Monthly Archives: January 2013

Stop Getting Ripped Off

I want to share a cautionary tale about working with advertising agencies. Not all agencies are created equally, and if you’re not careful you can be taken advantage of without even knowing it.

A buddy of mine called me yesterday asking for advice. He took a job with an zoo on the west coast a few months ago and was driving to meet with the zoo’s ad agency, which bought all the zoo’s advertising,  for the first time. He was looking for some advice on how to approach the meeting. First thing he asked, “how does an advertising agency make money?”

I replied, “typically, the ad agency is paid a 15% commission by the media outlet. So, if you’re buying $1,000 worth of local cable television advertising, the agency makes $150. The cable company bills the agency for a gross of $1,000 – an amount the agency bills the client – and a net of $850 that the agency pays to the cable company.”

My friend then explained that the zoo has been placing around $5,000 a month worth of media buys through the agency – for which the agency is paid $750 from the media outlets – but that the agency is charging an additional commission to the zoo on top of the $5,000. It doesn’t end there. The agency is also charging the zoo a monthly retainer for placing media buys, as well as fees for producing creative (the actual television commercials that run on tv).

Now, I’ve heard of agencies charging a retainer and taking the commission from the media outlets. It’s also customary that a client will pay the agency for creative to be produced. But I’ve never heard of an agency also charging a client an additional commission on each media buy. Essentially, the zoo is being triple dipped for placing media buys through that agency.

My advice to my buddy? Figure out the exact amount of money he will save the zoo by pulling all the media in-house then ask his boss for a raise.

If you’re using an agency, even if the relationship is rock solid, ask questions about what you’re buying and what, exactly, you’re receiving in return. The zoo hasn’t asked those questions and is subsequently being ripped off. Not all agencies are bad, and in some cases, using an advertising agency can make sense. But, if you have the savvy to place your own buys, you can save money. Most media outlets aren’t fans of paying the 15% agency commission and would rather work with clients directly. More often than not, if a client calls them and wants to become a direct client – no agency involved – the media outlet will give them as good a deal, if not better, than they were giving the agency.

Just like any other decision regarding business, it takes being vigilant and asking the right questions to avoid getting ripped off.

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The Rise (and Fall) of Heroes

Remember your childhood idol? Remember that person you looked up to more than your own parents? And remember how you wished you could grow up to be your hero? I do.

My hero was amazing. At everything. A gifted athlete and an amazing person off the field. My hero had skills and traits I wished I had. A player that seemed to defy what humans can physically accomplish. That player was dominate in a way few were before, and in a way almost none will be after. There was only one person I wanted to grow up to be like.

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Beating a Dead Horse

I’ve talked about this before, and I’m talking about it again because I still see it all the time.

You can’t just start a business – a retail store, a restaurant, a consulting firm, etc. – and expect people to magically show up. Customers don’t fall off trees. It’s not “build it and they will come.” It’s build it, talk about it, advertise it, market it and hopefully they will come.

It’s tell a story. Tell a good story. Then trust that the story is so good people will start telling it for you. I can’t say it loud enough or often enough, but an open sign hanging in your window simply is not enough. If you want to succeed, you have to do more. There is no magic pill – no simple solution to becoming a success – other than hard (smart) work.

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Speak Truth

No one got very far by speaking a lie. Telling the truth often means taking responsibility, as opposed to using a little white lie to shirk fault or blame. Take responsibility, even if it hurts (and trust me, it will probably hurt). One of the only things that follows you no matter where you go – from job to job, from church to church, from school to school – is your integrity. One of the best things you can do to preserve your integrity is to always tell the truth.

No one knows better than me how hard it can be to tell the truth. This is a constant struggle for me. Almost as if my natural reaction is to lie. But if you fight through, the result is rewarding.

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What’s Your Mantra?

What motivates you? What gets you out of bed in the morning? Focus on those things instead of what’s keeping you up at night.

Declare that this is going to be your best year ever. Declare it out loud. Declare it on sticky notes stuck to your bathroom mirror. Declare it with your kids and let them be apart of your best year ever.

I’m still unemployed. Instead of focusing on the few no’s I’ve received or how long it’s taking, I’m focusing on the yes I WILL get. To stay positive, here is my mantra:

I am qualified.
I am outstanding.
I am willing.
I am grateful.
I will have the best year ever.

Declare!

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New Year’s Resolutions…blech!

Seriously kids. Let’s do something different this year. Don’t be cliche. Don’t set yourself up for failure by picking a resolution you’ll never keep. This year, strive to be loftier with your goals and your life.

Set goals – spiritual, financial, relational – for the year with real milestones. Example: you’ll make x% more this year or you’ll spend x amount of time praying more this year. Real goals help you achieve real results. Don’t settle for normal goals. Be exceptional and expect more from yourself.

After that, set goals for the next three years and then next five years. Do better this year by planning for a better you. OK, that last line was a little cliche.