Dear media sales reps, please kiss off

Spinach’s Jennifer Backhouse has some etiquette advice for over-friendly media sales reps.

Greeting media reps has become a running joke at the Spinach offices. What began as a casual observation of an unexpected sloppy one on the cheek has taken on a life of its own.

Walking to reception to greet reps, I’m overcome by a sudden and extreme awkwardness that would put Jarrod from Bachelor in Paradise to shame. I extend my hand, the rep leans in for a kiss.


Flustered, I put my hand down and go to kiss as the rep goes to shake. On one occasion, this torturous little dance went three rounds. I started having a Macarena flashback.

The question begs to be asked, when did media reps become stage five clingers? And what’s wrong with the traditional business approach of a firm handshake? If it works for Donald Trump…

I don’t remember getting so many pashes in my earlier media assistant years, at least, not in the office. So why has it changed in recent years? I have some theories.

The first being that media is a predominately young industry with the latest Media i survey finding 75% of media sales people are aged under 34. Most of the kissing culprits are young millennials and as a gen X spokesperson, I feel as if it’s my duty to impart some wisdom – and germ reduction advice – on this new generation.

I’d like to say that the reps from certain channels are more likely to go in for the kiss than others – I’d have had my money on radio reps being the biggest smoochers.

But a straw poll of the office tells me this incessant kissing happens across all media. And the reps from channels we spend a greater percentage of the client’s budget on have just the same tendencies as the ones from media less utilised, so it’s not like the kissing is an attempt to get into bed with us… in the business sense, I mean.

Maybe I’m just old fashioned or worse still a prude (God forbid!) but I believe we need to establish some rules of engagement.

There’s no denying relationships between agencies and reps are important. They can last for a long time and develop over the course of many months and years. In the case of long-established relationships, a kiss could be expected and even welcome much like a bottle of French bubbly (hint, hint).

But when meeting someone for the first time or a person you have only a fledgling business relationship with, it’s kind of intrusive to your personal space, unprofessional with a mild whiff of Don Burke about it.

When I started as a media assistant, reps freely walked around the agency. Their presence was a fun, social part of our business. Slowly, this process has been formalised and we only see them when they make appointments, making it harder for some to get inside the agency, which in turn makes it tough for us to put a face to the name.

Kissing might change that but not in a good way. Do you want to become known as Toungie Trevor the TV rep? I didn’t think so.

To all the media reps out there reading this, please, reconsider your approach. Our agency reception is not a kissing booth.

And for agency staffers, here are some strategies to combat the rep kiss. The most effective is the outstretched arm at 20 paces but if you want to have some real fun, walk out holding a cup of tea, the office dog or a pointy-shaped award. That’ll get you through until reps start keeping their lips to themselves.

Jennifer Backhouse is the senior connections and investment planner at Spinach.