• Lou Manso

9 Tips to Consider When Looking for a Media Buying Agency. Tips from a pro with 30 years in the biz

Let me start by saying that there is a lot more to choosing a media buying agency than these 7 tips. These are just some of the points that are important to me. I have been involved in advertising, sales and procurement in one form or another for over 3 decades. So, if you're new to this, before you shake hands with that new media buying agency, you may want to read this. There is a lot of experience shared in these next few paragraphs.

Full Disclosure

Let’s start with this one. This is one of my favorites. Full disclosure, transparency. You want your media buying agency to submit to you copies of every single media invoice, from every single media partner, from every single media buy they execute on your behalf. Many media buying agencies will balk at this, and many will not do it. The reasons why I consider this to be important is to verify that: A) The campaign is running exactly how you ordered it. B) You are not being billed for spots or portions of the campaign that did not air or were not posted. C) That your media buying agency is not overcharging you. D) That you’re cognizant of the rates that your media buying agency negotiated on your behalf – so that in the event you switch media buying agencies, you know your rates. That may come in handy when you’re negotiating with your next media buyer. I believe full disclosure is a good practice and I offer it to my clients.

Try to Avoid Fees and Know the Commission Rate that You’re Paying

Many media buying agencies require a minimum spend, they also want a retainer, and some add fees on top of all of that. Let your agency know up front that you’re not a fan of fees and that you want to know how much commission they are going to charge you upfront. If possible, ask for itemized billing that keeps the agency fees and commissions separate from the media costs. In other words, you want to look at an invoice and see how much of it was media, how much of it was commission and how much of it was fees. But you need to negotiate this upfront and be in your contract. Keep in mind that many agencies will not agree to this. At my firm, we offer a simple, one-price model that is all inclusive typically without fees or retainers.

Try to Avoid Long-Term, Exclusive Contracts

Many media buying agencies ask for long-term, exclusive contracts that could lock you in for years. I am a believer that I should earn my client’s business every day. I believe that if at some point the client is not happy, and we have done everything in our power to make the client happy and we can’t, I believe that they should be able to leave and find another media agency. I don’t like contentious relationships. You spend too much time trying to make a client happy that you obviously can’t please. See ya! Arrivederci! I also don’t believe in holding clients to exclusive contracts. If a client wants to place some media directly or through another partner, we have no objection, unless it interferes with our ability to negotiate or place media.

Media Buying Across All Media Platforms

I think it is important to work with a single Media Buying Agency that has capabilities across all media platforms, rather than split the account into Digital and Traditional. I like the idea of having all my media planners and strategists under one roof. Not only can this help with the synchronicity of the entire agency team and the advertiser, but it can also make for a good collective team effort. This also helps you avoid having to split the ad budget between agencies, thus taking a less divisive approach to budget appropriation. For those reasons I prefer the one media agency, one-stop-shop model. This why my agency offers a one-stop-shop solution across all media platforms.

Demand a Senior Team and Check Resumes

A long-time client and I used to joke that some agencies send in high-level executives to pitches that the client never sees or hears from again. That's right. They send in folks with big titles to close the deal and then they pawn you off on junior staff. Classic. Ask your agency to provide you with the resumes of the people that are going to do the day-to-day work on your account.

Check References

Sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how many people don’t check or even look at the references that they are provided. Then, when a project goes sideways, surprise! Yes, absolutely. Ask for at least 5 client references. Call and talk to all of them. Ask them the obvious questions, like how happy they are with the team, the agency, and the quality of the work. Ask them for the pros and cons. And ask them if they intend to keep their business with the agency.

Avoid Agreeing to Pay in Advance for Media (or anything unless it is absolutely necessary).

I try to never pay for anything in advance. I worry that in the case of Media Buying, if the buy does not run as ordered, I may have little recourse or leverage if I paid in advance. I also worry that if the agency goes belly up and doesn’t pay the media company, the media company is going to come knocking on my door.

Personal Connection

Make sure that you and your team connect (get along, communicate well, think along the same lines, have the same values, etc.) with your new agency and the teams that you will be working with. To me this is as important as almost anything else. The ability to communicate easily and in a pleasant, professional atmosphere without feeling hesitation, intimidation and even fear is in my view essential.


Last but not least, there is Integrity. Make as certain as possible that you're dealing with an organization that is honest and ethical. My reputation and the reputation of my company is sacred to me and is not for sale. Regrettably, not everyone shares that philosophy.

As I mentioned earlier, there many other factors that you need to consider when choosing a media buying agency. These are just some of the ones that are important to me. I hope you found this insightful. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. Lou Manso E-Mail: T. 1.858.442.4202

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