Media Buying: A Different Type of Negotiation – Avoiding “Me-Search”
Media Buying: A Different Type of Negotiation
– Avoiding “Me-Search”
By Olivia Devereux
October 21, 2013
Negotiation is a skill, and car dealers are some of the best negotiators out there. However, negotiation
within each industry has nuances. As an automotive sales person, you’re able to let the customer lift the
hood, smell the leather and run their hands along a sleek interior. You can even accompany them on a
test-drive, discussing all the technological advances and smooth handling along the way. By the end of
the drive, the customer knows why they should buy this car from you rather than the competitive model at
the lot down the street.
Because negotiation is such an important part of an automotive salesperson’s skillset, they often think
they will be experts at negotiating their own media time as well.
But you can’t touch air time. It’s an intangible asset. And if a station doesn’t sell a space, it’s gone. No
amount of rate reduction can fix that. Once the time has passed, it’s passed. Every media outlet has
unsold space on their station. Every strong station also has “prime” real estate or space that they can sell
easily, and often for a premium rate.
In order to get rid of inventory that is harder to sell, stations will put together packages that contain many
spots for what looks to be a reasonable budget. Some dealers may not know to consider the day-part
rotation of what they are buying. Getting a package with 50 spots per week on a local radio station is
great frequency, but what you may overlook is that those spots are running 5 a.m. to 5 a.m. Monday
through Sunday, which means many will be running in the middle of the night. Very few will be in the key
morning and afternoon drive times when people will actually hear your spots. Even if you get a rotation
from 6 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Friday, many of your spots will run after 7 p.m., as there is a lot
more available space there and the stations are offering these packages cheaply to unload difficult-to-sell
If you are currently buying packages like this, go check your invoices. Every spot time is listed. You may
be surprised at what you are actually getting. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is awake to hear it,
does it make a sound?
A more seasoned car dealer may know to ask for narrower rotations and more desirable times during the
day. They may even know that mid-day is a pretty good time of day on top radio stations because there
are enough people running errands and overhearing background music in waiting rooms to hear your
However, running in the middle of the day on TV or cable is not the best idea. Television viewership drops
significantly during working hours. TV stations often put together Monday through Sunday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
packages that seem like they’re priced really well. You may think that a package like that looks great.
After all, a similar package would be good on radio, especially if you eliminated Saturday and Sunday. But
it’s not. If you manage to get a spot or two in the Today Show or the local 6 p.m. news, you’ll be doing
Again, check your invoices. You will most likely be disappointed with your spot times.
Maybe the biggest mistake dealers make is buying the stations they regularly listen to or watch. You think
that because you are listening, so is everyone else. In my industry, we call that “me-search.” This can be
an extraordinarily expensive type of data. Especially if you are wrong, and no one else is listening to that
AM station that airs local sports scores all morning long.
You could also be right. But the only way to really know is to buy local ratings data and market research
and compare all of the stations that make sense for your store collectively. Agencies actually invest a lot
of money in buying market research, so we have as much information as possible to guide us in our
The goal of every agency is to increase your sales. If we do our jobs right, your revenue will increase
accordingly. We use market research and ratings data to determine the best media for you and make sure
we have the budget to buy it with an effective frequency level. We also want to ensure you have optimum
reach. If you’re a single point store located in a large market, you shouldn’t buy the local NBC affiliate.
Most of your sales are within a 10 to 15-mile radius of your store. It makes a lot more sense to buy your
local cable zone. And depending on your top sales zips and local traffic patterns, it might make sense to
add a second cable zone. Broadcast stations reach an entire DMA, and though reach is a key component
of any media buy, there is no reason to overextend.
In the end, a good agency will save you money. They will get you better spot placement at negotiated
rates. Every market is different, and they will have the appropriate research to help you reach the right
people as efficiently as possible. They will work with your budget to create the most effective buy, with
optimal cross-media frequency. Once the buy has run, they will audit and post your invoices to make sure
you actually got what you paid for. A good agency will free up your time, allowing you to sell more cars.