Inevitably, scathing criticism of online sales houses by agencies
has sparked intense debate (Media Business, last week).
The complaints focused on the levels of client service offered by the
sales houses, which were deemed ’arrogant and unhelpful’. Nobody would
name names, but you’d be pretty obtuse not to realise that they were
referring to the large operations like DoubleClick, 24/7 and Real
As the smoke clears, it becomes apparent that the service issue is a
problem for the whole industry. John Owen, head of Motive Digital
Services, says: ’It’s easy to throw bricks at the ad sales networks, but
individual media owners are just as bad - even those that run perfectly
efficient offline sales operations. There is a general lack of
understanding of deadlines. We recently launched a product through six
media owners, and only one of them started the campaign on time.’
Ed Ling, media manager at I-level, warns against starting a witch hunt
against the sales houses. He believes the speed of the industry’s growth
means agencies, clients and media owners do not get a chance to discuss
’We don’t spend enough time briefing media owners,’ he admits. ’We need
to sit down together and discuss how to improve service. New media is
not a child any more, it’s a confused teenager. It needs to become an
Mark Nall, sales director at 24/7, says: ’The industry has grown
incredibly quickly and like every teenager, it has a few nasty pimples.
This is one of them.’
24/7 has recruited extra staff to handle traffic and client service.
It is also commissioning a survey among advertisers to determine how
they rate the service.
DoubleClick’s new managing director Eric Stein, seems unperturbed: ’High
client retention indicates they are happy. There is a very high
expectation of how quickly things can be turned around online. But
that’s fine - if people have high expectations, we have to make sure we
meet them .’
Stein says DoubleClick came top in a recent survey of client service
levels in the US. Like 24/7, it now wants to carry out its own survey
among UK clients.
And the clients often bring problems of their own. Those new to the net
sometimes find they require higher levels of service than they accepted
under their original contracts. These more tentative advertisers also
spend less, so sales people are forced to devote a lot of time to them
for little reward.
On the agency side, although specialist outfits like Motive Digital,
I-level and Profero represent the most experienced face of the market,
sales people claim many traditional operators are still struggling to
adapt their skills.
So perhaps sales people are not entirely to blame for poor service. But
if the industry is to gain the respect it deserves, it must shrug off
this adolescent angst and take on adult responsibilities.