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Here's Looking at your Future, Kid

Here's Looking at your Future, Kid Doug Wintz
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Technology gives birth to applications that measure activity and make decisions at an increasingly accelerated pace. Examples are numerous, ranging from the computer in your car that regulates engine performance, braking and passive safety systems, to the systems that drive the financial markets of the NYSE and NASDAQ.


As these systems are introduced, they change the way businesses are structured, create the need for new skill sets and force companies to rethink how they approach traditional markets.


The media business is not exempt from this effect. Measuring online activity is becoming more sophisticated. As this trend continues the traditional roles of marketing directors, media planners, buyers, media operations execs and staffers will change.


The following is a look at an alternative future that might be the result of these changes to our business.


Welcome to the year 2020


At 6:00AM on May 4, of 2020, Toshiko Jones took the elevator down to the ground floor of her residence and waited patiently for her car service. While she waited, she surveyed the horizon of lush green mangroves on one side and an expanse of placid, slate-grey ocean on the other. Her Gulf Coast home was located in an exclusive development, a retreat occupied by the elite and wealthy.


Toshiko could afford it. Her firm, Media Asset Management (MAM), handled the purchasing and distribution of advertising for the top 10 corporations in the United States. She was one of a handful of individuals with expertise in the real-time purchase, placement, optimization and measurement of multi-media campaigns. The roles of the media planner, buyer, trafficker and marketing manager had converged into a new function -- a Media Asset Manager.


Like the most prestigious financial asset management firms of the past (Fidelity, SmithBarney, et al), media asset firms now had corporate clients who entrusted them with exorbitant budgets and relied on them to generate the highest return on their investments. So MAM was responsible for buying, selling and placing media on a minute by minute basis across all media channels including Vidline, Satradio and Print.


Even conservative clients who balked at this model eventually saw the value in granting a company or individual the aggregated responsibility and authority to plan, buy, sell, traffic, measure and optimize media in the same way that stock portfolios were managed.


After all, it was done real-time now. Companies who insisted on giving their permission on each and every aspect of media buys and placement quickly found that they didn't have the time, attention or expertise to evaluate and optimize every five minutes. Companies who refused to get in the game found that their brand, their sales and their futures where outflanked by competitors who felt perfectly comfortable letting control freaks like Toshiko and MAM take the reigns of their media budgets.


Toshiko grabbed a handful of jet black hair, pushed it away from her neck and held it for a moment. The sea breeze was warm, and heavy with humidity. She heard the whir of the hybrid from the frontage road, anticipating the arrival of the limousine. She let her hair fall and collected her bags, eager as always to make the trip to New York and present her media strategy to a new prospect -- in this case, Danbury Genetic Enhancements.


As she often did, she reflected during the outbound trip on events that took her from being a simple ad trafficker to CEO of MAM -- a company that leveraged the enormous change in media to achieve a valuation that rivaled old school edifices like Chase, Microsoft and Google. Again, the same question arose in her mind…


The past evolves into the future


How did the dysfunctional mediascape of 2005 evolve so rapidly into a real-time marketplace whose sophistication in trading rivaled the New York Stock Exchange?


After all, 2005, the media landscape was a mess. A large corporation could look forward to working with a creative agency, a media buying agency, an interactive agency, a direct marketing agency. Yes, yes, there were large global agencies who gave the appearance of doing it all, but at best their internal divisions seldom knew what each other was doing. At worse, the agency was a virtually a shell that outsourced to dozens of independents.


In 2005, the operations landscape fared no better. You could expect to traffic scores of creative files and equal number of media outlets. Video was sent to broadcast companies. Audio to radio. Gifs and rich media to hundreds of websites. Bluelines were messengered back and forth to print vendors.


The change for the better was precipitated by the following breakthroughs that took place over the last fifteen years:



  • Broadcast, online, ecommerce and direct marketing were consolidated into a single subscriber service dubbed "Vidline." This was the realization of convergence. The old-style TV went the way of the eight-track. The PC as a stand-alone device fared only slightly better -- it was used by the same types of curmudgeonly Luddites who once said the CD would never replace the cassette deck.

  • Media operations converged into a single application that supporting all media, brought about by the rollup of companies who once were focused exclusively on ad serving, or video content management, or email distribution, or audio, or ecommerce transactions, or print. A single application now handled that distribution and reporting task across all media. Toshiko's MAM was one of three companies who accomplished the rollup of these operational functions.

  • Buying media gradually changed from a process that focused on a largely manual process of matching audience with programming, to a real-time trading exchange whose buyers and sellers could shift media dollars on a minute by minute basis, depending on their goals in branding, cost per lead, ecommerce, et cetera. Up-front buys still existed, but the basis for negotiation had adapted to the changing marketplace.

  • Measurement of branding effectiveness was now real-time. The creation of the Rickert Branding Scale gave companies like Toshiko's the ability to gauge not only the direct response aspects of media, but the branding effectiveness as well and with the same real-time reporting. The methodology included measuring the number of subscribers who viewed the commercial messages, the potential number of family members viewing, the duration and attention paid to the message, and their value to the product in terms their demographics. It was a kind of EKG for the brand.

  Doug Wintz is Founder and Principal of DMW MediaWorks, a consultancy specializing in digital ad operations and technology.  Since 2004, DMW MediaWorks has helped emerging companies set up their ad operations departments and...

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