“We can buy it cheaper!” In Local TV and Radio, you will ALWAYs be able to find a company who will say this.  It’s my absolute favorite question in media because it underscores two broadly based misconceptions of the media supply chain — namely that what you purchase is always delivered in full and that an impression is an impression.  In reality, sometimes your impressions are delivered exactly as you wanted them, whereas sometimes they’re delivered later and/or in different programs, and sometimes not at all.

So, the best response to the statement “We can buy it cheaper!” is a question.  “Great.  Can you deliver it cheaper?”  (And also “Will the ‘it’ that you deliver adhere to all my specifications, which have been carefully crafted per my communications and brand safety goals?”)

Cheaper is only truly cheaper if the comparison is apples-to-apples, and less often or rarely is it better.  This is as true in media as it is for my teenage daughter’s $5 Forever XXI shirts that don’t make it through one washing cycle.  Although there are cases where eyeballs of any kind – or a disposable shirt – are acceptable, Value is a much better consideration.

Value is the relationship of the price paid to the benefit received.  That is why at MMi we measure audience delivery within discrete campaign time frames, weeks, or quarters – in addition to “eventually” – and carefully consider delivery and efficiency within the context of other deal terms with media properties and additional advertiser specifications.  And our evaluations of costs are always reported based on actual delivered audience, and quality-controlled for season, demographic, and time of day.

Let’s back up and explain why you don’t just automatically get what you order in Local TV and Radio.

  1. Audience guarantees in Local TV are 95% as best practice per station per quarter, and in Radio 90%.  Not 100%.  There’s 5-10% “risk” off the top based on measurement standard deviations, accountability history of the medium, etc.  (Some agencies, hopefully not yours, operate on TV at 90% guarantee threshold as if it’s 1995.  Since 2010, the largest markets have had continuous electronic measurement and as of July 2018, Nielsen retired the paper diary method of collecting viewing data.  In Radio, some are not getting guarantees at all despite a Personal People Meter technology which has been in place in the largest markets since 2007.)
  2. Stations/agencies don’t always achieve even that 90-95%.  This is a large part of why MMi has been in business for 24 years.  There is audience shortfall, or under delivery weight owed, that takes up to a year to fulfill as a best practice.  (Some agencies, hopefully not yours, never recover this, perhaps don’t even track it or aren’t held accountable –  and it’s never recovered.  These impressions you purchased and paid for “fell off the truck” and are gone.)
  3. Where Stations/Agencies do deliver your guaranteed 90-95%, it is often through a different combination of programs and times of day than originally intended.  Impressions fell short in a buzzworthy Primetime drama watched by higher income employed people and were made up in Daytime talk show watched by housewives and retirees.  The “handshake” understanding is that recovery weight will be comparable to the paid weight which under-delivered, but this is not something which many agencies actually track.

So, here is a list of questions to ask when a company offers to buy your Local TV or Radio “cheaper”:

  1. Will you guarantee to deliver it?  To what threshold?
  2. When will you recover any shortfall, up to that threshold?
  3. At the same daypart mix?  (Or are you going to move more commercials into Daytime and Overnight?)
  4. At the same program mix?  (Or are you going to buy reruns on the independent station during Primetime hours?)
  5. At my same mix per hour?  (Or are you going to load me up in the 4am newscast and last few minutes of the late night talk show?)
  6. Will you adhere to my spot load and separation guidelines from my own spots and competitors?  (Or are you going to run three commercials a day in the cheapest shows?)
  7. Will you assume recovery of my rolling shortfall balance from prior buys, and not complain about it 6 months from now, when you are also negotiating recovery for more recent buys you have executed on my behalf?

When the promises to all of these above are a resounding “Yes!”, then it’s left to be measured and proved by a third party.  Self-reporting in this case simply will not do.  A media agency change always carries with it a number of emotionally and politically charged concerns from various stakeholders.  Let MMi do the heavy lifting here and advise you on setting up for success in the future.  If you don’t have specific methodology, then you will not be able to empirically measure “savings”.  It’s all about getting what you paid for.  You can be the one to decide if the $5 T-shirt is good enough, but at least you won’t have thought you were getting something else.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy this “Top 10 Checklist For Your Media Buying Guidelines

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