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Say 'buy-buy' to media buying woes! Even if your bank has only a modest advertising budget, you can spend your dollars more effectively through the services of a media buying professional.

Community banks that start advertising in a new media, such as cable TV, sometimes try to save money by doing their own media buying. However, this tactic won't necessarily save money. If you put your advertising dollars into media vehicles that don't reach your target audience or don't deliver results, you could end up wasting more than you save.

Broadcast media is highly negotiable, depending on availability and demand.

Professional media buyers from ad agencies or media buying firms are like stockbrokers: They are in the marketplace every day, and they know what the going rates are and when certain radio or television stations are close to selling out. If you don't know what you're doing, you can pay much higher rates than necessary.

Or even worse, if you wait too long to place your broadcast buys, you could get shut out altogether. In addition, some print publications have advance deadlines. If you aren't on top of it, your ads might not ran. This could be a major problem if you have a branch opening or a special rate offer to promote and you can't get your message on the air or in the newspaper.

So many choices--so little time

Planning and placing advertising can quickly turn into a full-time job--even if you're only responsible for a few branches in one market. Once media vendors realize that you are placing your own advertising, you'll be deluged with phone calls. You'll hear from media vehicles that you didn't even know existed. If you try to meet with all of them, your workday will soon be filled with meetings that will be a total waste of your valuable time. On the other hand, if you don't at least hear what some of them have to say, you could be missing a great opportunity. This reason alone is why many advertisers hire a media professional, someone who can take all those calls and let the client know which opportunities are worthwhile.

When you do meet with salespeople from any medium, it's important to always remember that their only objective is to make a sale. Good salespeople will make a very compelling case for why you should buy their station, newspaper and so forth. But in order to get the whole story, you need to ask the tough questions. Media buying professionals know what those questions are, and they ask them every day. Many times advertisers are uncomfortable asking questions or saying "no" to salespeople. It's not fun to be the "bad guy." Let your media buyer do that.

Advertising salespeople can be a valuable source of information about your market and what other banks in your area are doing. (But remember that they're also providing information about you to your competitors.)

In these days of media fragmentation, it's more important than ever to have an experienced, independent professional telling you where to spend your advertising and marketing dollars. You need someone who is familiar with, and has access to, all the available media research and knows how to use that research to fine-tune your advertising schedules. There are more places to advertise today than ever before, and people's media-usage habits are changing.

Consumers are spending less time watching traditional broadcast television stations and more time watching cable networks. But you need to know which cable networks reach your target audience. There are dozens to choose from. Newspaper circulations are declining in almost every market in the country as more people look to the Internet for their news--especially younger adults. If you try to reach those "twenty-somethings" when they are establishing their banking habits, you probably won't find them reading the headlines in the local newspaper.

Use a rifle not a shotgun

The first question you need to ask before you look at spending any money in any advertising medium is "Who is your target audience?" The key word here is target. Too many advertisers try to reach everyone with their message. They spend too much money in the wrong places and don't put enough emphasis on the key audience that can bring them business.

An experienced media buying professional can help you isolate your key customers and target them. They will use several demographic and psychographic criteria to define your target customers. The basic demo information is of course "age" and "sex." But there is a great deal of additional information that can be used to make your advertising more targeted. Geography (especially helpful for new branch openings), income, education, occupation and home ownership also provide valuable insight for media selection.

By using market research tools such as Arbitron, Nielsen, Scarborough or Media Audit, media planners and buyers can analyze the media alternatives available in your markets and determine which ones are most effective in reaching your prospective customers. When your financial services institution has locations in different cities, demographic targeting becomes even more important. Market profiles for different cities can vary greatly, even if they aren't geographically far apart. You can't buy the same media schedule in several markets and expect to deliver similar results.

Get added value for your advertising dollars

In addition to your advertising schedules, you should be getting "added value" opportunities from the media--especially the broadcast stations. This is where a media professional can really make the difference. Added value can translate into a variety of options, depending on your marketing goals. Media vendors won't offer these "freebies." They need to be negotiated as a part of your advertising commitment with them. It could be as simple as getting bonus spots or remnant space insertions as part of your buy.

If your bank is opening branches in a new market, your buyer could negotiate news or traffic sponsorship billboards at no charge that would provide additional name recognition. Or they could get stations (radio or TV) to put your logo on their website with a hotlink to your website.

Depending on your markets, some radio stations might be interested in 30/30 spots. You run your 30-second spot adjacent to 30 seconds of content about a financial topic. ("Why a home equity loan might be a good idea for you," "Tips for Retirement Planning," "How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft.") It's important that the topic be of interest to listeners and not too self-serving, but it's a great way to position your bank as "The Financial Expert."

Newspapers and magazines can be a little more challenging than broadcast when it comes to negotiating added benefits and value. But an experienced media professional should be able to show you some creative ways to get added exposure for your advertising dollars.

What do you need?

Once you decide you need some professional help with your advertising plans, where do you go next? The answer depends on your specific needs.

If you need a variety of advertising services, you might consider a full-service advertising agency that can provide you with creative copy and design, media planning and buying, research, public relations as well as account management. Your account executive would compile a marketing plan that could contain all of the above elements. The marketing plan would outline your brand positioning, your message and how you get that message to your customers. (Some of the options are broadcast advertising, newspaper ads, statement stuffers, branch locations materials, press releases, grand opening events.)

But if you already have a good understanding of your market and your message, you might want to work with an independent media service and freelance creative professionals. Media buying services are usually staffed with planners and buyers with ad agency experience. They understand how media selection and placement work together with your overall marketing plans. It's important that your media and creative people communicate and work toward a common goal.

Where do you start?

To find qualified buying services or ad agencies in your area:

* Contact your local advertising club (most larger cities have one).

* Check with the Chamber of Commerce or other local professional association.

* Call sales managers at some of the top radio and TV stations in your market.

* If you spend several million dollars on advertising and your locations are in multiple markets, you might want to contact tin agency search firm that will help you with the selection process.

The basic steps to selecting an agency or buying service:

* Compile a list of several good companies. Don't go with just one recommendation. Give yourself a range of possibilities to choose from.

* Send each company a request for proposal (RFP) with the following information:

--Your account requirements and a sample media project.

--Information on the size of your bank (number of branches, number of markets and approximate advertising budget).

--An overview of last year's advertising plan.

* Have each company give a presentation outlining:

--Their credentials.

--How they would staff your account.

--Proposed media plan (Provide them with a sample budget, campaign objective, flight dates and any other information that you think would be helpful to them.)

--Compensation proposal.

What will it cost?

This really depends on the size of your account and how many markets you're in. Tell prospective firms which method you prefer in your RFP. The two most common compensation methods are

* Commission (a percentage of your advertising expenditures).

* Media fee (based on the number of hours that will be required to plan and execute your advertising).

You can plan and buy your own advertising. But why should you? Hire a professional firm that can do it for you. And you'll have more time to do all those things that will help you get that raise.

Deborah Cover-Lewis is the owner of Media Vision, a full-service media buying and planning agency in Bethesda, Md. Telephone: (301) 229-3300; e-mail:
COPYRIGHT 2005 Bank Marketing Assn.
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Title Annotation:Fundamentals: Using a Media Buyer
Comment:Say 'buy-buy' to media buying woes! Even if your bank has only a modest advertising budget, you can spend your dollars more effectively through the services of a media buying professional.(Fundamentals: Using a Media Buyer)
Author:Lewis, Deborah Cover
Publication:ABA Bank Marketing
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2005
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