Media buying

by Graham Dodd on 10/04/2013

The Concise Oxford dictionary’s definition of the word commodity is “useful thing”.

The Collins Thesaurus uses the word “products” (amongst others), as an alternative to the word commodity.

At TLC, we regularly describe leaflet distribution, door drop marketing, door drops, door to door distribution, whatever generic label you care to attach to the medium, as a “product” and we passionately believe the medium is (more than) “useful”.

But I recently became embroiled in a discussion with an agency media head in London, who used the word commodity in her explanation of how she bought door drop activity on behalf of her clients.

Her application of the word “commodity” was more akin to buying widgets than to buying a “useful thing” in my opinion, hence our debate.

The exchange was sparked by her advising us that we had lost out on a significant piece of business based “purely on price” (her actual words).

There were several elements to our proposal, but our discussion centred on just one aspect where it was suggested, there was a “significant” difference in cost.

Partly fuelled by our immense disappointment at losing, but primarily driven by a professional desire to understand more about why we had lost, I asked for feedback.

At this stage, let me identify we are talking about free newspaper blanket sector distribution; no demographic qualification, just using newspapers because they exist (and they are cheap!).

After some digging it started to emerge that there was in fact some reasonable financial difference and I could not understand why?

We played cat and mouse for a while and I kept asking questions.

Finally the truth emerged.

In comparison to the agency’s preferred supplier, our financial proposal was more, but then again, so was our volume – for the same set of sectors?

If the sectors have any sort of relative value to the end client, surely the door drop supplier’s objective should be deliver to as many households as possible?

In areas where multiple free newspaper titles still exist, the reality is that newspaper titles do charge different rates and it’s not uncommon for the cheaper title to be the one with the lower level of coverage.

The difference in charges is not necessarily massive in cost per thousand terms, but for every extra thousand leaflets potentially added to the proposal, the overall cost obviously increases.

At the end of the day, we were talking about a campaign difference of “hundreds” of pounds – but also thousands of leaflets.

But I repeat; these are sectors the client wishes to cover because they have some form of value attached to them.

As we continued to debate the issue, budget suddenly became an issue.

Okay I said, but your brief was never to work to a budget, it was to provide a coverage proposal for a set of sectors?

There is a huge difference between “make me a proposal for this set of sectors” and “make me a proposal for this set of sectors with a budget of x”.

We had answered the brief, but our response could have been very different if a budget had been set.

The pitch had already been awarded, so there was no point in continuing the debate, but I cannot help but think the client has been provided with a proposal which is second best.

And I see evidence of this every week in EN8 9.

I receive two free newspapers every week; one title delivers 1,307 copies in the sector and the other 2,547.

If you are the client and EN8 9 is important to you, why would you want your leaflet only delivered to 1,307 households, when there is a reliable option which could nearly double your level of household coverage?

And believe me, my leaflet monitor tells me that almost every week so far this year; national clients’ leaflets are delivered with the lower penetration title.

So I don’t believe the clients currently dropping via these titles (and probably not aware of the improved option available) are receiving the best advice and media buying available, but if you don’t agree, I’d like to hear from you.

And if after you have checked your latest door drop schedule you find EN8 9 only has an allocation of 1,307 and you would like a FREE critique on your entire current free newspaper door drop plan, send us the schedule and we will happily oblige!

Just how many other sectors are there in your schedule like EN8 9?

And how much better could an improved schedule work for you, or your client?

This article was written by...

– who has written 83 posts on Letterbox Consultancy for Door Drop Marketing.

Graham Dodd is the founder of The Letterbox Consultancy - he has over 40 years of experience in the door drop industry and remains at the forefront of innovation in the business.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Peter Rand May 16, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Graham – The commoditisation of what once was a “service” with “added value” is one of the great destroyers of quality within this industry as others. The relentless cost cutting at the expense of well-thought out solutions by clients and practitioners alike will not lead anywhere good. Stick with quality even if you lose some business as a result.


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