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Media agencies are notoriously difficult to sell to. You know this if you've ever tried to cold call an account manager. You've probably only heard their voice via voicemail, with the false promise of "leave a message and I'll get back to you as soon as possible." As an up-and-coming DOOH network, this can be extremely frustrating, so it is important to understand how the system works if you are going to court large, national advertisers.

How the system works

Ad agencies live and die by the effectiveness of their ad spends. Their clients trust them with major marketing budgets, and they are judged by how well the money spent achieves objectives set by the client. These objectives can range from direct sales through promotional material, to brand awareness and recall, to the introduction and penetration of a new product. This is only the surface of marketing objectives. All too often, ad sales people try to pitch agencies about the effectiveness of their networks at reaching an audience without understanding what the advertiser wants to do with that audience.

It is also important to remember that ad agencies represent major clients who also have marketing departments. It is in these marketing departments that the strategy begins. This is where objectives are born, which are then passed on to the agencies to achieve. Additionally, ad agencies and major brands have existing contracts, content agencies and partnerships. It is equally important to understand that ad agencies have obligations to these partnerships first, before being able to consider new opportunities.

As everyone finds out, ad agencies would much rather say "no" to an opportunity than take a risk. If they do take a risk, it normally comes from their end, either through research, a major success story or at the urging of their client. It is rare for an ad agency to open up discretionary spending for the first person to introduce new media.

What you can do

Now, with all of these points in mind, there are (thankfully) many ways to get the attention of agencies and position yourself and your network as a prime target for inclusion in a yearly budget.

The first is obvious but not necessarily something that people do, which is to create a higher profile for yourself and your network. This can be done through writing articles for established media outlets regarding your medium, speaking at events, pitching interviews and establishing yourself as someone who knows what they are talking about.

You can also integrate your network into a larger group of advertising networks, or find partners to work with to increase the size of your potential audience in order to make it more attractive to national brands that are used to a certain critical mass to warrant the attention of an ad agency. Or, if you can land a well-known brand, create a case study and (with their permission) you can use the name of your well-known client to prove that you are established.

It is imperative that your network be audited, measured and offer the highest level of campaign optimization. In short, give the agency access to way too much data. Whatever they might need in terms of stats and numbers, effectiveness, delivery, get it to them before they ask. Keeping stats close to you will not help to get them to turn their heads in your direction, and it will make them less likely to open up to your pitch. Giving them everything they need to properly evaluate your network will make them feel much more comfortable.

Finally, if you are sure that a brand will benefit from exposure on your network, you can go to the client first. Organize a discussion with them about the potential benefits of networks like yours, and get the client to talk to the agency about it. The agency might not be happy about that at first, but since they work for the client, it might help to move the deal along.

It might sound like a steep mountain to climb, but creating successful partnerships with ad agencies is the key to long term success. And once you get through that door, life can be very good.

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