Kim Vasey Has "The Best Job In The World" [1/20/03]
Kim Vasey is senior vice president/director of Radio at Mediaedge:cia, an independent operating subsidiary wholly owned by WPP Group, one of the largest media companies in the world. She has worked in the advertising industry for over 23 years, and currently heads the company’s Integrated Radio division and co-ordinates activity across the 10 regional offices for accounts such as AT&T, Campbell’s and Met Life. She works with the buyers, supervisors and account teams to implement schedules and unique promotional programs that enhance the impact of traditional media schedules.
“I truly have the best job in the world,” Vasey says. “I love it because my job is so multi-dimensional and I get to wear many hats. I manage people, work with clients, negotiate schedules, attend meetings, participate in industry committees, and teach others. It all gives me a great deal of enjoyment and satisfaction. If I ever had to give up one aspect of my job it would be very difficult for me to decide which portion to give up because I love it all!”
Vasey says that overseeing both spot radio and network radio enables her to provide a broad overview of the entire industry to the company’s clients. “Before the ‘crash’ of the radio Internet space, I also closely followed that new emerging medium as well,” she says. “Actually, I still follow it and still believe that it will emerge again and be a viable space for advertisers to reach consumers. I find all of the new technologies fascinating and try to stay on top of them so that we can bring new opportunities to our clients.”
Throughout her many years in the industry Vasey has bought most of the major and mid-sized markets across the U.S. Prior to joining Mediaedge:cia she was vice president/director of Spot and Network Radio at Horizon Media, where she worked on NBC Television Network, A&E, The History Channel, Midas, Joseph Bank, GEICO, Callard and Bowser, Pergament and Brooklyn Union Gas.
INK: From your vantage point, how does radio stack up against other media when it comes to getting a client’s message out to potential customers?
KV: Every medium has its strengths, but radio is one of the most creative media for a client to utilize. It’s an extremely effective medium for getting a client’s message out to consumers. With radio we have the ability to reach just about any demographic group. It’s a truly fascinating medium, because you can be much more creative with it. Most times radio is used in conjunction with another media but there are many clients that have had a great deal of success using it exclusively.
Specifically, how does it rate against newspaper, television, and cable?
I remember one particular campaign that we worked on for the launch of a new electronics product. The marketing manager did not want to use radio but they did not have a very large budget and, of course, radio was the most efficient medium—and, in the end, the money went to radio.
We selected a radio personality in each market and provided them with a sample of the new product to “live with” and experience. The personalities talked to their listeners about the unique benefits of the product and appeared at local retail locations to demonstrate. Each station ran an on air promotion which drove the consumer to the stations website for an opportunity to register to win the product and hot link to the client’s website for more information. With the combined effort of the media schedule and the promotional support we saturated the airwaves with the message about that new product.
The brand manager, staff, and retail partners were hearing the spots all over the markets and were totally “blown away”—their words—by the campaign. They did a complete “about face” on their position that radio could not be an effective “branding” vehicle for a new product launch. That was very gratifying, particularly since radio was the primary medium used! These are the things that make the job so rewarding.
What is radio’s single greatest strength as an advertising medium? What is the best way for communicating this strength to prospective clients?
One of radio’s strengths is its diversity of personalities, formats, and unique ability to mold itself into something new every day. Remember, unlike television, there are no reruns on radio! It’s fresh and unique every day. It’s a wonderful medium with a format for just about any demographic. It entertains us, informs us, educates us—it is a very integral part of our daily lives. You can take a product and really bring it life on radio. We’ve done some wonderfully creative campaigns. That is what I try to communicate to our clients.
From your experience with clients, what is perceived as radio’s greatest weakness?
The lack of visual elements. Many clients feel that their product needs to be “seen.” I don’t agree with that—in fact, there is nothing more powerful than theater of the mind. Other clients believe that radio is not an effective medium for branding a new product. Worst of all, sometimes the “creatives” just don’t want to do radio; many times the “creatives” drive the media plan which, of course, drives me crazy.
How can radio overcome these perceived weaknesses?
It is a challenge to overcome some of the “perceived” limitations and by sharing some of our historical successes with new clients we are able to help them come to a better understanding of the benefits of radio. Many times, we don’t win the battle right away. But once we’ve laid the foundation we can begin to build on that and sometimes it takes months or years. This is one reason why I don’t object to account executives going out to see our account teams, planners and clients. More face time with them serves to reinforce the power of radio and that’s a good thing!
