Where Have All the Salespeople Gone?

emptydeskFact: the number of people working in the advertising industry is in decline. What makes this noteworthy is that America has been in an economic expansion.

For the past thirty years, advertising jobs have grown in line with the economy, why not now?

I See/Hear Lots of Ads

In my youth during the 60s/70s, it was estimated that the average American was exposed to around 500 ads per day. Those were the days where advertising was delivered by what we now quaintly refer to as “traditional media;” newspapers, magazines, billboards, radio, television and direct mail.

In today’s world of smartphones and internet, digital marketing experts estimate that the average American is exposed to somewhere between 4,000 and 10,000 advertisements per day.

With this explosion in advertising, why are salespeople disappearing?

Google It

Or Facebook it. Or Amazon it.

In reality, the world’s largest advertising companies are these three technology giants and they have realized virtually all of the growth in digitally based advertising.

Programmatic Buying

The advertising business has always been one based on building relationships, be it directly with the business owner or with an advertising agency. Programmatic buying eliminates these relationships by the use of algorithms. This allows for the placement of more advertising, on a variety of platforms, with the need for fewer people.

The downside of programmatic buying is that a company’s ads may be placed in low-quality or even offense editorial material. That’s been very troublesome for advertisers.

The High Tech/High Touch Pendulum

Throughout my broadcast career, I’ve watched the pendulum of change oscillate between a communications industry that is “high touch,” aka people talking to people, to one that is “high tech,” aka machines/automation talking to people. This pendulum oscillates on a fairly regular cycle between the two extremes.

Maybe we’re close to the apex of the pendulum swinging in the direction of high tech, and it will be moving back toward a world that demands people interacting with people again. We’ve been here before.

Digital Truths

In the current generation of digital media, we know that two things are true:

  1. No one is looking for more ads
  2. High Quality Content Rules

So, what’s the answer?

Every form of media needs to look in the mirror at itself and be honest about its advertising content and the quantity of ads it’s running. (Note: Running more low quality ads was never a solution to making your budget number.)

Whether we’re talking about the songs we program, the banter of our personalities, the content of our talk shows or the quality/content of our ads, it’s ALL important in a world where high quality content rules.

Media sales today is more about building partnerships than transactions. It is one where consistency and trust are the foundation upon which today’s sales professional becomes a sustaining resource to the businesses they serve.

Human Relationships

Advertising is influencing and influencing is fueled by relationships.

Whether it’s the relationship between an air personality and the audience, or the sales professional and the client, there’s real value in building human relationships and partnerships.

The airline industry today could save as much as 35 Billion Dollars employing the use of pilotless planes. But according to Fortune “54% of passengers refuse to board a remote-controlled plane.”


I know I’m not alone when I call a company for help and find myself frustrated having to deal with an automated voice system. Very quickly I find myself yelling over and over and over “REPRESENTATIVE.”

Are we approaching the age of algorithm burnout?

We will always opt for a real live human to work with, over a digital one.

That’s why there will always be a job for media sales professionals who are both knowledgeable and emotionally intelligent.


Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

8 responses to “Where Have All the Salespeople Gone?

  1. Keep it REAL and Keep it CONNECTED. Thank you, Prof. DT.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Roger Davis

    I totally understand what you are saying. I too get frustrated with the voice mail answering systems, but my understanding is younger people would rather deal with technology than a person. Hence the kiosks to order in McDonald’s, all the apps stores have for people to order without seeing a personal, mobile banking apps, etc. etc. etc. Maybe it is just those of us of “a certain age” who think that personal relationships triumph over technology.


    • Roger, thank you for stopping by the blog and adding to the thoughts I shared.

      It’s very possible that the desire to deal with a real live person or AI might be tied to age, or maybe it’s because people of a certain age only know what they’ve always had. Whereas, older folks know what’s possible and have experienced the difference.

      Thanks for stimulating my thoughts on the subject.


  3. Right on, Dick! Especially in the small and medium markets, where human relationships seem to matter more than the scaled-for-maximum-profit-at-minimum-cost mega broadcast companies, programmatic ad buying has little appeal, if any. Your point about automated systems putting advertisers into adverse contexts is well-taken. Wonder how many beer or booze ads have appeared adjacent to stories on drunk driving accidents (our local newspaper even did this when the editor was asleep at the switch), or sexual performance enhances near stories about sexual abuse or rape, etc.

    Happily, even some of the larger corporations are opting for the expense of hiring humans at the other end of the phone call (many of them English-speaking, at that), having realized that robots can cause consumers to witch brands at the drop of a hat. Or a phone call.

    Keep up the great work, Dick. Always enjoy reading your insights.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. People create technology. People use technology. People purchase products and services that other people are selling using technology. When people are not using technology they seek refuge in nature. Technology may have super charged and organized our tasks more efficiently but human contact and interaction with other humans makes for a sound mind and. Reaching out to unknown people in comments sections is a poor substitute for real tangible interactions with family, friends, colleagues and those we see out in the open. Technology can only go so far.

    Liked by 1 person

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