Can there be there a worse idea for your business than engaging in a traditional ad agency media buy? Typically, agencies buy space or air time in bulk (with client money), then either resell it to their clients at a higher rate, or, they set up an account to auto debit the client, and take a commission (20% is not uncommon) on the spend in addition to billing for creative work and consulting.
Given the amount of spend is largely influenced by the agency, I sense a very real potential for conflict of interest.
When and How to Buy Ads in a Smarter Way
It probably won’t surprise you to know we handle media buying a lot differently at Kayak.
First, we don’t treat advertising – whether it’s online or offline – as a necessity for most of our clients. In fact, we usually only recommend it when we encounter new websites that need traffic but don’t have good organic search rankings, or in situations where search engine ads can give our clients a high degree of focus for a short period of time. In other words, we tend to prefer methods that are more sustainable and cost-efficient over the long term.
That isn’t to say that pay-per-click ads, sponsored tweets, and even traditional media (like television spots, newspaper and magazine ads) don’t have their place. We just prefer attraction-based techniques like blogging and social engagement because they make the job of lead generation significantly easier, and longer lasting.
When we do recommend advertising or media buying, however, we don’t follow the old agency approach. We are against taking commissions on principle because they send the wrong message. Rather, our approach is to make recommendations and set up sites for lead capture, as marketing consultants, and then have our clients make the purchases on their own.
In that way we use a more modern media buying model that’s a lot simpler, more transparent, and absolutely ethical. We think it works out better for everyone.
The Benefits of a New Media Buying Model
Even though we do charge consulting fees, forgoing commissions lets our clients know that we are putting their needs first by giving advice that’s right for them. We are never placed in the awkward position of having to recommend something we might get paid twice for, so our motives remain clean.
That also allows us to put our focus on the things that matter: integrating Adword targets with existing campaigns, matching buyer personas to different advertising platforms, and revising things like keyword selection and automated follow-throughs. Because we aren’t making purchases for our clients, or being dependent on the income from commissions, we can stay firmly fixed on figuring out what’s working and what isn’t, refining and renewing without having to worry about how it’s going to affect our own bottom line.
The client gets our best because it’s their results that will keep them coming back to us and ultimately keep us in business. That’s a far cry from the commission-based model that’s dependent on repeated transactions and huge spends, regardless of whether or not the media expenditures are showing a positive ROI.
In our view, PPC, online advertising, and other forms of transactional efforts are overused in place of good old fashioned search and content optimization. Whether this is because creative agencies are getting commissions and kickbacks or because they are just easier than doing the hard work associated with inbound lead generation isn’t important.
What matters is that the industry is begging for a new media model. Whether you use ours or someone else’s, don’t settle for working with a creative team that isn’t willing to put their money where their mouth is and show that your success is their first priority.