Bridger Howes Limited (BH), is a media buying and PR company, active in a number of sectors, including construction. Director, Mark Bridger, has written this article about buying advertising in the B2B sector, covering the following:
Why use media buyers?
I get asked this a lot, sometimes with a tone of cynicism. ‘Why can’t I do it myself?’ people scoff. Well, you can, but often the person tasked with buying the print or digital space doesn’t have a publishing background. They might be well-versed in sales and marketing generally but that doesn’t equate to understanding the science of media buying, which it takes to spend a budget wisely.
Sadly, there remains a lot of rogue publications out there that claim circulation numbers and readerships that are fabricated. They essentially take money off unsuspecting buyers to put advertisements in front of people that don’t exist. It takes an experienced, expert eye to identify these magazines and websites, and remove them even from consideration. It helps to work with a specialist media buyer in a specific marketplace as they’ll already have a great starting point from which to make initial recommendations.
If you do insist on buying your own media, or you’re instructed to do so, make a note of the common perils and pitfalls. The obvious risk is that you end up overpaying or wasting money in the wrong titles. Gather the data from magazines and separate good from bad. Clarify the detail and then determine what information publications could be hiding. Decipher what is missing and request it. Manufacturers would expect their customers to request data sheets, brochures, and even demonstrations before making a capital investment, and the same level of due diligence should apply. A professional and reputable magazine publisher will make their data and information transparent and available.
I’m always mindful that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. There are many different sales techniques, and pitches are getting cleverer all the time, especially when digital numbers are being quoted. Anyone with some media savvy should see through a scam, but if you are not sure, start asking those questions and obtain all the information before deciding. If you are then sitting on the fence, trust your gut. Don’t worry about walking away if it doesn’t seem right.
What if a client is worried that they’ll lose control?
It is an old cliché, but the customer is always right. In some cases, I would say the customer is wrong and I am right, but the final decision is in their hands, regardless. Just last month, I introduced an alternative publication to a client. I backed it up with all the information, including a competitor analysis between the two magazines and a proposal from each. My recommendation was to switch over, but the client wanted to remain with the original book. We provide all the market knowledge in our proposals for our clients to make informed decisions, and we must respect the direction they choose to go.
What are agency commissions?
The international standard for agency commission is 15%. The process is simple, and the agency does all the work. The commission is their fee. Media buyers liaise with magazines, formulate a plan, and negotiate rates working within the allocated budget. If the budget and gross spend for the client is £30,000, the agency receives £4,500 in commission and the magazine nets the remainder: £25,500. However, terms can be flexible, and a flat fee can be agreed up front.
What does a media buyer need to start?
It’s always a bespoke process. It could be for a year, product, trade show, or something else. Some clients are familiar with the process and others have never purchased an advert before, let alone produced a budget and a strategy.
Let’s start with the four pillars of any good media plan:
It is like solving a jigsaw puzzle. Once you have all the pieces there, you start by putting the border together. In this case it is the list of publications ranked in terms of importance and frequency of insertions. If your No. 1 magazine is monthly and you want to run a full page every issue, that budget needs to be allocated first. Any ‘must haves’ are added next; you may have a hold on an outside back cover or directory advert commitment, which is placed every year. These are the fundamentals, and the puzzle takes shape from here.
BH researches and buys media in renewable energy, construction, steel, marine, oil and gas, and many other sectors.
How do you choose between print, local, global, online, newsletters, etc.?
In terms of the geographical target audience, this would be determined with the client during the planning and budgeting phase. No campaign is the same, but I would always start with achieving the print objectives. Once these are locked in, I know how much budget I have for digital spend. BH has longstanding relationships with several sales teams, and I’ve even managed and worked alongside some of the people we are working with today. These relationships are key, and because we are buying across a spread of clients, everyone gets looked after. Many of the print deals we negotiate already include complimentary incentives such as banners and email blasts. If they don’t and we like a particular digital package, we will add it to the schedule.
As automation and technology increases in the sector, digital marketing will increase. Technology is moving fast across many industries and the solutions that some of our clients introduce fascinate me. Digital marketing is getting very clever. Most digital magazines allow advertisers to embed videos and links, for example. These are remarkable tools, and they create opportunities for marketeers at equipment manufacturers to get creative. All marketing plans should include a mixture of traditional media and digital. They complement each other and should be implemented with a focussed PR campaign.
The number of people opening digital issues and email newsletters is significant to any digital campaign. Think about open rates and engagement. Before buying banners on newsletters, ask how the current advertising banners are performing. How many people open the emails? How many clicks does each advert receive on average? Digital media isn’t only about click throughs—branding is significant too.
Remember, getting a true circulation number enables you to calculate the AVE (Advertising Value Equivalent). I can then determine what I think is a fair price to pay for the space before I start a negotiation.
Is it important to build contingency into a budget?
I would always advise on keeping something back for a rainy day. BH is regularly contacted by the media offering specials such as front cover packages, advertorials, and digital sponsorships. It helps if we are aware of any contingency so we can react quickly and secure the best deals.
I was recently invited to a presentation of a new magazine launch for 2022. This is exciting activity to be associated with and an opportunity for many of our clients. Luckily, we had some contingency remaining and a couple of our customers have already jumped on board.
Contingency isn’t always in the plan but often we are able to build a media schedule that is significantly under budget. We can make these spare advertising dollars work by investing them over a period.
Do you look at trade shows to help allocate spend?
Absolutely. Some campaigns are targeted specifically around events. We like working with magazines that exhibit at shows as a strong footprint in their industry is necessary. Many publications offer bonus distribution from their stands or booths. These bumper issues give our clients access to many of the visitors walking the aisles. This year (2022) is a Bauma year, and anyone involved in the construction industry will have this show on their radar. Inevitably, we have bought media in many magazines that will be prominent in Munich, where the show takes place.
Does print media have a future?
Print media has a future in every industry. I genuinely still believe that most people prefer reading articles in a magazine versus online. There’s nothing better than seeing a cool application or new product announcement printed in the pages of your favourite industry journal. I’m more likely to pick a trade magazine up three or four times before I’m finished with it. I keep many magazines on file. I very rarely return to a digital magazine; I’ll have a quick flick through and wait for my hard copy to arrive.
There are many debates about the longevity of print media, but for two decades magazine publishers have been worried about the impact that the internet and digital media will have on their businesses.
Will print survive? Absolutely. But it is in the hands of the publishing industry. After all, they decide on print runs and how much more margin they can make from cutting these back and replacing them with a digital version.
I sympathise and appreciate that some publications had to make some drastic cuts to circulation in the wake of the Covid outbreak. Arguably, readers were not going to the office and therefore the paper magazines were gathering dust. Delivering a digital issue in its place, is a strong publishing initiative for the current climate. Even though it is considerably cheaper and quicker to send a digital magazine instead of printing and mailing a copy, I’d like to see these print circulations come back when the world is more settled. We will see.
Should I buy media to get editorial coverage?
Because of our magazine background my business partner and I have strong values when it comes to editorial quality and integrity. The BH media distribution list is very comprehensive, and our clients’ news and articles are published in a myriad of magazines, websites, and email newsletters. We don’t typically pay for editorial and nor do we expect to buy advertising in exchange for column inches. Editorial should be published on its merit.
The challenge is maintaining relationships with the sales and editorial teams. Understandably, salespeople get frustrated when a manufacturer doesn’t advertise but they see a full-page case study in their magazine each month. On the other hand, we are buying advertising space in publications that rarely publish our news. It works both ways. Magazines cannot survive without advertising revenues; we understand that. BH does try to support the publications that write about our clients.
As BH evolves and our media services expand, so does our intellectual property. We are challenged by our clients to research and source media in many diverse end user markets. Not just from an advertising perspective but also for specialised case studies. As we do this our knowledge of these markets increases and we are making many new friends and building relationships with both editorial and sales teams. BH is starting to open more doors, and our media distribution list evolves naturally every week. Our clients are benefitting from an improved all-round service.
Whether you’re a manufacturer, reseller, distributor, service provider, trade association, or someone else, BH can help you reach your target audiences through educational, thought-provoking content that leads to positive interest in your business and, of course, bottom line growth. If you would like to contact Bridger Howes, please click here.
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