Media Types: Gorillas with calculators in search of freebies: The planner/TV buyer

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The Independent Online
MEDIA PLANNER/TV BUYER, n. an undervalued, hardworking agency deal-maker who can transform a client's advertising budget into a multi- million-pound, multi-media extravaganza, writes Grainne Devine.

The media planner, who decides where to place the ads, comes in two types: the uncomplicated planner and the scientific statistical churner.

Listening to the typical media planner's charm offensive to obtain a good deal (sorry, 'constructive negotiation') can also reveal his or her diplomatic assets when dealing with forceful media representatives on last-minute bargain offers. The media rep thrusts back and forth to gain the advantage, using tactics such as: 'You can't possibly afford a double- page spread on this magazine, but as a favour, I'll do you a discount and give you a page at half the price.' Hardly the sale of the century, offering the planner the opportunity to rebound with: 'I'd really like to consider your offer, but we just don't feel it contains the right environment for our client right now.' This translates as: 'Your offer is totally overpriced. You must be raving barmy if you think I'm going to fall for a donkey like that.'

The TV buyer is different: the phrase 'gorillas with calculators' has been used to refer to this specialised media breed. Buyers lash the TV sales houses daily with their incessant expletives, competing viciously with other agencies' buyers to negotiate the best deal for the client. They have been observed crawling in at 10am, nursing a brutal hangover, getting the schedule from the client, shouting down the phone all day and then heading back to the pub. They are serious party-goers; the Media Week broadcast awards is one of the highlights of the social calendar.

A truly experienced media negotiator knows how to steer any representative's conversation towards a potential 'meejah jolly'. For example, the casual mention of 'heard there's a brilliant new chef at Bibendum, I've been told he's pretty ace at Chateaubriand'. A planner/buyer relishes a good lunch - when it's on the rep's expense account, of course. Quaglino's is currently the trendy restaurant, but there are always well-established media haunts such as L'Escargot, where the service charge alone can make a huge dent in a rep's expenses. On the minus side, the planner may have to endure a three-hour sales pitch for the wide-ranging uses of a trade magazine, which can make watching the test card seem interesting.

Favourite pastimes include deftly angling for places on media seminars that are 'highly pertinent for the department's information base'. The dream ticket is the Monte Carlo TV conference every spring, where only the very wily manage to get their claws on a return flight to a top-class hotel, claim back all those bottles of champagne on expenses and, incidentally, attend a two-day seminar on the TV marketplace.

Another popular amusement is launch parties, especially VIP-only invitations to new magazines or radio stations. Not only do planner/buyers bask in self-importance for having been personally selected, but they also get the opportunity to groove with pop starlets.

Freebies still trickle through the post, but serve to remind the planner that the good old perk-happy days of the Eighties have largely gone. At any rate, those unwanted T-shirts and calendars will soon be dived on by manic media secretaries.

Nasty clients love mercilessly dropping their planners in it at 5.30pm by requesting an urgent analysis of the European drainpipe market by 9am next day. By midnight, they will still be blearily poring over reams of computer print-outs, searching for those key percentage figures.

How does a planner/buyer exact blissful revenge on an account handler? Blind them into confusion with a conversation so full of complicated percentages (account handlers can't count past 15) that they will eventually crack under the pressure and agree to anything you propose, just to escape. That's a claim to fame in itself.