Misunderstanding in a Media Buying Team

31 October 2022
Reading: 7 min

Miscommunication is some sort of interruption during the complex flow of communication. Sometimes, it can be caused by micro-reasons like language and psychology. Alternatively, macro-reasons that are related to organizational principles and misalignment of aspirations come into light. Continue reading to learn more about the potential threats on your journey to profit, that are not always under your control. We will also explore how to mitigate these threats and increase your chances of communication success and, in the end, conversions.

We need more gold!

When it comes to an affiliate marketing team, there are 4 most common roles:

  • Account farmer
  • Designer
  • IT-Specialist (web designer)
  • Media Buyer

Misunderstanding in a Media Buying Team

All these people interact with each other, as well as the team representatives interact with the actors outside the organization. These roles offer different level of remuneration: vacancies with more thought-provoking jobs and serious responsibility offer greater reward, compared to more monotonous ones.

Maria Dorvey, the CEO of GTX team and GTX account shop, advises (translation):

Either let account farmers work from home or move them to another office. Farmers next to the media buyers can start throwing their weight around: ‘Why do I get 30k, and buyer 300k, I want a bigger piece of the action’. Overall productivity and accounts quality can drop, while turnover grows.

In fact, it is best to keep the information about personal income in secret. Income nondisclosure can be enforced via business contract, signed before enrolling any new member of the team. There is a good reason why 7 cardinal sins exist, and envy is among one of them.

Misunderstanding in a Media Buying Team

Corruption & moral hazard

Besides the powder keg of income differences, communication can be in danger, because of unmatching goals team members pursue. Scientifically speaking, the difference in aspirations within a hierarchy is called the Principal-Agent Problem.

Misunderstanding in a Media Buying Team

Just take a look at this example:

Affiliate Agency Media Buyer Competitor
Corporate Secret Corporate Secret Corporate Secret
Money Money Money
Secret Channel Secret Channel Secret Channel


Media Buyer works for the Affiliate Agency – it is his source of income. Both of them share the secret strategies on how to drive traffic. Another agency, the competitor, wants to know this strategy and is ready to pay a bribe. Our Affiliate Agency might not be interested in receiving the bribe, because it is not worth the long-term profit that the strategy can bring, if it is kept in secrecy.

However, the Media Buyer can take the bribe and double his sources of income. The major part of the long-term profit does not belong to him, his fraud might never be revealed, and he is always free to leave the sinking ship – an immense incentive to act opportunistically.

Another example is when the media buyer interacts with the advertiser. The latter needs high-quality traffic, while the former needs profit. Because media buyer is in charge of driving the traffic, why not to cut the corners and drive bots or fraudulent and incentivized traffic discreetly (provided that the advertiser’s security is low and the affiliate has enough tech skills to be truly discreet)?

Both cases are about moral hazard, that every manager or agent encounters. The media buyer is a manager, that acts on behalf of the affiliate agency or the advertiser. How to guarantee the manager’s loyalty, or at least minimize the risk of betrayal? To solve this question, we need to understand the causes:

  • Lack of stimulation
  • Lack of prevention
  • Lack of punishment

The poor media buyer we are scrutinizing is not the only weak link in the chain of command. Nonetheless, the middle managers are under bigger danger, because they have access to sensitive information and can be remunerated less generously than top-colleagues. Therefore, we keep on using this vacancy as a perfect example.

Stimulation is not only about monetary rewards, but also about status, exclusive gifts, connections, appraisals, security etc. Some people do not like large paychecks only and may secretly wish to be introduced to the public as the heroes of company. A one-of-a-kind watch may worth much more than a large paycheck, because its uniqueness makes it more valuable and shows the sign of appreciation.

Prevention is partially achieved with proper stimulation and punishment. But there are other methods, like CCTV at office, viral radio, secret shopper (briber), payout model based on percentage of sales. Basically, whenever you see a huge paycheck of the media buyer, music star, or football player, know that a large chunk of this dough is paid to discourage the important figure from reneging on the company. Bluntly put, farmers are many and replaceable, media buyers are relatively few and valuable.

Punishment is the sanctions of any kind. Sure, firing is an option, but the corrupted character can find another victim to prey upon. However, if negative word of mouth reaches many major affiliate agencies, your former media buyer might become just a former media buyer. Do not underestimate the power of infamy, especially in our digital age: written on the internet once is to remain there for good.

Clarity vs. caution

Misunderstanding in a Media Buying Team

The world is global. We all have grown in different parts of the world. We share different career paths. We speak different languages. Consequently, if something is obvious to you, it might not be crystal clear to the surrounding people, because of unique cultural background.

No matter who you are in the world of affiliate marketing, if you want things to get done, you have to learn to express your ideas clearly and in full, even it means treating your listeners like brain-dead. Leaving the message at listener’s mercy to figure out is the shortest way to miscommunication.

In case you lead the team, do not be lazy and deliver all the details of your campaign plan: landing page layout, color & design, specifications of accounts etc. No, people cannot read your mind, make sure you are heard, even if it seems like caring too much.

On the other hand, if you are a working horse of the team, e.g., designer, get as much information as possible. You will not use all the data, but it will help you to choose the most important information and shape the context you have to work in. Visual success is just a tip of the iceberg, that is grounded on faulty ideas, unsuccessful attempts, cut out creatives etc. Knowledge is a resource, and the more resources are at your disposal, the more liberal you are.

Always strike balance between descriptiveness and comprehensibility. Human quick-memory resource is laughable. Overloading the brain with information will not help your partners to work more efficiently. Structure the info, give one piece after another, make interim stops to check the understanding, ask and encourage to be asked questions. Better stupid and safe than “smart” and sorry.


Communication is an art, the depth of which can be explored infinitely. We have explored the possible disruptions at micro- and macro-levels to help you get better at making profit. Some things, like salary size, are better left unsaid. Others like principal-agent problem should get more attention, because its applicability is way beyond the world of affiliate marketing and business. The problem is countered with proper remuneration, prevention in advance, and punishment inevitability.

When it comes to communicating in an affiliate team, make sure to deliver and receive the instructions in full, even if it means inquiring obvious things: lead is not only the client, but metal, verb, first card, main hero etc. And in order to understand your partners better, make sure to check out the article on micro-level miscommunication dangers, which include language and psychology.

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