things, and thought ‘oh! we’ve done that!’ to others. This kind of thoughtful feedback really helps us to make sure we use everyone’s valuable time effectively.

    Scott Swanson
    CEO, Mobile Theory
    an Opera Software company

  2. Publisher Guy

    Sacha, I need to commend you for being one of the few ‘enlightened’ and ‘strategic’ media buyers I have encountered in the past 18/month. You and the company you work for seem to be putting client first. In complete honesty, your direct client should be honored to have you on their team. Your agency should promote you – better yet, start your own agency and hire like minded people who understand the core values of marketing. You are awesome. Sadly, most planners are not.

    While I agree with all of your thoughts, I have to say that I only agree when one is speaking to a seasoned media buyer like yourself. One that understands the fundamentals of media buying and marketing as you describe and one that lives, even partially, outside the world of eCPM’s, two sentence RFP’s and one that doesn’t beg, lie, steal, etc to get the ‘best’ rates and ‘bonus impressions’ out there. By steal I also mean… ask for US Open tickets and complain if God forbid you were not close enough to be sweat upon by at least one top ten player from Spain. One that understands the word ‘respectful’ and ‘partnership.’ I’m pretty sure that most planners use at least one of those two words when pitching new clients, right?

    I’m not saying it’s excusable for a rep to lie or represent their product for something that it’s not. I’m simply stating that we are all accountable for the issues you describe.

    The average age of a ‘senior’ media person I’ve met with… maybe 27. We’re talking about brand stewards for brands worth hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars. I’m talking about kids who are stuck in DART and ATLAS spread sheets and who only care about their next ‘click’ or publisher ‘sponsored’ event. If there are more senior people on the team, they are usually not involved. They seem to be CC’ed as a courtesy and not care when emails go unanswered. They are too busy pitching new business or trying to convince themselves that by asking publishers to ‘think outside the box’ makes them ‘innovative’ when they fail to be innovative themselves.

    What we/they should be talking about is MARKETING. How we can work ‘together’ to do amazing things. I’m an honest guy and I don’t think I’m one of those BS reps you might be speaking of. I also know a heck of lot of good reps out there. You should speak to them – the ones you trust – and ask them about their experiences. Sure, there are shady reps as you describe just trying to close the next deal… But the truth is, the majority of planners will bust your chops until you ‘risk share’ or ‘put some skin in the game’ and come back with a proposal that is void of strategy and only inclusive of the ‘most aggressive rates’ and ‘performance guarantees.’ I think David Ogilvy once said… ‘pay peanuts and you get monkeys.’ What do planners think the are getting for their $3 CPM? Yes, performance matters and publishers should be held accountable for misrepresentation, delivery issues and poor audience quality. All I’m saying is that you would be surprised and even humbled to witness what most reps get to see on a daily basis.

    Planners can be bullies to the detriment of what really matters to the client. You can reply and tell me that I must be from some minor league ‘player’ and that my grammar and writing style sucks. That’s fine. I can assure you that I’ve been in the business for a long time working for well regarded publishers. I’ve also had the privilege of working with some amazing planners. Ones, such as yourself as it seems from your article, that take the time to work more closely with their partners, who are transparent with their needs/success metrics and understand the value of partnership.

    For your next article, I challenge you to interview your favorite reps. The best of the best. Ask them about the brand stewards they deal with. Ask them about the quality of the RFP’s. Ask them how they are treated. Look at the job requirements for a marketing position at one of your client’s job postings and then take a hard look at your team. Are those requirements in sync with your own talent?

    Apologies for the diatribe. It’s not meant to be a dig on Sacha. If anything, this should be a compliment as you make some very valid points. I’m just trying to point out that, from my experience, you are the few and maybe… just maybe… the publisher isn’t the entire cause of the problems you describe.

    – Publisher Guy

  3. Angry@ Publisher Guy

    Publisher Guy,

    I heard blogs are free to own these days. Get your own blog and write your own stories! A comment was what we expected and you turned it to an epistle. Get a life!

  4. Eric Roth

    Amen! Couldn’t have written it better myself…

    We’re headed for a big bubble burst on the mobile side as we saw on the online side many years ago. The ecosystem is simply not large enough to sustain all these players…

  5. GREAT post Sasha (sic)!!!
    Glad that I do everything right even though you JUST said you see too little of this in the marketplace!

    Additionally I think agencies stink (not you of course)! Can we elevate the level of conversation (which is code word for “buy my banners”)? The reason I’m not hitting my sales goal is because the agencies are too young and don’t get me. I was at a bar last night and was hitting on a bunch of girls and had the same problem. Its their problem, not mine for being old & creepy.

    Since you opened your mouth, that MUST mean you want to take a meeting with me! I’m going to send you 14 emails this week to pick a time so that I can tell you how I’ve found a new way to shoe-horn an ad in front of a consumer for you to buy. In addition I’ll show you examples of bad creative, demonstrate no strategic approach, provide you no incremental value and make sure we prove ourselves through no reporting of substance. Looking forward to connecting.

    I have a 70 page deck where where every graph goes up and to the right. Its a gem.

    So in closing, I see you SAYING to all of us to step up our game and deliver better solutions, but what I HEAR is that you have mobile budgets.

    Looking forward to begging for our share soon,

    Every Mobile Seller

  6. Mobile Strategist

    Well-written article, but I’m not sure how this is “data driven thinking” – the article is more of a mobile vendor assessment.

    The point about bringing a tech guy to vendor meetings makes sense. Unfortunately, the average agency digital media planner/buyer has no idea about the inner workings of said technology and how that technology would effect actual performance.

    Let’s face it, lots of media buying decisions today (especially for “emerging” media channels) are being made on first impressions and free swag.

  7. Right on, Sacha! Let the truth rule! There’s a lot of BS out there, but there is also a lot of truth and value in the market.

    Hope to see you again soon.

    Peter B