Monday, June 9, 2008

Are category specific sales teams the way forward?

So CNET in the US is "restructuring its online sales force around advertiser categories (like TVs or autos), rather than specific CNET brands (like BNET or GameSpot)"

Link -

Could this work in AU?

Google are trying this sort of strategy now. I can say from experience it's probably not working as well as it could be, but it's early days.

Yahoo! tried a similar approach with Key Account Manager in specific categories (Auto, Finance, Entertainment) back in 2005. Did it work? Well ... not really ... but I think there were factors beyond their control that hampered the effort.

It's an interesting debate. What's the most valuable for an agency or client - a generalist working across ALL categories ... or a specialist that has expertise in a chosen area? This goes for sales as well as sales strategy.

I would argue a specialist ... however does this exist within the digital sales teams in AU right now? Probably not ...

Why do I think this is better? Well ... agencies and clients are always looking for value (value BEYOND rates) in terms of insights, information, ideas and strategy. An industry expert can do this - and can essentially move the publisher close to the world of the 'trusted advisor'.

Think of it this way - no one knows the publishers users and site better than the publisher ... the problem is generally a lot of the ideas thrown forward don't really show much insight into either.

Personally, I would say right now is the time for the larger publishers to maybe look at this approach again. There are more players in the market, more sites, lower rates and higher expectations ... competing on eyeball mass isn't much of a strategy, and no matter how low you take your willingness to negotiate on ratecard there is generally always someone else who will better it. Add to this huge duplication of eyeballs across the web and the real and sustainable competitive advantage for the large guys may come from their ability to resource up in key categories and provide value outside of straight CPM transactions.

I am not saying this is 100% the answer ... there are loads of factors at play that would impact on an organisations ability to integrate this sort of structure ... but I think it's something worth looking at closer.

For instance, the digital industry keeps on asking itself when the FMCG dollars will flow online ... but is doing virtually nothing to make a case to FMCG marketers to allocate budget online aside showing audience numbers. More work is needed to show the VALUE of digital to these guys and potential activations.

Question to publisher side people - when was the last time your employer gave the market any real insights into their audience beyond the Morgan and Nielsen data we all have access to? Your users are your product - tell us more about them.

I think the term 'value' is key here. What is it? And how do you define it?


Zac Zavos said...

Interesting post.

Maybe I'm not offering enough...but I've never found planners to be overly interested in our data.

Perhaps it's because we have smaller sites; or because we're niche publishers so audience types can be deduced.

Or maybe they're not overly interested and it adds a layer of complexity to the planning process?

What do you say, Ben?

Ben Shepherd said...

i guess it depends on the planner and the brief - i like to have as much data as possible, even if it creates more work.

Taking it a step further you can work with the publisher to tailor creative to that audience. We did this with Ford Territory in 07 with Kidspot and Essential Baby and it worked really well ... they gave us great insight into their audience - really valuable.