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Media Buying 101: Is Smaller Really Better?

When it comes to the fast-paced world of media buying, the old adage about size is most definitely true. It matters—but not in the way that you might think. In many industries, larger firms can leverage their size to obtain volume discounts and special favors. However, in a detail-oriented field like ad buying, smaller firms have the advantage.size matters media buying

Why isn’t bigger necessarily better? The answer comes down to two key ideas: experience and service.

Successful ad buying depends in large part on the knowledge and experience of those conducting the buy. Modern media placement occurs across a huge range of platforms, including TV, radio, Internet, print, outdoor, alternative media, and direct marketing. Each medium features its own complex set of rates and rules, and countless variables can affect how much a client actually pays. If your media buyer is on autopilot, this extreme variation in pricing can force you to shell out much more than you should. Yet in the hands of a buyer well versed in pricing schemes and market conditions, this same variability can lead to increased client exposure and dramatic savings.

Unfortunately, large agencies are rarely structured to seize this experiential advantage. It’s true that large agencies have experienced figures at the top. These individuals make broad planning decisions, but they’re not the people who actually make media buys on behalf of clients. That responsibility tends to fall on low-level employees without much direct purchasing experience.

This large-agency approach has two major drawbacks: 1) orders come from people without a vested interest in the client relationship or the campaign results, and 2) negotiations are carried out by people without the know-how or personal connections to secure the most advantageous placement and rates.

Sure, any recent graduate or “green” media buyer in a larger shop can buy to a cost per point goal, but you won’t get the strategic advantages that come by leveraging a more experienced media team with a vested interest in the success of your business.

At Vision Media, we see this playing out every day. Big name companies are becoming more and more interested in campaign results, detailed performance metrics, and serious cost cutting. They’re less interested in big agency courtships that start strong but then fail to deliver personal attention and strategic guidance.

They want a nimble firm that can hit the target and do it quickly.

Sure, the CMOs of our world love to be wined and dined by the big principals of other shops, but they don’t seem to know the lower level folks that are actually responsible for getting the work done. That disconnect should be a major concern for those charged with building brands and moving the sales needle.

So, how does Vision Media approach media buying? We take an integrated approach that large agencies don’t have the agility to manage. Our clients have an entire team working on their behalf. No team is second-rate; each group includes an experienced senior partner, and all team members work closely to plot and implement media strategies personalized to fit each client’s distinct needs. The organization is flat and the results are refreshingly unconventional.  There’s no disconnect between planners and buyers, and teams are empowered to negotiate the lowest possible prices and most advantageous media packages. The result: media buying savings of 20 percent, 30 percent, or more.

But Vision Media’s small-agency advantage is about more than getting clients the best buys at the lowest rates. It’s also about taking customer service to the next level by working intensively with each client to build brands and businesses through comprehensive strategic planning. At Vision Media, media placement doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Instead, our client teams pay deep attention to strategic planning, delving into the data to pinpoint target demographics and find the best approach to reach them on a variety of fronts. Tactics like sponsorships, promotions, brand events and partnerships can add cross-platform depth to even the most comprehensive media buy. Our in-house specialists can even craft original creative content for your campaign.

So before you settle for a big-name firm with second-tier service, consider the advantages that an experienced, customer-driven agency like Vision Media can bring to the table. From rate negotiation to strategic planning and multi-platform campaigns, Vision Media’s flexibility and commitment to service prove that size really does matter: it’s smart to go small.

Stephen Reed is the CEO and founder of Vision Media. Based in Redmond, Washington and established in 2002, Vision Media specializes in local and national media buying, strategy and consulting.