Big Media: A Hard Sell

hardsell.jpgI work at a global media corporation. For the past 50 or so years, the company has made about three quarters of its revenues and profits by selling ads. Selling ads wasn’t that hard because advertisers didn’t have many other options. If they wanted to reach a mass audience they had three options: NBC, ABC, CBS. But then cable happened, FOX happened, digital happened, the Internet happened, Google happened, iTunes happened, online streaming happened. You get the idea.

Now these monolithic corporations who are very good at making content also have to become very good at sales. What was once a no brainer has now become a hard sell. Advertisers, like the consumers they are targeting, are better informed. They demand accountability. It’s not enough to show that your content was viewed by tens of millions of people. Advertisers want to know how many watched the actual ads, when they watched the ads (did they see them live, or was it five days later when they were catching up on the contents of their DVR?) And whether they were actually influenced by the ads.

They also want to know how their TV ads work together with their other ads on the Internet, on cell phones, on outdoor billboards and in-store TV screens. If you can’t tell them, they are going to work with someone who can. The key is consultative selling. Teaching, supported by hard core data, and a true dialogue between advertisers and media companies. It requires that the media companies rely less on razzle dazzle gimmicks and more on certified intelligence and sales techniques.

I used to work at a financial services company whose main product was life insurance. Talk about hard sell. A massive portion of the operations was dedicated to communications and marketing designed to facilitate sales. The big media companies better start beefing up their strategic communications and sales support competency, or they’ll be left in the dust. Google is already on to the consultative selling thing, though they are alienating people with their condescending approach (are we surprised?).

One top media agency executive in the room told MediaDailyNews she loved what Google was doing, but not necessarily the way it was communicating it. “We always feel like they are talking down to us,” she said.

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