Going Around An Agency?


Dave Paulus struck a nerve. Many of our readers have commented on Dave’s column about going around an advertising agency to make sales calls on the local client. In case you missed it last week, here’s the column again, along with your comments at the end. Keep the conversation going!

(By Dave Paulus) So I’ve been asked a ton of questions in the last few months about my transition from the radio leadership world to the agency side of the business. Some questions are really intriguing, some not so much, and some in the middle. However, there is one question I am asked constantly by my friends on the media side. It’s the one I thought I’d speak a bit about today.

Is there a right time to go around an agency?

The answer, I believe, resides with the AE and the leadership team at the radio station group.

Copout? I hope not, but to really solve this riddle, it takes a trip to the mirror.

As a radio account executive, if you’re thinking about going around an agency, you have to ask yourself some tough questions first.

Here are a few:
Have you been the ultimate marketing partner for the agency? Have you provided accurate and fair information about the marketplace on a consistent basis? Have you communicated all relevant information about your stations and your company, correctly and consistently?

Are you thinking about going around an agency because it’s the right time to consider doing that? (Or is it because you’re not getting the answers you

Have you done enough homework on the account in question so you can truly say you know more than most about the client’s business cycle? If you were buying media or considering your stations from the agency perspective — would you be proud of yourself?

And here’s the key. It has to be 100 percent yes. This ain’t baseball, where three out of 10 is a good performance and 3 1/2 out of 10 gets you to Cooperstown. Every question above has to be a yes! If they aren’t, you shouldn’t move forward.

Here’s what an agency owes you:
Fair and reasonable communication.
Yeah, that’s not fair, right? I mean look at all the questions I asked about the account executive performance, and here with the agency, there’s really just one. They owe you a return phone call, text, or e-mail, or at least an update on where the account stands, within a reasonable time frame. Oh, and by the way — that time frame you think is fair may not be fair to the agency.

Look, one of the things I’ve noticed as I’ve done more and more here is how clients change direction on a dime. On top of that, how the agency has to be even faster to anticipate those turns before they happen. It’s not up to the agency to help you make your budget. Or your digital goal. Or sell the packages your boss is on your ass about.

It’s the agency’s responsibility to do fantastic marketing work for the client.

So, thinking about going around an agency? It’s a big decision, and just like in Thelma and Louise, there ain’t no turning back.

So ask yourself those questions and look in the mirror. If you can honestly say yes to all those questions, if you’re truly proud of your effort and performance, and if the agency hasn’t provided you fair and reasonable communication — it might be time.

Dave Paulus is Director of Client Services, O’Brien et al Advertising.


  1. I can speak from experience that the Agency Dave is at knows their Customers as well as their Local Resources. On a Production end, I know that the “keeping up relations“ is priority – and any Agency worth their weight (O’Brien) will get their percentage for placing the ads & crunching the numbers – all while – taking care of their Clients as well as the Station(s) playing (or even Producing) the commercials.

  2. Seems like Salesguy has had some bad agency experiences. Who hasn’t. But this is not a black and white situation. Every publisher/agency/account relationship is unique. There should absolutely be publisher to client (account) contact, and smart/confident agencies will welcome this as long as they are kept in the loop. But, the client hired the agency for a reason and that relationship should be respected. When you spend years showing an account that you are a great partner, if/when something should happen on the agency-side you can have that conversation with the client. They will know you are coming from the right place and that you care about their business.

  3. hey Dave Thanks so much for the great read this morning. I have an issue with a local agency that has done nothing more than scoop up business that we had direct. We are required to do all of the production and required to remind her when her spots expire. In most cases we do all the work. I would love to know how to handle this one!

  4. TO: Salesguy: someone is penning silly notes under your name. Thought you’d want to know!

    By the way, I’ve worked with Dave Paulus. Not only was his radio career highly successful earning him a lot of respect, he’ll accomplish the same on the other side.

    Tim Moore

    • It was good that Dave could round you guys up on such short notice.

      The point is that the advertiser is the station’s customer. If an agency becomes involved, the advertiser is still the customer. If the agency continues to work in the advertiser’s best interest, all will be well. If not, the station has the right to alert it’s customer of these developments. The customer will want to know.

      After decades of working (very successfully) with advertisers and their agencies who come and go, these are the experiences I’m happy to share with you all.

      Why Dave left radio for agency work is known only to him. He said he hit a lot of dead ends.

      • to salesguy…If the ad agency is writing the check to your station, then the ad agency is your client just as much as the advertiser is. Got it??

        • Hey Roy-

          Welcome to the bandwagon. Bring an original thought next time.

          All monies paid for the client’s advertising originate with the advertiser. Sometimes the advertising bill is paid through an agency account, sometimes not. All agency checks are made possible by advertisers checks to the agency.
          Probably a tab complicated for you.

          • Salesguy- Either you are trolling, or you are just making a fool of yourself here. You totally missed my point, and the points of some others on here too, lol.
            Are you this obstinate and hostile with your clients?
            Calling you the “salesguy” is in fact, the ultimate oxymoron!!!
            You represent very well, the caveman mentality of some people in radio, even today.

  5. DP:
    Your opinion on an age-old question, after having the benefit of managing both sides of the desk, is a fantastic gift to us. Agency communication, or lack of, is typically the result of the relationship that we’ve been able to nurture. As with all human connection, developing an honest and empathetic partnership with our agency friends is the best way to help us both succeed. You demonstrated a high level of this skill while running through the radio ranks and I’m certain O’Brien et al Adv. is benefiting now.
    Wholeheartedly agree with your advice and thank you for sharing from that angle.

    John B

    • Thanks so much, John. Much appreciated and you couldn’t be more correct. Life, in business or personally comes down to the golden rule right? “Do onto others” 🙂

  6. Incorrect (at least in my world) “salesguy”.

    And I never said the station or the rep shouldn’t maintain contact with the account. Great agencies are never afraid of that.

    But hey, good luck with that “middleman” approach. I’m sure that will keep your wallet overflowing.

    The reason for the article was to provide some insight when a rep hits a dead end from a guy that spent 30 plus years hitting those dead ends on the radio side.


    • Dave,

      Sorry your radio career didn’t meet your expectations. We’ve all met agency people who have suffered the same fate.

  7. Oh, really?

    Lemme tell you something Dave, my friend. In fact, lemme tell you a couple of things:

    The advertiser is the client, not you. You are merely a middleman, and middlemen come and go while the advertiser remains the customer of the station. A good radio rep will always maintain direct contact with the advertiser. The agency does what the advertiser tells the agency to do


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here