A Day in the Life of a Magazine Ad Sales Rep in NYC
8:00 a.m.: I get in the office after my long bus ride from N.J. - it's a job just getting to the job! I start making calls to clients at NYC agencies, even though they might not get in until 9 or 10. Our publisher (the top dog overseeing the ad sales staff) wants our voice to be the first one our clients hear when they get in to work that day. Any contact (written, phone, face-to-face) with a client keeps you on top the of their mind, and the ad rep with the best relationship with the client is the one who will win the business.
We are supposed to have 15 appointments per week, or three appointments per day: one in the morning, a lunch, and one in the afternoon. In the weeks that I've actually had that many appointments, there was no way I could get all my in-office, follow-up work done, and I'd end up staying very late. You have to stay on top of your follow-up work internally, since the other part of your job (besides client contact) is reporting verbally and on paper what's going on with your accounts. At any time, management can and will ask you, "What's going on with such-and-such account?" If you don't know, it sends a signal to them that you are not on top of your business. You never want to be blindsided; you always want to have an idea of where things stand with all of your clients.
Today, I do have a morning appointment, a lunch, and an afternoon appointment, so my schedule is really packed. I focus my early morning messages on calling people for appointments two weeks out, and try for those that I haven't had contact with in a while, but seem to have potential for us. Face-to-face is still the best way to make an impact.
My clients are in two areas: the companies whose products and services we want to advertise, and the ad agencies hired by those companies, which plan the media for those products and services. With larger companies it is tougher to meet the brand manager and director of marketing; they tend to push ad sales reps off to their agency. But that often becomes a "Catch-22" for the ad sales rep, because the agency media teams often handle multiple accounts, so getting them to call you back and set a meeting can be incredibly difficult. I have had accounts where it literally took me a FULL YEAR to even get a meeting with the agency!
9:30 a.m.: Now everybody is in the office, and the place is hopping. Just had a quick conversation with the advertising director (the person between me and the publisher) about where my ad pages stand. The AD tells me she wants me to try to get a certain client, who is scheduled for an issue further away, to bump up its schedule and run in the next issue. I tell her that it's not likely, since the media planner told me last week that the creative for the ad won't be ready for several months, hence the planned start date. But I tell the AD I will still put in a call, as we also have some editorial that's a perfect fit for the company coming up in the next issue. Anyway, making the call will let the agency client know I'm thinking about them, always a plus.
10:00 a.m.: I’m on the way out to my first appointment. I pack my media kit, some research and recent issues of the magazine where my client has advertised. I also have some promotional gift items for my lunch clients. I'm heading out to meet the media director and media planner at the ad agency. I've heard through the grapevine that the client, a major dry goods distributor, has a new product coming out. If they are doing a media campaign to promote it, I want to make sure that we get our share!
10:25 a.m.: Made it to the agency's office with time to spare. You always want to be a bit early, even if you end up waiting. For this appointment, they keep me waiting for 20 minutes. During that time, I check my messages. If there is something that I can take care of remotely, then that's one less thing to deal with when I get back.
One message is from an agency assistant media planner asking for the production specs at our magazine from an account that I've been trying to "break." This is a very good sign that they are asking for the specs, although it's not confirmation. From my previous communications, the higher ups at the agency had been refusing to confirm whether we have gotten on the plan. To be fair to them, it's because plans change all the time, there are a lot of things out of their control, and they don't want to say anything until they are certain. Budgets get cancelled all the time. I've even had an agency call me to try to pull their client's ad out of an issue when it was literally rolling on the press! We try to work with them when we can, but that time we had to say, "No, it's way too late to pull out."
Regarding this current issue: now that it's getting close to the closing date, it's obvious that the agency has put us on the plan, since the AMP has called about the specs. They need to make sure they send us the ad with the correct dimensions and format. So I give a call back from the agency lobby to the AMP and tell her where to find our specs on our web site, and that's taken care of. I'm always very appreciative to them when they do put us on a plan. They have so many media choices, it seems like a miracle to me every time a page actually comes through.
The other message I have is from another agency, this time the media supervisor (there are multiple levels of people that work on these accounts, and you have to deal with all of them for various things). She wants to put us on the plan, but she doesn't want to pay the rate that we've proposed. I'll need to handle this negotiation when I'm back at the office, which will be late afternoon.
10:55 a.m.: The media planner finally comes out to greet me, and tells me that the media director is in another meeting so only she and I will meet. I am silently annoyed at this, since I originally set up this meeting via phone with the media director, and I had not met her before. But she has obviously bumped me for something else. Anyway, the media planner might give me more detailed info than the MD would anyway.
