What is your team’s #1 responsibility?
Things are changing dramatically for brands today. The #1 responsibility my innovation team is entrusted with by IPG clients is to identify emerging media buying practices that will drive value for them over time as data and technology transform the world. It’s a big job with major implications because everyone is slinging “new innovation” at brands, and clients depend on our knowledge, expertise and guidance to drive their media investment decisions.
Where did your career begin?
My career began in the CRM space doing Siebel implementations before moving into the media world at AOL where I worked in operations ad sales. I later accepted a role developing the sales organization and overseeing business development partnerships for Interactive One, a publicly traded cross-platform media company that is the fifth largest terrestrial radio company in the country and the controlling owner of TV One, one of the fastest growing networks in cable television.
What excites you about your role?
We get to see everything as it unfolds. From digital to TV, we have clear vision. We are able to assess what is driving value and observe how data and technology are changing the ecosystem. As we do, we are able to identify what new innovations and emerging practices are driving the most significant value for clients.
What media trends do you see?
Major transition and change have characterized the last decade of advertising–and it continues. Clearly, the best approach to engage consumers today challenges the traditional method of media buying. Measurement and accountability were also built for those traditional processes. At large, it’s transitioning to new strategies of thinking, which is very difficult for most. In short, change is hard. Embracing innovation is an obvious need. But, doing so is much harder. Fortunately, data and technology clearly increase accuracy, efficiency and effectiveness. That’s the most exciting thing we see. It’s exciting when clients begin to further embrace the power of data and technology to enhance their business practices.
How has your role changed over the past 7 years?
A lot! For the first year or so, we were focused on understanding how exchanges/demand side platforms (DSPs) operated and how data could be applied to further inform media planning tools. We were developing data and tech partnerships and quickly moved to establishing direct-to-publisher private marketplaces. Today, we are in the early stages of developing a more transparent and trusted marketplace for advertisers and consumers.
As the market matures and brands begin to truly understand the critical things they need to know to drive predictable and effective media, the complexity of media buying will be reduced and become more agile. Our job is to accelerate this ‘future of media’ opportunity for our clients, so they have both a trusted adviser and innovation partner in activating the best that can be achieved.
What do you think is most important in accelerating the ‘future of media’ opportunity?
Brands deserve to see the majority of their investment go to working media versus technology, irrational middle players or layers. They also deserve a guide that simplifies the complexities for them. That’s a transformational shift for an agency. For many years, agencies helped clients spend less to do more. That is important. However, technology and data now make it possible to make more meaningful media investments and get closer to consumers than was ever possible in the past. This changes the efficiency and “pricing tunnel vision” that exists in our industry today. We can now see true consumer engagement opportunities and their value. In the past, if you spent $80MM USD in advertising, you’d ask your agency for a 20 percent discount on the CPMs that you historically paid to drive efficiencies. Now, those same outcomes are possible for less than $80MM USD, and you can repurpose the remainder of that budget to drive better results and effectiveness of the overall spend versus pure CPM efficiencies.
Does embracing the future of media and the new opportunities require a new kind of buyer?
It does. “Better rate” purists are not sufficient any longer. Buyers must be thinking about the right way to reach consumers. If the conversation does not initiate with consumer journey motives in mind, it fails to get the most effective reach at the right price. The new media dialog must be data-driven and rationale to drive needed business outcomes. This may mean there is a need to increase the CPM for a buy, but it needs to be justified by the supporting data.
How do you define programmatic?
Programmatic is a means or key starting point in helping clients identify signals from audiences that can inform cross-media strategies and plans.
How is your team structured?
We operate both partner and marketplace innovation arms. Partner innovation supports data and tech partners like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Snap and Spotify. Our conversations with them are very different from traditional media investment conversations. It’s not just about rates and spots. It’s about the platforms that are utilized and the exchanges they are bought through and how we connect data assets to create unique offerings. Our primary focus is about how to innovate with our partners to evolve data and technology innovations together. The second arm, marketplace innovation, is where we look at buying trends and the evolving use of data and technology. We look at what is emerging in the space and how that might lead to new ways of buying. Programmatic was the lion’s share of that for some time and where we were heavily focused. We then evolved that into conversations about private marketplaces and programmatic guaranteed-type buys. We now act as a trusted resource on everything from supply path optimization, to points of view on emerging tech, like blockchain.
What, if any, synergies do you see between the advertising and financial marketplaces?
There are several. Programmatic exchanges were themselves an early fintech model play-off of inventory trading, but not a true two-sided marketplace. The industry also has an obvious need for the type of analytical thinking that dominates fintech, and we can adopt more of the tactics that are common in finance and further apply them to advertising. At the very least, progress in that direction speeds and enhances media opportunities. It is this type of thinking that led to major industry moves, including the acquisition of Acxiom.
Data at the core is how this all comes together because it gives you that full-picture view of how to best engage consumers. Fintech’s Holy Grail is that it evolved into a true marketplace informed by smart data that allows for efficient buying, selling and trading practices. We are having early conversations about transparency and futures but right now, we are still looking at the building blocks. That is where emerging tech like blockchain comes in and is being examined.
Finally, there are complexities in the media world that don’t exist in the financial industry. Leaders in the space, like Nasdaq and NYIAX along with others, are helping inform that thinking with us. For example, blockchain, as it supports financial ledger goals, is promising. We just need to reconcile mapping, practices and standards so that it can be applied and adopted for industry-wide approaches.
Regarding Blockchain, what’s your position and what are clients asking?
Blockchain is an emerging technology that promises fundamental solutions to industry challenges like fraud, complexity and inefficiency. Clients are asking about it all the time because of the buzz factor and volume. Our job is to explain blockchain and every other innovation based on what our clients need to know and its potential to drive their opportunities and solve problems. Accordingly, our position is to approach it in terms of everything we look at:
Can it help re-establish trust in the digital ecosystem?
Can its application create opportunities, like more transparent ledgers or regulatory compliance audits and management, to make laborious back office processes clearer and more efficient?
Can it support better consumer and data driven insights?
We do not think of blockchain as bitcoin. We aren’t thinking of its first application in terms of how clients would be transacting with non-traditional currencies.
My wish is to see blockchain applied to some very onerous things that need fixing like compliance of terms and conditions (Ts & Cs), management of 3rd party reporting, fee transparency…which are typically labor intensive in a world where variable terms rule. Smart contracts offer a nice operational efficiency in this arena.
As the future of media evolves, what’s different in a year? How about 5 years from now?
One year from now, there isn’t a drastic change. There’s continued consolidation. There are fewer partners and those that remain drive results and compliance. Some are showing off supply path optimization and smart-contract based workflows that are more streamlined than what we know of today.
Three to five years from now, strategic data will be perpetually informing clients and showing them how to capitalize on media assets in a very different and higher-valued way. We are used to data informing transactions but the media environment will become much more predictive and forecastable. Our hope is that our clients will better understand market conditions and identify opportunities at the right time to lean in, to drive bigger opportunities and wins. We’ll have moved from efficiency to effectiveness. That’s what’s needed to drive the most meaningful outcomes for clients. And, it’s on our horizon.