What do you consider to be the primary role of a radio account executive?
An account executive needs to service the agencies as fast, efficiently and creatively as possible. Their Number One goal should be to develop strong relations with their buyers and understand the objectives of each campaign. Relationships are the foundation of the business and understanding the objectives of the campaign will help guide them in their submissions and give the buyers what they need. They should find out how each individual buyer prefers to work. Does the buyer like to be left alone until the last minute? Does he or she like a check-in call every day or two? Do they like to have back up information to support the AE’s recommendations, and are they open to packaging areas and promotional opportunities? Everyone has their own way of doing things and the A/E should be “in tune” to each buyers style.
Also, just as the agency buyers need to know all of the ins and outs of buying so do the A/E’s. They should know what the heck they’re selling! That’s essential! If possible they should also try to meet the planners, account teams and even the clients. I know many agencies don’t permit that but I’ve never objected to it – I actually encourage it.
What’s the best approach for an AE to take when meeting with a prospective client for the first time? What should he or she try to come away from that meeting with?
An AE should try to come away from the meeting with a complete understanding of the client’s business and who their target audience is. They need to understand the client’s product and what the client’s objectives might be. To do this they need to listen and be very attentive to what the prospective client is saying, and do not just try to “sell in” their station blindly. Find out what goals do they have and then customize a program that suites the clients needs. Above all, they should be realistic. If the client says they have of budget of $5,000.00 don’t bring them a package for $50,000. This drives me crazy when I see this. It is a sure-fire indication that the AE was not listening! Give them what they ask for first. It’s okay to bring another option to table, but at least show them that you’re responsive to their needs.
What sort of training do you think is the most critical to provide for an account executive, both rookie and veteran?
Training should be a very high priority, but many times it’s not. The local AE should be given as much training as the AE from the national rep services. A local retailer doesn’t give a hoot about understanding what a gross rating point is, but the AE should have a good understanding of it if the package they are presenting to a client is to be effective.
There are many training resources that the sales managers can avail themselves of from the RAB, Arbitron, Katz Radio, Interep Radio. Sales managers should not overlook people at the agencies that are in their home markets. Ask heads of media departments to give a training class to their junior sales staff. I’ve done that many times and I enjoy doing it. Sales managers should find out if any of the major agencies have an internal media school that their junior sales people could participate in. We have a very comprehensive media school at our agency and I’ve invited new AE’s to sit in on some of the classes.
Both new and veteran AE, sale managers should constantly be on a path of growth. Read books, read Radio Ink, go to seminars, join media organizations. I’m a seminar junky—I love being informed and staying current. It’s important for the station managers and AE’s to do the same.
What one quality must a good account executive possess in today’s competitive media-sales environment?
Be responsive! There are two AEs who call on our agency whom I consider superstars. One, from national spot radio, Katz Radio, Peter Eilenberg and the other network radio, from ABC Radio Network, Nick Leonardo. They’re both dynamic AEs because they are completely responsive to our needs. They carry beepers, cells phones, change their voice mail messages to reflect their schedule so that we might have a realistic understanding of when he might be able to return your call if you decide not to use the alternative beep or cell phone number. They are sympathetic to the volume of work that each buyer is faced with and get you exactly what you need the first time around. They don’t waste and they get the job done! My job is a lot easier with AEs like this—and I like that!
Likewise, what one quality must a good sales manager or director of sales have in order to function—also known as multi-tasking—in today’s high-pitched sales climate?
I’d imagine that a GSM or DOS today is faced with enormous pressures. I don’t envy anyone that job! Oh, there are so many qualities that are needed: patience, perseverance, dedication, intelligence and probably a good sense of humor. They have to be all things to all people and that is a REAL challenge.
If you were a local sales manager today, what qualities would you try to instill in your salespeople in order to best deal with clients and prospects?
Plain and simple - honesty and integrity.
For years there seems to be a case of mixed agendas when radio people deal with media buyers, such as “playing games” with each other. How can both sides come to a better understanding of each others’ needs?
