Monday, March 26, 2007

42. A New Appointment

Bert Timbol took me out of brand management and gave me the position of Company Media Manager. Prior to my appointment I was called to his office to be told about the planned transfer. I didn’t take it as welcome news. I couldn’t hide my displeasure because I was totally taken by surprise. He was the person who gave me the additional brand assignments which I thought was a sign of confidence in my work. A transfer to marketing services from brand management to my mind was a demotion. Not used to being argued at he got peeved by my having a closed mind about it. Seeing how adamant I was he discontinued the meeting and told me to think about it some more and we could continue our discussion at another time.

The second time we met I told him that I was still unhappy with his decision to have me transferred. He once again extolled the benefits and the advantages of being Company Media Manager and how best suited I was to the job. I was getting impatient and was trying to get in a word edgewise to stop his rambling but he said to let him finish first. Finally, he said the company recognized the importance of the position that he has so eloquently described at the start of his monologue and that he got permission from the Marketing Director to make it a middle management position. What’s a guy to do? The last promotion I had was more than two years ago and the increased compensation will really come in handy when my eldest goes to preschool at the opening of the school season. I said yes to the appointment and for him to forget the obstinacy that I had shown earlier…just blame it on my youth. I will come to love the job and be the best media manager ever.

Media was an expertise that I once had but had neglected. Ever since I entered PRC marketing was my main preoccupation. I spent most of my time boning up on it to keep pace with my better-grounded contemporaries. It had been years since I last gave media a thought. As I was wont to do I scoured around for reading materials. There was very little within the company. Books on media planning and other books on media of a didactic sort were non-existent. What I thought would be peripheral reading proved to be of direct relevance to media work. I didn’t think that reading Macluhan would give my interest in media a boost. Provocative notions like “…the medium is the message” and the notion of “hot” and “cold” media had definite influence on how media should be regarded in media mix setting and in the content of the advertising. The vision of global villages and the caveat on information overload asserted by Toffler sparked new thinking in media and in marketing and advertising and more so in the context of total communication. It was the very early seventies and I thought that I was again blessed by the timeliness of these high-level auguries and observations. These moved me to review our use of media and sought ways for their practical application in company media work.

I had access to real and hard information about media when I attended the Unilever Executive Advertising course in the Unilever training center in Four Acres in Kingston Hill, in the Warren Coombe Estate, UK. Four Acres is the international training center of Unilever. Hundreds of young managers from all over the Unilever world were sent there for training every year to either prepare them for more senior posts or to enhance their skills in their current responsibilities.

It was not in the course itself that I was able to get the media reading materials but on my visit to Lintas, UK, the Unilever owned advertising agency. Just like in the Philippines they did centralized buying of media on the principle that you could insist on preferential rates and treatment in exchange for the big volume of collective media moneys from advertised brands of Unilever. Special media placement rates are the most apparent benefits of volume buying. However preferential treatment plays an equally important role because of the scarcity of available commercial time in most media markets. The clout of big volume should be patently impressed on media houses to ensure that the best placements are offered first to Unilever. In addition to bigness maintaining good relationships with media houses was an essential factor. In the industry there would be other companies who would be as big as we were and could demand similar concessions.

In terms of protocols of central media buying there was little to add to our practice in PRC. However, Lintas was a treasure trove of reading materials for media planning rationales, actual schedule forms, norms applied in assessing media plans, the researches that were in current use to measure audiences, estimation of reach and frequency. There were examples of scheduling patterns and how these relate to a system of continuous researches as cause and effect indicators. With sufficient readings continuous researches may be used in modeling to provide predictive analyses. A few years back, in one of my odd jobs in a small ad agency, the media plans I came up with were reliant on begged, borrowed and peered-over-the-shoulders audience surveys and intuitive judgements. Now with corporate support, my knowledge took a quantum leap, and in addition, an easy access to the required information for media planning and a budget to commission research.

My having been a brand manager helped me in devising a media-planning brief that I would ask the brand managers to prepare for all advertised brands. As a brand manager I knew the extent of information available in the brand files and what of these would be useful in planning the media effort for a brand. This was helpful not only for the individual brands but to the assembling of a corporate media plan which was the necessary document for setting the approach to negotiations with the major networks at the start of each fiscal year. It was particularly helpful in managing corporate media properties, their allocation in terms of priority based on time and importance and the allocation of bonuses earned by the total volume. This made settling disputes between brands on priority conflicts, which there were many of, a lot easier.

One of the things that I asked for upon assuming the position of Company Media Manager was for a budget that would allow me to pay for lunches, dinners and other expenses for meetings with any media representative. As a rule we did not allow ourselves to be treated by media in any form. Stories of lavish daytime repasts and after office cocktails and other nighttime delights were rife. Media was known to be inveterate corruptors and the last thing we needed was for the media department to be stained by any form of venality. Like in the Purchasing department, jokes that hint of position abuse and rumors about being on the take are proverbial in Media. We would not allow others in the company to suggest, serious or in jest, that we have taken advantage of our position as media buyers. I told my staff to be offended and immediately repudiate anyone, who, even as much as just hint of any dishonesty in our department. Jokes of this kind begin to sound factual when told often enough.

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