Here’s What Agencies Want From Their Media Partners.


Put the client first. Amplify radio’s attributes. Be flexible… and caring. Those are among the suggestions a trio of ad agency heavyweights have for radio as a year no one will ever forget winds down and the industry looks forward to a hopefully better 2021.


“The best marketing strategy is to care, that’s what we look for in our media partners,” Jessica Birkholz, Director of Media at Media Bridge Advertising, said Wednesday during “What Agencies Want From Their Media Partners,” a live-streamed session presented by the Radio Advertising Bureau. Birkholz, who called her shop a “radio first agency” – founder and CEO Tracy Call is a former radio salesman – said Media Bridge can tell when an AE is selling them as opposed to actually caring about the client. She likes to encounter sellers armed with a solution and the ability to problem solve. “Really focus on our client’s unique problem… and how we can solve around that,” Birkholz said.


Kathy Doyle, Executive VP of Local Investment at Magna, was also singing from the client-first hymnal. “If we’re not serving the client first, I’m not going to have a job and you’re not going to have a job,” she cautioned. Doyle who oversees all local buying activity for Amazon, American Express, Coca-Cola, Subaru, Arby’s and other top brands, said that involves the ability to defend the brand and understand both the consumer and the strengths of the audio medium “and bring it all together in a way that drives great business results for the client.”


Linda Jefferson, Senior VP of Group Media Services at Burrell Communications, stressed the importance of knowing who her clients are. She often gets pitches for brands that Burrell doesn’t represent. She urged radio reps to do their due diligence, study the marketplace and learn what the client and their competitors are doing to help them bring a point of differentiation. “How are you going to help us solve the client’s business challenge?” she asked. “And can you help us bring this together to make it real and bring results?”


What About Budgets?


The hour-plus live streaming session, moderated by Katz Radio Group President Christine Travaglini, not only delivered ideas and tips about how radio can support its agency partners. It also took the temperature of the advertising industry heading into 2021. On that front, Travaglini shared an upbeat observation. About 80% of the radio rep firm’s top 30 accounts, which represent nearly half of its billing, are spending more in Q4 than they did last year. “There’s some momentum building into the year but it’s also a time of uncertainty,” Travaglini observed, before popping the question: What about budgets in 2021?


Birkholz said that in many cases, Media Bridge is seeing budgets grow, with the caveat that the Minneapolis-based shop would like to see more flexibility from its radio partners in 2021. “Our clients more than ever need the flexibility to continue on with radio and really put their trust and their budgets into this medium,” Birkholz said. “Loosen the requirements. Allow that flexibility and I think we’ll continue to see those grow.”


Doyle said radio is flat, at least on paper, but that executives at Magna, part of IPG Mediabrands, are talking a lot about the medium. “I’ve had more conversations about radio in the last two months than I’ve had in the last year. It’s a hot, hot topic right now.” What’s the chatter all about? Radio’s cost per thousand is very attractive to advertisers in this environment. “We’ve have had some great thinking brought to us on behalf of our clients,” Doyle said. “I am hopeful that we will see it tick up a bit, based on conversations.”


As one of the largest multi-cultural marketing firms in the world, Burrell invested a great deal in radio during the 2020 election cycle. For the non-election year of 2021, Jefferson sad its radio spend “will be down dramatically” and flat for non-political clients that are using radio.


Asked by Travaglini what action items they have for radio to achieve a better relationship with agencies, each had constructive suggestions. “Amplify your attributes,” said Doyle, such as flexibility, credible content, influencers and geographic targeting. “Digital pays extra for geo, you have geo built in,” she said.


Added Jefferson: “Do your homework, bring us your best thinking, and know who we are and who we are working with.”


And Birholz encouraged reps to “remove the obstacles and simplify the win for us.”

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