How Agencies Plan and Buy Today

Kantar Media SRDS & James G. Elliott Study: First in a Series

from Issue #1, 2014

President’s Letter

by Jim Elliott

We are very excited to introduce the results of market research designed to help people with responsibilities for advertising sales better understand and meet the information needs of media planners and buyers at agencies today. The first study was conducted jointly by Kantar Media SRDS & the James G. Elliott Co., Inc. in the fourth quarter of 2013, and follow-up studies are in progress. We believe that the insights gained will have a big impact on sellers and buyers alike, as well as advertisers.

SRDS was a perfect partner to conduct this research, because their online services and printed books provide basic media rate and data service for all major magazines. All major agencies use SRDS when they begin to evaluate magazines. To our knowledge, it is the first study to approach media planners and buyers directly, through their own individual email addresses. The questionnaire and methodology were designed by Susan Weiss, Research Director of the Elliott Co., and Angie Wright, Research & Analytics Director, SRDS.

Having served more than 250 publications in a wide variety of markets over 30 years, Elliott Co. salespeople have observed a sea change in the way planners and buyers work, which has affected how sales are made. Historically, leisurely relationship-building entertainment and thoughtful deliberation were customary. Today, buyers are so frazzled and frantic that sellers are often required on very short notice to provide major proposals to planners and buyers the sellers may have met only once or twice, if ever.  

Number of Brands Worked OnThese days it is very tough for a salesperson to get a planner or buyer out to lunch more than once a year. Why? The workload carried by media planners and buyers is staggering. In the 1970s and ’80s, there were armies of media people. Most were available to discuss good ideas whenever they arose. Media people cultivated relationships with salespeople because they were essential links in the information supply chain. Lunches and dinners were welcome diversions; opportunities to build knowledge, foster connections, and enjoy getting away from the office.

Now, there is no time to develop more than the most casual relationships. Far fewer people have far more responsibility to evaluate, recommend and buy media. Very few people are available to evaluate and buy print, television and radio, not to mention new digital, social and mobile media. Here’s what the study found:

  • No longer limited to broadcast and print, planners and buyers are faced with a dizzying array of mediaNumber of Clients Worked On choices, incorporating emerging technologies in tandem with traditional media, even as their responsibilities increase: on average, respondents recommended or purchased $19.4 million dollars of advertising.
  • More than half (54%) have media planning and buying responsibilities for three or more clients.
  • On average, planners and buyers work on 5 brands.
  • Half of respondents always use RFPs: 82% use them always or often in the planning/buying process and 78% rate their importance as extremely or very important.  
  • The majority who use RFPs (90%) typically allow 10 workdays or less for completion, with 40% allowing only 1 to 5 workdays.

This is the first in a series of articles to present our findings. We look forward to sharing more findings in upcoming issues of Ads & Ideas.

You may request a copy of the report by filling out the form on the side of the page here: