Van. improves life for media staffers

A Vancouver Media Directors' Council study, conducted within its member agencies earlier this year, confirms the media planner and buyer shortage (see 'Agencies face shortage...' in July 30 issue of Strategy) plaguing agencies across the country. VMDC has been able to pinpoint some of the reasons that media departments can't retain staff, and will use the information to develop programs to attract new people to media.

A Vancouver Media Directors’ Council study, conducted within its member agencies earlier this year, confirms the media planner and buyer shortage (see ‘Agencies face shortage…’ in July 30 issue of Strategy) plaguing agencies across the country. VMDC has been able to pinpoint some of the reasons that media departments can’t retain staff, and will use the information to develop programs to attract new people to media.

Dean Butler, director of media services for Glennie Stamnes Strategy and president of VMDC, says media departments have a severe shortage of mid-level buyers and planners because after about five years they move on to greener pastures such as the media supplier side. Although media is responsible for 70% to 80% of an agency’s billings, Butler says media buyers and planners are the third-class citizens of the industry.

The heads of Vancouver agencies are aware of the problem and salaries are moving upward, but he says agencies across the country must follow the VMDC lead and lobby the powers-that-be for the issue to be fixed industry-wide.

The ‘drudgery’ of the business will not be as easy to deal with. Butler says the intense detail involved in checking the contract, checking the invoice against the contract and then following up on discrepancies and make-goods – particularly with broadcast media – is driving planners and buyers away.

‘The media people have become the great accountants in the ad industry. The only way we can force the issue is to say unless these things (contracts and invoices) match, don’t even send them. [Media suppliers] may complain about how long it takes to get paid by an ad agency. Take a look at the stack of invoices and paper we have to deal with – and it’s no wonder.’

Butler says that drudgery is never going to be eliminated but it needs to be streamlined. EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) is the way to go, he says, but agencies and media suppliers have been unable to reach a consensus on format and who is going to put it in place. A two-year-old industry-funded initiative died because of the lack of consensus late last year.

Butler adds, ‘EDI is a huge issue and we’re going to do everything we can to push the industry towards it. Even today we get make-goods faxed to us – hand-written on a piece of paper with one program replaced with another.

‘That so old and inefficient but that’s how [media suppliers] are doing things. That’s got to stop.’