Since I’ve been on the sales end of the media world, I’ve been schooled in the concept of partnership.  “We don’t just want to run ads for you; we want to be your partner.”  Even now, owning a marketing agency, every single media company I deal with discusses the “partnership” they want to have with my client (and me if they are feeling benevolent).

Even though I said the same thing many times when I was on the media side, if we truly want to be of service, all of us need to stop saying “we are your partner”, or “we want to partner with you.”

No matter what dictionary definition you review, partnership implies relatively equal responsibilities and risks.  In most cases, these are financial.  Both partners share in profits and losses, usually equally, or to some prearranged percentage.  Even a marriage or significant other relationship implies a level of equality.  If you don’t believe me, try ending that kind of partnership!

Sellers do not have partnerships with buyers 99 percent of the time.  It is almost the exact opposite of a partnership.  The worst risk a seller has in a relationship with the buyer is losing the buyer…and perhaps other potential buyers.  They still keep the purchase price of what they sell.  However, the worst case for a buyer is losing the capital they paid for the purchase…or even worse, the lack of success they were hoping for when they made the purchase.  Direct cash out of pocket.

Here is an example of a true partnership between buyer and seller; buyer and seller agree on price of purchase, plus anticipated profit from purchase.  Each “puts up” half of the purchase price.  At the end of the agreed upon buying period, an accounting is done.  Buyer and seller split profits…or if there is a loss, cover the loss equally.

Do you know many media companies that would go for that?  Even if they were given full control of spend, placement, creative…everything?  No way.  The idea of being held financially accountable for the media working is distasteful.  To be paid on the profits?  Repugnant.  And to share in the losses?  “When you pry my cold dead hands off the invoice!”

Media companies and reps might argue.  They can point out the special treatment they give businesses.  The advice; the value added; the promotions.  The attention of upper management.  Even the creative product.  These are great things. These are the things a vendor provides…perhaps even a vendor “consultant.” But not a partnership.  Again, partnership involves financial risk and reward of both parties.

All this is not to say that media can’t provide for advertisers; it certainly can and does frequently, and sometimes incredibly!  But it is not a partnership; all of the advice, information, value added, care and concern in the world doesn’t pay the bills or cover the loss of anticipated success when it doesn’t work.  And until it does, please, please, stop calling it a partnership.  It is not.

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