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.