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The Myth of the Big Agency: Why Transparency Counts in Media Buying

When you’re working with a big agency, they’ll throw out all the stops to impress you with their media buying process. You’ll meet with the firm’s big guns; no doubt, they’ll sound polished and impressive. But here’s the thing—when it comes down to it, the top names won’t be the ones doing the planning/strategy or executing your media buying. And even if you know who’s doing the buying, good luck figuring out how much they’re really paying for your media. At the “big money” agencies, you’re sure to find out, there is virtually no transparency.

This may not sound like such a big deal. After all, most people don’t want to start digging into the technicalities and nuances of media buying; they want to get their message out to the world in an effective way. But let’s take just a few minutes to think about what it means to have trust and transparency at all stages of the process—not only for your general knowledge, but to drive more revenue to your bottom line.

We’ll start with fees. While big agencies may quote you one even price, the truth is that their complex fee structures add hard-to-check, often unspecified charges to the actual prices they pay for the media they buy.  Additionally, there are usually retainers to pay, along with fees for who-knows-what-else.

Vision Media is as straightforward as it gets with regard to what we charge. We believe integrity means quoting all media prices as they are and clearly delineating anything additional. With us, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting for each dollar you spend. That’s what trust is about.

Fees are far from the only things big firms tend not to spell out. At the “big shops,” media buying is done by people more than a few rungs down the ladder from the partners whose names are on the door. You probably won’t be talking directly to them or have any sense for their broader strategy or level of commitment to your business’ success. Are you sure you want to trust these small fish in a big agency to always keep your bottom line at the top of their minds?  How much do they really have invested in the success of your campaign?  They simply need to hit their arbitrary target and move on to the next project on the “list.”

At Vision Media, we don’t have a back bench. Every client works directly with a principal who’s got years of experience and tons of savvy. Because they’re personally responsible for your success, our team members become your advocates in the world of media. All members of the team are accessible to you, and all are concerned with one overarching goal—planning and executing a buying strategy specially tailored to the success of your campaign and your company.  You can get to know us, and we’ll tell you exactly what we’re thinking and doing at every step.

Because we’ve got real skin in the game, you can be sure we’ll work to get you the best possible prices and strategy on all your campaigns. In contrast, big agencies make big buys—volume is the name of their game. They fit all kinds of clients into one standard media-buying model without worrying too much about the peculiarities of local markets and media outlets.  They will try and tell you that their volume leads to discounts on media, however, this is far from the truth.  It is all about experience and negotiation.

That’s just not how Vision Media goes about media buying. We shop around and negotiate directly. The big guys may be rushed and overworked, but we always take the time to make sure we are getting the best possible pricing and placement available.

The major players in media buying talk a big game—but size isn’t what matters, especially if it comes at the expense of transparency. At Vision Media you’ll always know who’s on your case and what you’re paying for. And that, in our opinion, is what builds trust—and our clients’ success.

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.