How much hospitality should media agencies be offered? (And how much should they accept?)

Media owners who don’t provide free hospitality are being quietly told they’re not doing enough for media agencies,  Liam Walsh, boss of performance network Drive PM, has warned today.

Writing on his Talking Digital blog, he says:

“An agency principal whom I like and respect told me recently that we don’t take them on enough trips like cooking classes. That our second biggest competitor wipes the floor with us on the hospitality front.”

Entertainment of media agency staff has long been a tactic used by media owners. Those who argue that the practice is acceptable say that it is no more than building a relationship which can help clients get the best deal, and allow the media owner to better educate the agency staff to its offering in a relaxed setting.

But opponents claim that lavish hospitality can improperly influence media agencies to spend their client’s budgets in a way that is not in the brand’s best interests.

Mumbrella knows of one big B2B publication where most of the commercial team have been in Melbourne all week, entertaining clients at the tennis. The issue was also debated last year after media agency bosses enjoyed Seven’s hospitality at the Beijing Olympics.

Writing on the same blog, Ben Shepherd, associate business director at MindShare Melbourne argues: “If it’s offered and it’s an interesting way to spend a few hours – and it doesn’t get in the way of doing actual work – sometimes it’s something you do.”

And he concedes: “Regardless, it’s not a great reflection of the industry if hospitality is the point of difference for the suppliers/publishers etc.”

But he also has some advice for media owners: “Start taking out more clients – it’s a far more powerful way to influence the people whose decisions matter.”


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