Agency to ad sellers: ‘It’s rather fun to play an elf, because elves help put gifts on our shelf’

Media-buying agencies are bombarded with gifts from ad sellers during the holiday season, but it’s not often they email over wish lists.

Several ad sellers recently got this request to send over gifts for a media-buying department potluck and raffle from Austin-based agency GSD&M this week.

Here’s the email:

It’s once again that time of year, When holiday elves spread Christmas cheer.

It’s rather fun to play an elf, Because elves help put gifts on our shelf.

We’ve all been such hardworking girls and boys, It would make us so happy if you send us some toys!

Hi there, Happy Holidays! We hope that this festive poem is bringing out the Christmas/Holiday spirit in you as we are nearing the Holiday season. As you may know, we here at GSD&M media department love to eat and as we are coming up to the holidays we will be hosting a department potluck raffle among our employees this year.

As we value our partnership and appreciate you and your team’s dedication to the agency and the clients this year we would be so appreciative if you would be so inclined to provide some gifts for us under the tree! Last year some gifts included iPads, Echos, 360 cameras, etc, but even small baskets would be such a help as well.

Thank you so much for your help and we truly hope that you and your team will have a wonderful holiday season!

Needless to say, this didn’t go over well with some sellers. On SellerCrowd, where the request was posted by an incredulous seller, one poster said, “Lovely, I guess that $25k salary isn’t going far.” Another noted they had gotten “a bunch of these requests this year.”

A GSD&M spokesperson sent this statement to Digiday: “We’re fortunate to get to work with a lot of outstanding media partners. It’s not uncommon in our business to reach out and ask for items to be used as prizes. It’s never mandatory and participation is not reflective of our business partnership.” The spokesperson said there was no negative reaction, just polite declines if people couldn’t participate.

It’s not the first time that sellers have gotten requests like this. Rounds of golf and tickets to sporting events and maybe even some sort of shopping spree are considered generally OK since they fall into the realm of “bonding” or “relationship-building.” Of course, media buyers, especially junior ones, are young and often grossly underpaid — something sellers are cognizant about.

But a straight-up request for electronics doesn’t always go down well.

Earlier this year, the seller crowd got upset over a missive from Grey SF that asked for swag to be given out at a summer party at the office. (One vendor called it “aggressive.”) That in turn reminded people of a scenario two years ago when Zenith Media asked vendors to pay for breakfast sandwiches for a goodbye party for an agency employee.

It also exposes a big problem in the agency-seller relationship: often, RFPs or contracts are sent out based on who sent the most gifts, not really on the work or the technology being sold.

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