Online Media

The New Code.


Code. It’s the Swiss army knife of words. It can be the hidden formula behind computing, the combination to unlock a secure setting, a body of law, the rules by which something is built, or a highly personal set of standards. However you interpret the term code, one thing is pretty clear: the business of digital advertising and marketing needs a new one.

Through our peer-to-peer Seller Forum events, our coaching practice and the dozens of workshops we do each year, we get a pretty broad perspective on the industry. What no one seems to dispute is that we’re in recovery from the excesses of the “scale at all costs” approach of the last few years… which I’ve heard described as our inventory and data version of the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Marketers complain about supply chain pollution and fraud and governments are legislating consumer privacy firewalls. Clearly, we are struggling for a new basis on which to plan and build and operate. But the need goes even deeper than technology specs and business standards.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Bionic for Ad Sales, a free app that helps you reach media planners at exactly the right time and place – in their media planning system when they start a new media plan (with a fresh budget!). To learn more, go to bionic-ads.com/seller.

Business leaders and people managers are looking for a new code as well. They’re looking to unlock engagement, loyalty and determination in employees who’ve come to expect never-ending growth, a regular cycle of paradigm shifts, constant promotion and ultimate wealth. How do we build truly great teams and organizations to last? Our past approaches to career growth, diversity and lifestyle support was never built to code… and it cannot continue to stand. If we’re to define what it means to build a satisfying, meaningful career in our profession over the decades ahead, we better start now.

In 2020, we’ll be devoting our Seller Forum series to The New Code: Embracing Values. Achieving Balance. Mastering Change. In this our 18th year producing Seller Forum, we’re doubling down on the value of people-driven ideas and process; of value-driven cultures and decision making; of a balanced, sustainable approach to business building. As we recruit speakers, plan discussions, design our poll questions and host the events, we’ll lean on our own list of core values: Gratitude, Service, Clarity, Invention, Optimism, Connectedness and Grit.

Today happens to be the day we’re announcing our 2020 theme and schedule, but our commitment to our customers, our values and the contribution Seller Forum continues to make to the industry is 24/7/365. We look forward to continuing this important conversation with you.

Seller Forum will be held on Wednesday March 18th, Wednesday July 15th and Wednesday October 21st at the Reuters Building on Times Square. If you’re a qualified media sales leader, reach out now for your invitation or to discuss your company’s Season Pass planning. Or visit us at www.thesellerforum.com.


Giving.


As noted by the title of this post, today is Giving Tuesday — the nobler offspring of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Among the many worthy options that will reach your inbox today, I hope you’ll consider supporting the work of the TD Foundation.

I’ve been a board member with TD (named for good friend, digital pioneer and purple heart recipient Tom Deierlein) since its work began 13 years ago. Briefly, the foundation is often the safety net for the families of wounded veterans and Gold Star families – those whose husband, wife, father or mother has made the ultimate sacrifice. You would think and hope that our government would have the backs of our service members, but in practice it doesn’t always work that way.

Working as a connector and a source of funds to other veteran assistance groups, the TD Foundation will write the checks that keep a car from being repossessed; that provide needed medical equipment; that prevent a veteran’s family from slipping into homelessness; that allow a child to attend summer camp or pay the fees to compete in a sport. No red tape. Zero overhead. Just immediate help that sustains the often-fragile lives and support systems of our veterans… one check at a time.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Bionic for Ad Sales, a free app that helps you reach media planners at exactly the right time and place – in their media planning system when they start a new media plan (with a fresh budget!). To learn more, go to bionic-ads.com/seller

What can you do? One or more of three things.

Attend the TD Foundation Annual holiday gathering in New York next week. $200 buys you some great networking with scores of the best people in the New York digital ad community. Wednesday December 11th, 6-9 PM at Xandr HQ, 28 West 23rd Street. It is seriously the best night of the year. Buy that ticket now. In fact, buy two and make someone else’s night as well.

Make a direct donation to the TD Foundation. We’re a 501 (c)(3) organization, so tax exempt. Aside from a credit card transaction fee, 100 percent of what you give will go to veteran families in crisis. 100 percent.

Forward this post. Whether you’re seeing this in your inbox, on Linked In, on Facebook or somewhere else, spread the word.

There’s nothing wrong with saying Thank you for your service to a veteran. But wouldn’t it mean more to say How can I help you? This is how.

Thank you for your thoughtful generosity to TD Foundation, and for your comments and social support as well. Happy holidays.


Adaptation.


The world has already changed. The scientists have invented, the consumers have decided, the marketers are voting with their checkbooks. It’s only us – those who sell and buy advertising – who cling to anachronistic systems and practices.

Reading that first paragraph you may think I missed the programmatic decade. I didn’t.

Programmatic automation of commodity media buying was the asteroid that struck our genteel, structured world, forever changing the climate for agencies and publishers alike. But a dozen years after the big programmatic strike, most agencies and publishers still have the automation walled off and operating in its own island ecosystem. Meanwhile, the principal members of the tribe – the expensive sellers, buyers, creatives, account managers and others – have resisted the kind of radical species adaptation that the altered world demands.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Bionic for Ad Sales, which automates ad sales lead generation with software that pitches your ad inventory to hundreds of media planning teams while they are making media buying decisions. To learn more, go to bionic-ads.com/seller.

For one thing, we still – for the most part – rely on the anachronistic rhythms of a rapidly disappearing business. Languid planning cycles, RFPs, campaigns and annual upfronts were relevant in a world of closing dates, air dates, a fixed number of media providers and a predictable pool of available inventory. Today, everything that’s standard, known or predictable is transacted by machines – or soon will be.