The MP updates me on the new product that the food company is coming out with. It's jelly in a squeezable container, easier to use for moms and kids. Since my magazine is in the parenting category, and we've already received the company's peanut butter business, this new product is a natural fit. I show the MP the research I've prepared, which gives demographic, product-usage and psychographic info about our readers, as well as those of our competitors. I am painting a picture about how our magazine should be on the media plan. Even if it makes sense intuitively, agencies love numbers. Agencies need this validation, because when they are presenting a plan, they might be asked by the brand manager or marketing director at the company why this magazine deserves the business. So I share this research with the media planner, in the hopes that she will remember it when she actually sits down to create the plan. I can't assume that she will run all this research herself for our specific publication. And she might even have to defend why she put us on the plan to her boss, the media director, the one who didn't show up to today's meeting. I want to make it easy for this media planner, so that she will have a reason to include us.
I consider this a good sales call, since I got some good info from the MP, and she seemed receptive to our research. She says she feels comfortable in putting us on the plan, but I never count my chickens before they hatch.
11:45 a.m.: I'm meeting three people from another agency for lunch at 12:15. Since I have a little time, I call back to the office to my associate publisher to let her know how the meeting went. Then I call my assistant, and ask her to move up the food company's page that I had previously forecasted at 10 percent (meaning that initial contact has been made) to 50 percent (meaning that it's more likely to come in than before). I am always more conservative in my forecasting on paper than I might actually believe. Better for something to come in later in the game, than to communicate that it was definitely coming in and have it fall out.
12:20 p.m.: My guests arrive. They are all from the agency that handles a large pharmaceutical account, but I first met them at other agencies on various other accounts. Word to the wise: never burn a bridge, since people move around a lot in NYC. This lunch is more a relationship-building lunch, but they also share with me the target and objectives of the brand.
Being able to entertain clients at some of the best restaurants in the city is definitely one of the perks of the business. But I never forget that this is a business relationship, and media people do not just give up information. My management is relying on me to discover whether we should be forecasting this business to come in, or whether there is some objection or hesitation to our publication and how we can address it.
2:20 p.m.: Lunch is over, and my next appointment is not until 3 p.m. I can walk to it from the restaurant, so while I'm walking I check my messages again. Turns out that while I was at lunch, my 3 p.m. appointment left me a message to cancel our meeting. I'm disappointed, since it took me two months to get time on this media director's calendar - but in a way, I'm also relieved, since now I'll have more time to catch up back at the office.
3:00 p.m.: I unload my bag and check in with my associate publisher about the media supervisor who wants a lower rate. We come to the conclusion that since that media group has been good about sending business our way, we're willing to bend a little. We also discuss bumping her up to a more forward position in the publication, if she presses me. I give the MS a call back, but she is still not happy with the revised rate. I offer to bump her up to the better position, in addition to the better rate, and she finally agrees. She says she'll fax over the insertion order by the end of the week. Whew!
3:30 p.m.: I am planning a trip to several of my out-of-state clients in three weeks. I have a few of the appointments set up, but I need to get more. I get on the phone, leave a bunch of messages and actually get one person on the phone to set a time. Then I tell my assistant about the travel plans so she can book my flight, hotel and car. I check my e-mails - about 20 have come in while I was away, from both inside the company and outside clients.
4:00 p.m.: I get an e-mail rfp (request for proposal) that is due by 12 noon tomorrow. This is a very short turnaround, and not only do they want the basic demographic, positioning and rate info, but they also want a fantastic "big idea." These types of quick turnarounds are happening more and more often, and it is virtually impossible to come up with a big marketing idea that is creative, unique, and doesn't cost the client anything extra beyond the ad pages. But I have a few programs in mind that could be perfect for this advertiser, I just need to find out if there is still room to fit them in. I walk down to the marketing director to check on the status of things. Turns out there are two programs (one is a Mall Tour, and one is an online newsletter program) that we could do with them for a very low cost. We would chalk it up to the marketing budget, in order to get the business. She gives me the OK to offer this, and I hunker down to start writing up the proposal.
5:30 p.m.: I get a few phone calls from clients, as well as have a conversation with a split partner (meaning they handle the agency in their territory, and I have the client in mind). I get the proposal in good shape to send out tomorrow. I'll wait to send it in the morning, since I need to look at it with fresh eyes.
6:00 p.m.: I go through my e-mails from late afternoon. Since my morning appointment tomorrow is at 10 a.m., I gather the materials that I want to take now, so that I'm not stressing about it in the morning.
6:30 p.m.: I'm done for the day, and off to my one-and-a-half-hour commute home.