When you think about advertising budgets, placing ads or the creative process in general, how often does ownership bubble to the surface? My guess is not often. Because ownership isn’t something we think about unless it’s related to sports teams or horses.
In those two instances, it’s talked about all the time. For instance, with sports teams the discussion centers on an owner’s willingness to spend money on the team, to upgrade the stadium and his or her involvement with the franchise other than being the figurehead. Are they the meddling type like Al Davis or Jerry Jones, or more of a hands-off, ‘I trust the people I put in place,’ type like Robert Kraft?
Whether you knew it or not, the same applies to newspaper buying. This might be something new for you to think about, so I’ll try to make it very clear. When it comes to marketing services agencies buying newspaper advertising, there are essentially three models: ownership by the newspapers, ownership by a large holding group, and private ownership. Here’s a preview: the first two are more closely related to Al Davis or Jerry Jones, while the third has the chance to be a Robert Kraft type.
Let’s start with the first group, the ones owned by the newspapers. If you’re new to newspaper buying you might not have known, but the NNN, or National Newspaper Network, is actually owned by the newspapers. This “one-stop shop for national advertisers to develop and execute multi-market, print and digital newspaper media plans,” has a bit of a conflict of interest when it comes to negotiating the best rates and programs for its clients. The reason: the survival of the NNN as a business is directly affected by the revenues generated by the publications. As we all know, newspaper revenues have been declining, meaning the NNN has little incentive to work to reduce rates on behalf of its clients. This is the Al Davis type of ownership group, one who is the overseer and omnipresent.
Up next is the newspaper buying agencies owned by large holding groups. These are companies like Novus Media Inc. or NSA Media, which are part of the big three (formerly the big four, prior to the Omnicom/Publicis Merger). These groups, in the end, have to report to the investors and need to be aware of what’s happening on a quarterly basis so they can prepare for the earnings calls. In the backs of the minds of middle management are projections made by ownership groups and senior management and what they need to do on the client side to meet those projections. These projections and a desire to exceed them can take a front seat while client goals and the success of the client’s business can get stuck in the back with the sippy cups and sticky car seats. Gross. Think of this like the Jerry Jones style of ownership, concerned with what other people think and the ability to show off how much money they’re making. Have you seen AT&T Stadium and the scoreboard?
Finally, you have the Robert Kraft style of NFL owners. These are the independents, the ones who trust the people they have put in place to hit their numbers, achieve the goals of not only their company, but the company’s clients (or in the case of the NFL, its fans). Think about this for a minute: Kraft has turned his Patriots franchise into a perennial winner by allowing his management to lead and deliver results to its fans. This is very similar to how independent newspaper buying agencies can deliver successful results to its clients. The primary objective in this model is not the almighty dollar, it is ensuring the media works for the clients at the price point the advertiser needs. This means building relationships with clients as well as publication partners, and looking at all these relationships as mutually beneficial partnerships, versus a standard service provider/client relationship.
So, who do you want to do business with?
For more on selecting the right media partner for your business, check out our guide on the 10 Questions You Need Answered Before Hiring a Media Provider. Also, the links below give you some additional perspective on what’s happening with the publishing industry, along with our CMO’s Guide to Integrating Print and Digital Media.
Scott Olson is the director of marketing at Mediaspace Solutions. His career has spanned marketing positions in the non-profit, software and utility sectors providing various marketing experiences. You can connect with Scott on Facebook, Google+, Twitter or LinkedIn.