Challenged to now manage more strategic and complicated marketing services – content creation, influencers, content marketing, events – many media shops have simply gone back to the much-maligned RFP. And while simultaneously railing against it, many publishers build their entire strategy – a strategy of waiting and responding – around this archaic system. Add to this our collective failure of imagination about how to integrate programmatic and high-touch solutions into harmonious programs. It’s not a pretty picture.

To radically adapt our professions as buyers and sellers would be to abandon the campaign mentality and embrace a perpetual cycle of problem solving and iteration. It would lead us to dismiss the illusion of budget stability and the silos and swim lanes it fosters. It would drive us to create and commit to new processes and structures for operating in what’s now a mostly-unstructured world. Our professional lives will be spent proactively, left of budget and in service to marketers, the products they sell, and the customers they serve.

Adaptation is hard. But extinction is permanent.

We are currently booking a limited number of team workshops for late Q4 and Q1 2020. To discuss what you might want for your team, reach out to us today. The consult is free.

 


What We Believe.


Today’s Seller Forum in New York coincides with the 25th anniversary of web advertising.  During the event, I’ll be interviewing Blackbird CEO Ross Martin who consults with major brands and media companies on developing belief systems — taking clear positions on issues facing their industries, society and the world.  It inspired me to offer up my own. Here’s what we at Upstream Group believe.

  • We believe that transparency, accuracy and fairness are not deal points.  They are the beginning of our conversation with the consumer and the marketer.
  • We believe that it’s the marketer’s money that fuels our entire ecosystem.  When in doubt or dispute, we should always default to that which creates real value and progress for the marketer.  We have a fiduciary responsibility to do what’s right for the marketer.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Bionic for Ad Sales, which automates ad sales lead generation with software that pitches your ad inventory to hundreds of media planning teams while they are making media buying decisions. To learn more, go to https://www.bionic-ads.com/seller/

  • We believe that the consumer is a valued human being, with rights.  Reducing him or her to a target, an impression or a data profile begins a process of moral abdication.  Caring for and valuing the consumer as we ply our trade is good business;  without their long-term participation, we have no future.
  • We believe that more is not always better. The relentless pursuit of scale has led us into a world of fraud, non-viewable or repetitive ads, and a devolution of value for both the marketer and the consumer.  We must do better.
  • We believe that those who think sales teams are only motivated by money will reap what they sow.  By failing to imagine and build sales cultures around values and longevity we sentence ourselves to a permanent talent crisis.
  • We believe that as an industry we must look like the world we serve.  Recruiting, developing and hiring people of color is our shared responsibility.  And while women are beginning to occupy leadership positions in our business, there is far more work to do in terms of equal pay and true parity.
  • We believe that there is no way our industry can be a benign presence in the world.  With regard to social justice, economic and environmental issues, if we are not doing good then we are doing ill.  We must own the responsibility for what we create.
  • We believe the best is yet to come.  We haven’t seen anything yet.

Happy birthday to our business.  May we continue to believe, and to live up to our beliefs.


The First Thing You Say.


Two weeks ago in this space I wrote about the general malaise and episodic funk that many in our industry seem to be suffering under.  (The New Normal, February 7, 2019.)  As a manager, I believe one of your greatest callings is re-framing situations and market conditions for your sellers and returning them to a centered, productive mindset.  In confusing times, that’s not easy.  OK, it’s never easy.

In both private manager coaching and management workshops, I tend to elevate one truly vital piece of advice.  Without it, all of your logic, strategy and motivation will end up going nowhere.  It goes like this:

Pay close attention to the very first thing you say.

STAQ is proudly underwriting this week’s Drift. STAQ’s Industry Benchmarks provide insights into programmatic performance compared to the broader marketplace. This week’s insight: Despite PMP CPMs being up 31% YOY, the steep decline in PMP impressions (-40%) makes overall PMP revenue (-21%) a smaller part of the overall programmatic marketplace so far in 2019. Join STAQ Industry Benchmarks.

When stressed or challenged, sellers and other team members tend to (1) come to their manager interactions very hot, (2) come seeking immediate answers and gratification, and (3) they want to dump the problem or situation in your lap.  And as managers, we tend to walk right into the trap by responding immediately and factually.  We believe that if we just answer the question or supply the information right now, then the situation will magically resolve.  But it just doesn’t work.

Your strategy shouldn’t be about dispensing answers, but rather posing questions.  You shouldn’t immediately assume the responsibility for the situation, but instead transfer the responsibility or resolution back to the employee in an empowering way.  That’s why the first words out of your mouth in these situations are so critical.  Next time the heat gets turned up, try rolling out some of these phrases and see what a difference they make in the quality of your interactions (and the quality of your life!)

  • I know what I’d do, but I really want to hear your thinking.  Give me two alternatives on what you think we should do in this situation.
  • Let’s slow down and make sure we’re solving the right problem.  Tell me what we’re not considering right now?
  • Let’s break this down into the things we can and can’t control. What do you think we can really change?
  • Tell me how I can help you get refocused on the things that are going to help you succeed.
  • I can tell you’re struggling with this.  I’m more than willing to let you blow off steam for a little while.  Then I think it’s time for us to break this situation down together.
  • I believe in you and I know you’re better than the conversation we’re having right now.  Tell me how you think this turns into a victory?
  • I’m not sure we have all the information we need to make the right call right now. You’re closer to the situation:  What else is important here that we haven’t looked at?

Spit back answers all day and you create dependent followers. Push the responsibility back to them – put the authority where the information is – and you empower confident leaders.  Every one of us wants to have great conversations with our employees and team members.  And we will.

But only if we start them the right way.