I’m sure that there are a lot of people whodo play games, but I prefer to call it “negotiating tactics.” Dave Gifford, who writes a column in Radio Ink, wrote an article last July titled “Games Media Buyers Play.” When I read the article I found myself shaking my head in agreement with most of the list of what he called “demands” that we do ask for. While I wouldn’t call them “demands and insist-ons” as he put it, I would say he was right on target with the challenges that AEs face every day. It’s all part of the process. The AE’s role is to get the highest rate with the least amount of concessions, while ours is to get the lowest rates with the most amount of concessions -such as sponsorships, remotes and added value. The AE needs to get the order and the buyer “needs” to bring the buy in on budget and, bottom-line, we both need to make sure that we deliver results for the our client! Yes, the buyers may ask for narrow hours or no charge spots, but that is only to help the efficiencies that may help the AE get the order they need.
How does “accountability” compare with “guaranteed results"?
It’s unrealistic to expect “guaranteed results” but we do expect the stations to be accountable for delivering what they say their submissions will deliver. I don’t want to go down the “posting” path but it is not unreasonable for us to expect to get what we’re paying for. For example: If a stations packages in ROS spots and wants to give those spots a 1.0 rating, then they should be fully prepared to provide the necessary rotation of spots to deliver that rating.
What can be done to effect greater communication between stations and agencies in matters of clearances, cancellations, and other unanticipated schedule changes?
Hopefully, through the efforts that have begun by the AAAA/RAB Joint Task Force, which was formed last year, agencies and media entities will develop standards that will improve the buy/sell processes. The Joint Task Force includes representatives from the 4A’s local committee, the RAB, Group Owners and Radio Sales Rep Firms. The mission is “To formalize joint guidelines and processes for buying spot radio which will enable both buyers and sellers to work from similar accountability principles: and demonstrate better value attributes and provide advertisers with the blueprints to properly measure and entrust their expenditures in radio.”
How effective would an electronic clearance affidavit be? How far away is radio from adopting a standard in this area?
EDI is a process that will be beneficial for both parties. Potentially, it should eliminate the number of input errors in re-keying the times, reduce manpower hours, cut down the # of billing discrepancies and result in faster payment to the stations. There already are systems available for electronic clearances. We are set up for it and I know many of the major agencies are, as well. We just need to get more stations on board with this process.
Can you tell us what the Radio Advertising Effectiveness Lab is, and what it is trying to provide for the radio industry?
RAEL—the Radio Ad Effectiveness Lab—is an independent organization established in 2001. It is funded by Radio industry companies with advertisers, agencies and radio broadcasters to further the understanding of how radio works, to measure radio’s effectiveness and to increase advertiser and agency confidence in radio. I’m very proud to be a committee member of RAEL. Our current project is the RAEL Testing Partnership Program. Through this program RAEL will help fund and publish new research that assesses radio’s effectiveness based on actual measures of sales. (Editor’s note: to learn more about RAEL, visit www.RadioAdLab.org.
For many years it’s been said that buying radio is “too difficult.” Is this still the perception among media buyers and at agencies?
Many, years ago an agency placed an ad on the side of the SRDS (Standard Rate And Data Services) volume which said, “Radio is a very difficult thing to buy—if you know what you’re doing.” The first time I saw that ad I thought “Wow, that is so true!”
There is so much more to putting a radio buy together than just pulling a ranker and saying “I’ll buy the top X number of stations.” A buyer really needs to understand what is behind the rating point: audience composition, qualitative profile, program content, rate structure, promotional capabilities, audience duplication with other stations, time spent listening, turnover. He or she also has to develop and hone negotiating skills over the years. All of these elements come into play for each campaign because every buy is different and every client is different. Of course, once you’ve learned how to properly evaluate all of these components and develop strong skills then the process is not really difficult at all. The fun part is having the opportunity to create a buy that is unique for each client’s goals and objectives.
It’s been said that radio is usually the first medium out of an economic downturn. While the recovery from the last recession has been slow, is radio still on the leading edge of this recovery?
According to figures published by CMR it does appear that way. I think we are all very optimistic for the coming year.
How is national radio pacing in the first quarter? Is it too early to take a stab at predicting where national radio revenues will be at the end of 2003?
Intelligence that I’ve been gathering in the market shows that the first quarter is pacing up in the low double digits. Whether that will hold true all the way to first quarter remains to be seen. So far, it’s been pretty robust. It’s still too early to make a prediction for the full year, but I’ll l take a stab at it and predict an average of 4-5 percent growth.
By Reed Bunzel, Editor-in-Chief
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