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Editor's note: We invited prominent marketing communication agency media folks to share their thoughts on what they like, and what they don't, from their agricultural media suppliers.

Actually what we are looking for from our ag media providers is very simple and all in a single package. We want ...
• A medium or an idea that has the impact of TV.
• A medium or idea that has the detail of print.
• A medium or idea that has the target abilities of direct because a lot of our target audiences are smaller in size than a full football stadium.
• A medium or idea that has the frequency of radio.
• A medium or idea that has an attentiveness factor we can depend upon to deliver a message in an interactive and engaging way.
• A medium or idea that is a new invention or vehicle.
• A medium or idea that we can track all of the above into an ROI.
• A medium or idea that is a win for the ag media provider and a win for our clients that will cement a true partnership and/or franchise.
• And, all of the above for less cost and more results for our clients.
Of course, we would like exclusivity on this — if not all, then at least in our product categories. So we have a pretty good idea what we want, or at least what we think we want and need and now we have what can be a difficult job in communicating all of this with our ag media partners.

This is not to say that we are dissatisfied with the current media options provided by our ag media partners, in fact the "Big Idea"(B.I.) could be as simple as a better way to use their current media vehicles to their full potential or some new research that sheds light on what really happens to our advertising message. The "B.I." should not be the sole job of the ag media partner, we should pursue those as well and exchange ideas and our "media dreams" with ag communications companies in honest dialogue.

The key is to be open minded so that an ag media partner is comfortable in bringing in new ideas and not just worried about selling some more advertising. It is more likely that we would need to pick one or several of the above points with different ag media partners. It could also be the case that the accomplishment of just a couple of the above points can put a media, PR, and marketing plan over the top.

Aside from constantly bailing us out on the little things that make a campaign run such as closing dates, production issues, copy splits and traffic, our ag media partners over the years have brought us numerous successful ideas and executions. Those ideas contain a lot of confidential information so specific details cannot be shared, but they include new creative units, new Internet vehicles, new broadcast programs for both TV and radio, and a host of specialty issues and topics.

Ag media communications companies do a very good job of positioning their products on an individual basis. The vast majority also are very good at putting together proposals for the new and best ways to use their respective media properties.

The only thing that could be done to improve on this would be to increase "objective" research projects and funding, which in theory, could lead to greater success for all parties. That is not to say that this is not being done today, because it is.

There is a tremendous amount of research that has been done by ag media companies that when examined in the proper light can yield helpful planning information. Education on media consumption and its relationship to advertising effectiveness is one of the most valuable pieces to the puzzle we can have. You could make an argument that a quantifiable piece of research should accompany any major proposal so that all parties can accurately measure the success of such programs. What this also does is foster a more open dialogue between agencies and media partners in communicating what is important and what is not.


Accountability, transparency, response and partnership are what we expect and usually receive from ag media providers.

Accountability is important in all aspects of the buyer seller dialogue but particularly in audience claims. Publishers can use third party circulation audits to assure advertisers of their audience and tear sheets to demonstrate that the ads actually ran. Broadcasters have audience ratings services and station affidavits to prove delivery. The absence of any of these things is a red flag to Bader Rutter planners.

Transparency is about full disclosure. Any surprise is a problem. Surprises, such as a media proposal made directly to our client without first reviewing it with us, are a big problem. Our job is to find the right media fit to serve a client's need. If a media representative has a new great idea that meets that criteria and would benefit from an in-person call to the client, we will help arrange it. If the idea is presented without our input, it can waste everyone's time.

Because media planning is just that, planning, we often request costs for several scenarios. Even when we think we have covered all the bases, changes are sometimes needed, often with short deadlines. We need quick response in order to include all options in the consideration set.

We see media providers as partners in our mission to provide our clients with the best media to meet their communication goals. This is easy for both of us, when the above criteria are met and a media vehicle is recommended to the client. It gets harder, for both the agency and the media, when we disagree about a proposal and do not recommend it. Even under these circumstances an established partnership will survive.

We also understand that as our part of the partnership, we owe media providers accountability, transparency and response.

In today's marketing environment, agricultural media must be solution-based partners, providing more than just space and time. We need to know how audiences use its media outlets and why they like and believe in them. What are the nuances that distinguish successful media outlets from the competition or keep them from being a commodity?

Farmers are consumers and, like all consumers, are busy. Just like the general consumer, farmers are inundated with mountains of information from many sources including magazines, TV, radio, Internet, direct mailings, out-of-home, etc., with many messages related to both farming and non-farming issues.

One of the most important functions agricultural media can perform is to help the planner enhance the creative message with "McSMART" media. McSMART media embodies McCormick Company's philosophy: (S)trategic, (M)edia neutral, (A)nalytical, (R)elevant, (T)imely.

Most media companies understand what is needed and expected from them. One of them recently illustrated McSMART media philosophy with its ability to integrate many vehicles. Armed with information shared by the client and agency, it was able to package its publications with creative ad configurations, TV properties, data base marketing and unique Internet ad forms. Besides increased reach and frequencies and better efficiencies, the package distributes client information in channels that the audience determines and controls.

Other media companies attempt to quantify message exposures with reach and frequency models and sponsorship opportunities with articles and broadcasts pertaining to important industry issues. These are other prime examples of McSMART media.

However, publishers in particular cannot violate the trust they developed with their audience. They cannot violate their credibility to them. They cannot keep accepting those blatant efforts by advertisers trying to make their advertising seem like editorial. If readers perceive the publication is just a placeholder for biased information provided by the advertiser, everybody loses ... the publication, the reader, the advertiser and the entire industry.

If I had a dime for every time someone told me that ag media is different, I'd be rich.

And you know what? Ag media is different. By far, the folks that sell ag advertising are some of the nicest, most sincere people I've ever met. And the representatives desire to build solid relationships with those of us in the agency world is unparalleled.

In my opinion, ag publication groups need to be aware of advertising trends in the consumer world and be able to translate them into successes in the ag world. With fixed media budgets, it's my job to evaluate the spectrum of services a publishing group makes available and determine which services will create a desired result.

The desired results vary dramatically from client to client. But, every one of my clients has said they want to be able to reach their target audience in a real, relevant way and "connect" with them — it's no longer about just running a print ad.

The buzz measurement in advertising right now is "engagement." Engagement refers to how an advertiser engages the target, moving them to take action and spend time with the brand.

Here's an example of how a rep understood the importance of en-gagement. He understood the need to show features and benefits of one of our clients' products. Instead of just suggesting a print ad, he proposed a solution that drove readers from his magazine to an interactive game on the Web. The readers went seamlessly from the print ad to the Web site, some spending as long as 20 minutes with our client's brand.

What do your reps sell? Pages or engagement? In my book, the successful group will take time to really understand the desired end result, and create solutions. It's a win-win situation.

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