Favors in Ad Buying: Every industry has its own mores. In the ad world, the sales process is marked by a fair amount of favors from the sell side to the buy side. Media buyers are notoriously young — a staple of many of our conferences is to bemoan the “25-year-old media buyer” — and often not paid that great. But there are freebies galore on offer from publishers and ad sellers eager to get their budgets. Trips to games are the norm. “Lunch and learn” sessions, replete with a nice spread and an xBox or two, have gone of for years. Ad Age’s Bob Garfield gets up in arms about a fairly crass email from a Dentsu staffer baldly shaking down publishers for U.S. Open tickets. It’s hard to get that excited about this kind of stuff. It’s small bore and in the end hardly one of the bigger problems facing the ad world. Practices have been notably cleaned up from the days when media agencies recieved payments directly from ad sellers based on how much client money they spent. These rebates are forbidden in the U.S. now, although they’re still par for the course in some foreign markets. I asked one veteran buyer, in the market for more than a decade, for his reaction to the “sleaze” Garfield wrote about. “Blow me over with a feather on this one,” he said. There’s far worse mini-graft out there. Customized sneakers and jeans, even entire shopping trips under the guise of “tangible meetings” are all happening. Will any of this change? I wouldn’t hold your breath.
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