Learning Curve: Media Edition

In the newest Learning Curve, we enter the exciting world of media services. We’ll learn how to best utilize targeted advertising and how to navigate an ever-changing media buying landscape.Dawn Webley, OH Partners’ Vice President of Media Services and Analytics, has 20 years of experience working in media buying—13 of them in an agency setting. Dawn is the reason you’re notified of your favorite artist coming to a venue near you—well, not her directly, but in layman’s terms, it’s what she does.

Getting in Early
At the young age of 18-years-old, Dawn decided to accept an entry-level position at KTVK, instead of continuing with higher education. This decision was a catch-22 for Dawn. While she missed out on the experience and a level of security that a degree can bring, she’s benefited by waiting and learning about the modern advancements in media.

After all these years working in the field, she’s now finishing up her “senior year,” at Grand Canyon University majoring in entrepreneurial studies.

“I don’t like to think of myself as an anomaly,” Dawn said. “But if you do decide that college isn’t for you, you have to take initiative, put in the legwork, ask a lot of questions and don’t be timid.”

In Dawn’s eyes, is education mandatory? It is if you can’t knock on every door in the business, ask for a chance, and get someone to believe in you.

Media Services in Academia
Candidates reviewed for media buying positions usually have backgrounds in marketing, e-commerce, advertising or public relations, but rarely specialize in media services and analytics.

Certain majors within academia may teach students about media services and analytics but learning what drives advertisement placement and purchasing typically comes with the job. “Everything I learned about media buying was self-driven research and by working [in the field],” Dawn said.

What Working in Media Services Involves
The importance of media purchasing is growing, Dawn said. She urges candidates to show their skills using both the left side of the brain, in reporting and math, along with creativity and thoughtfulness on the right side.

Working in a media department involves matching a brand to its target audience and finding a crowd that needs to hear its voice. While creative teams may design the image and social teams plan the content and copywriting, it’s the media team who has diligently researched demographics, campaign histories and sales data to plant messages where they’ll best be heard.

An Evolving Digital World
Staying up on how media landscapes are changing is the most important part of media buying. “An idea we think was crazy yesterday turns into the norm by tomorrow,” Dawn said.

These days, anyone who is online is being fed content—whether consciously or subconsciously—that caters to their buying habits and lifestyle. A 2018 marketing statistical list, aggregated by Hubspot, said more than “51% of smartphone users have discovered a new company or product while conducting a search on their smartphone.” Digging deeper, “two-thirds of consumers can recall a specific brand they have seen advertised on mobile in the last week” and “60% of consumers click on mobile ads at least weekly.”

Dawn said it wasn’t until 2008, when she was working with an automotive agency, that digital buying was gaining traction alongside “traditional” media. “I don’t like using the term traditional media because in 2019 I think we can say digital is now traditional,” Dawn said. “Our team uses offline versus online, which is a little more accurate.”

However, if we talk about “traditional” media the way some journalism professors do, we hear horror stories of it “dying,” “disappearing” or being bought by business moguls.

What we have known for so long as “traditional” media and content isn’t going away on a local level, it’s just having to compete with more and more fast-paced engaging messages delivered online. How consumers receive information and its production is quickly changing⁠— television is still television⁠— however how you receive your content may be through different platforms.

“The story is the same, but how a newsroom produces the story and how it gets to the consumer is not what it was a decade ago,” Dawn said.

In the Print World
These changes bring new challenges, but with the rise of niche and indy magazines, not all print remains lost. Take Condé Nast’s Bon Appetit, a magazine specializing in food and beverage, that has been able to invest more in its video department this last year, and is even expanding into over-the-top (OTT) television that began in February of 2019.

You when you go into the grocery store, and they’ve put the salsa right by the tortilla chips? Well, that’s similar to how hyper-focused magazines advertise. A cooking magazine won’t be supporting ads with the latest golf clubs; that’s not what the reader wants. Magazine companies want to enhance the user experience, and if the reader loves to cook, the ads within the pages might show the latest model of a stand mixer or a high quality yet affordable olive oil. The media services department determines these advertisement decisions, and they’re well thought out, too.

Dawn explains that successful brands must know the persona that’s invested in its brand and who has the chance to be invested, given their current habits and interests. For example, if your target audience watches daytime television, it’s best to put more money toward those ads than on social media.

Trend Spotting
As far as 2019 trends go, Dawn says companies should be doing a whole lot more social listening. “I don’t need a crazy level of data to know someone is planning a vacation, which is why you often start seeing “best hiking spots in Hawaii” pop up on your social feeds or online searches shortly after you’ve booked a plane ticket,” Dawn said. She also says to keep an eye out for how ads will change and shape OTT.

One trend that also acts as a curveball in the digital buying landscape is influencer marketing and how consumers perceive these sponsored ads. While influencers aren’t as new as we think—from radio endorsements to yelpers—social media influencers have changed how brand content is delivered. Dawn says influencer marketing doesn’t have to be expensive, because not everyone wants to hear from big names like Kim K. On social networks, 86% of consumers prefer an authentic and honest brand personality that’s more relatable and reliable.

OH sparknotes:

  • “Traditional” media isn’t dying but it’s evolving just like journalism and newsrooms are
  • OTT is expanding with the growth of streaming services
  • Knowing your audience and where they consume entertainment is the key to funding your media advertising
  • Staying up on how media landscapes are changing is the most important part of media buying