7 Traps To Avoid When Buying Your Own Media.

For those of you considering going rogue in your media buying, BEWARE.

I think of a friend I knew years ago who had a garage sale. “You’ll need a good sign,” I said, thinking of the fifty-cent, neon-orange-on-black printed sign you can see tacked to a telephone pole a mile away. “I’m not paying for a sign I can make myself,” he replied and proceeded to write with a thin black marker on corrugated cardboard.

Four people (all neighbors) showed up. He saved fifty cents.

If you want to buy media, do you know how to get the best vehicle for your message and at a good value? Consider these pitfalls, before setting out on your own.

1. Cutting out the middle man. When you take a third-party, media-buying expert out of the equation, you’ll face variables you may not understand. You’ll be negotiating your own contracts. Not all reps will be wholly committed to helping you, and some may attempt to take advantage of you to fill space and time slots which are of little-to-no value to you.

2. Focusing on savings. Money savings are often misleading. You might be getting a load of air time for a pittance, but more than likely, it’s money wasted. The cheap spots on air and the budget spaces in print are low priced for a reason. Almost nobody sees them, so they’re unlikely to reach your audience effectively.

3. Vertiginous vocabulary. The media world uses its own lingo, so you’ll be faced with enough acronyms and jargon to make your head spin. Ratings, HUT, dayparts, target rating points, break position…If you don’t talk the talk, find someone with your best interests in mind who does.

4. Collateral Damage. When you do the buying, every rep for every station, paper and magazine in the area will be hitting you with calls and emails. An expert knows them all and will shield you from the inconvenience. As a bonus, your expert will also evaluate what those reps are sending and recommend anything of value to you.

5. Lack of Objectivity. When going rogue, it’s easy to be lured by media you like (say, a certain cable channel, network news, the sports section). Thing is, those might not be where your customers are. Unless you do the homework—and there’s a lot—you’ll be guessing with your dollars.

6. Gotcha! Again, know the rep you’re dealing with. Some, when they sense gullibility, will bring out their shiniest baubles to dazzle you and seal a bad deal. Some call it “bargain prime” or “prime spot option,” but the sleight of hand is the same. They tempt you to buy a great time slot at a discount, but they then fritter the rest of your budget over slots so sub-prime as to have stalactites.

7. No measurement. So, you bought the media yourself—proud that you didn’t fall for the Bargain Prime—you didn’t spend much and you even saw your spot on the air twice. But…did the spots do any good? Unless you ran a direct-response sale ad, how will you know? And will it be a mistake to try the same buy again? These are mysteries that can be solved.

If you’ve read this, you must be a seeker of knowledge, which means you’re probably pretty well informed in what you do. So, at least talk to a media expert, before venturing alone through the rapids and quicksand.

–From the braintrust @Creative Dimensions