Confessions of a media buyer: what you need to know

By Bob Berting

I have owned an advertising agency for longer than I can remember. As a media buyer, I have had presentations from every conceivable media outlet in the market. As you probably know, ad agency media buyers are extremely busy people. They evaluate thousands of print and electronic media and listen to hundreds of presentations. However, for salespeople who represent publications that are not dominant or significant in their markets, it may be difficult to get an appointment. 

Know Who To Contact

To get on the media schedule, it’s important to know who to contact at the ad agency. For the advertising salesperson, two groups are important: the media department and the account services department. While 85 percent of your time should be spent with the media department, because it does the actual planning and analysis, the account services department should be kept informed about your publication because it has the day-to-day contact with the client. If your publication is appropriate for several clients at the same agency, you’ll have to meet with the media and account personnel on each account.

Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

This saying is especially true with a corporate or ad agency media buyer. When you are not persistent enough, or allow yourself to be intimidated, you fall into a comfortable rut syndrome, ease off or take a passive approach. The usual thinking is “Well I gave it a good try but they don’t understand the importance of our publication” or “They are completely oblivious to our existence—sometimes I wonder about our image.”

Indoctrination of the media buyer

Although it is not applicable in my case, advertising salespeople quickly recognize the fact that many media buyers are people in their early to mid-20s who went to college and studied advertising, marketing and public relations, but never understood the importance of a community newspaper. They were indoctrinated to think that mass print media, radio, TV and billboards were the target mediums to consider. Because of that situation, it is obvious that a persistent effort is required to reach the subconscious mind of the media buyer and persuade him or her to strongly consider your publication. I want to emphasize that you must be persistent with the media buyer—show why you should be in his or her marketing plans. Send him or her issues of your paper and flyers about special promotions, take ideas to him or her, be creative, ask the buyer to lunch, make concrete proposals. Above all, be nice, be friendly, be courteous.

What does your image look like?

Think about the image you are projecting. What does your business card look like? How about your media kit? Don’t ever think your media kit is not important. As a media buyer, I want to carefully study each publication and all the facets of why I should do business with them. The only way I can do this efficiently is to have a well organized media kit from you. I want to know about your audit information and testimonials from satisfied customers. The advertising salesperson who tries to sell me strictly with emotional appeals and no logic or facts is not going to win points with me. There is a trend among some sales training experts to insist a media kit is not necessary; that all that is needed are carefully selected magic-bullet phrases and the media buyer will be swayed to buy and commit to years of advertising. This is not real-world thinking.

3 things a media buyer wants to know

Let’s talk about the realities that a media buyer wants to deal with as far as the advertising salesperson is concerned:

They want to trust and believe the salesperson. Will the salesperson always follow up on every statement that promises action? Are they knowledgeable? Are they creative?

Do they have a well planned and executed advertising program? If your publication is to be the major player in their media mix, you must have a realistic and comprehensive plan for them.

Confidence in the publication is essential. If the media buyer is going to agree to a long range program they can’t have lingering doubts about the professionalism of the salesperson, the publication’s penetration in the market, readership, and response factors. They must have continual reassurance and updates on these points.

Finally, you can’t push the process of creativity. There might be several meetings to go over concepts and to thoroughly understand what the media buyer’s needs are. Patience will usually win out and the happy ending is a strong and comprehensive ad program in your publication. © Bob Berting 2011

Bob Berting is a professional speaker, newspaper sales trainer, e-book author, and publishing marketing consultant. His sales record in the newspaper business is impressive. For 15 years, he averaged two cold contracts a week, sold 20 shopping centers on yearly contacts, which tripled the publication’s sales volume, and rarely sold a contract that was less than 52 weeks or 1,000 inches during a year. He has conducted more than 1,500 seminars for newspaper staffs, their customers, and state press associations. He conducts tele-seminars with topics that are customized for the newspaper industry. Ask for testimonials from happy tele-seminar customers. Bob’s website is He can be reached at 800-536-5408 or

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