Making Maker Talent

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The advertising industry is in a state of flux. Technology continues to challenge our understanding of everyday practice. Our roles, outputs and outcomes are evolving. Brands and agencies are racing to match employee capabilities to the demands of the fast changing landscape. The CMO is the new CIO. Brands question the value and existence of the long-standing BIG Idea. Our core skillsets simply have not evolved as quickly as the technology around us. “Creative firms of all kinds (including ours) know that they must evolve at LEAST as fast as the world is changing around them.” – Tom Kelly, IDEO. Yet there’s little investment in continual learning and development for employees.

Ongoing employee development allows us to keep pace with technology. The entire industry needs to continually learn, relearn, and adapt.

Given these changes, how does an agency structure and leverage talent? What is the best talent? What skillsets and mindsets describe the most sought after and retained employees? These talent questions are circulating the industry; but very few agencies have invested in ongoing development of talent versus the acquisition of talent. We continue to buy, trade, barter and pay thousands of dollars in recruiting fees. Yet, ask managers their annual budget for talent education and development and you’ll often receive blank stares.

“Seventy-six percent of marketers think marketing has changed more in the past two years than the past 50.”*

We continue to hope that the next acquired digital expert or entirely new department of savvy technologists will solve for overall skill deficiencies. Agencies hire, rehire, trade and repeat; only to lose these coveted industry experts within the standard 15-18 month tenure. Ask most agency leaders their average turnover YOY and listen for the common reply, “we embrace turnover” or  “it allows for new thinking and ideas.” But try to build culture, skilled expertise and new ways of working when you’re faced with a 30-40% attrition rate.

So what do we do? Why does talent development change the equation? Take a moment to consider what your agency is making. What is your true output? Why is your agency hired? And how does your talent match the desired expertise and output? Now, project into the future one year from now (which equals about 3 years in technology terms). What are you making now? Who is your best talent? How would you describe them? How different are your answers? And who is the talent that will make the work? Are they digital aficionados, DeVinci-esque ideators, platform analysts, copywriters, hackers, artists, designers, inventors, or coders? A clear definition of the range of talent we need to educate and develop is very important.

Let’s explore the first three steps for development of agency talent:

1) Define the talent. Who is working at your agency? What do they know and what do they need to know? Why?

Create a current talent map that realistically represents what your employees know. Leverage this map to design a vision for annual education and development. What is the focus and why? How does your agency match the pace of technology, demands of clients, and needs of curious employees who value (above all else) continual learning?

2) Match talent to making. Does your current talent match the expectations of your (CMO) clients?

If so, what is the percentage of matched talent to desired agency output and client opportunities? Set up a system for ongoing evaluation of skills. Take up a “you cannot hide” attitude about competencies at the agency. Change annual reviews to be annual talent/education development reviews with clear expectations of professional evolution matched to current and future opportunities. Ask employees to write individual education narratives per quarter. Question daily the dedication and commitment of leadership to define the work at the agency. Go back to…”what are we making?”

3) Launch a formal education program. Do employees have access to a formal program for learning?

If not, start one. Because many of your competitors are in the process of designing, branding, and launching education programs.Recruit a small working group of cross-functional agency leaders to outline the skillsets and mindsets important for the agency to develop. Socialize the outline. Then ask this group to commit time, resources and budget to designing an education program that closes the gap of what employees know now and what they need to know in the future. This gap is your focus for curriculum design. Stay committed to moving employees forward to match the agency “making” of the future.

Look around at this year’s holiday party and think about a few more questions. What do all your employees know and what should they know? What can they make and what will they be able to make next year?

The cost of elevating the core skills of every single holiday reveler by 3-5% is often the same cost as hiring one single digital “expert.”

Although acquisition of talent remains important, development and education of current employees creates a clear competitive advantage. With a new ‘culture of continual education’ more employees recognize opportunities, understand technology, and win more business.

Stop dreaming of those talented employees and start making them.


Native Advertising Isn’t New, But It’s The Future

By Jonathan Perelman, VP, Agency Strategy and Development, BuzzFeed

Media consumption and consumer habits are rapidly changing. Look no further than your own behavior. Do you sleep with your phone by your bed? Sure, it’s your alarm clock, but do you check it before you go to sleep, or when you first wake up? Let’s be honest. The challenge for marketers today is to reach consumers in a way that invites them in, not distracts them from what they are doing.

Native advertising is a hot topic in marketing today and for good reason. Unlike intrusive banner ads, native advertising does not distract consumers from what they are doing, but adds to the overall experience.  With all the attention recently given to native, we should remember that native advertising isn’t new in digital. The most well known is search, as the ads are native to the environment of the search results. However, the convergence of content marketing and native advertising provides an organic way for brands to enter the conversation with consumers.

Throughout the history of advertising, we have taken the type of ads that have worked on one platform, and tried to make them work for the new technology. The first radio ads simply were the audio of a print spot. The next evolution were TV ads, which were radio spots with an image. Today, standard banner ads are the most prevalent ads, but that doesn’t make them good.  Ask yourself, what’s the last great banner ad you’ve seen?

As the digital advertising ecosystem has evolved from Portal -> Search -> Social, online ads need to evolve as well. As mentioned earlier, native advertising isn’t new, but can be broken into two categories, 1. Utility 2. Content. If you’re in a new city and need to find a coffee shop, you’re likely to search for one. Maybe you launch the maps function to search for directions to your desired location. But, what happens after you find that shop, and you’re the 15th person in line for that latte? Most likely you take out your phone to snack on content until the milk is steamed and your caffeine is ready. Increasingly, the type of content that people are consuming is branding, as it is as equally captivating as editorial.

The challenge for advertisers today is to be seen and stand out in an environment where social is the new starting point online. Creating social, shareable content to be served in a native environment allows the advertiser to tell a story, and to engage the consumer in the natural environment of content.

Native ads are even more important when we talk about mobile. The promise of mobile appears to be unfulfilled from an advertising perspective. Simply repurposing ads from desktop onto a smaller screen doesn’t work. A recent study* found that 40% of clicks on mobile banner ads are a result of fat-finger clicks, or mistakes. At BuzzFeed, we see more sharing of content (including ads) from the mobile device than we do on desktop. We don’t consider mobile as a separate platform, we think mobile web first.

Native advertising isn’t new, but the convergence of factors leads to native being the perfect type of advertising for this stage of the web. Combining the elements of social, brands as publishers and the importance of the mobile web are all factors that lead to the prominence and opportunity of native advertising.

This article appeared as part of the AAF’s 2013 Digital Resource Guide, which can be downloaded here.


Five Steps To Launching Your Next Hot Digital Marketing Campaign

By: Sheila Marmon, Founder & CEO, Mirror Digital

No matter which sector of media, marketing or advertising you specialize in, chances are you have experienced the need to know something about digital (or at least needed to fake knowing something about it).  Here are five steps that are essential to beginning a successful digital marketing campaign.

  1. Define metrics for campaign success upfront.

This sounds basic, because it is.  Having a clear understanding of your objectives and how you plan to measure success is critical.  Similar to traditional media campaigns, reach still matters, but digital offers several new metrics we can employ to determine whether or not a digital campaign is delivering.  For the most part, the industry counts “clicks” as a proxy for consumer engagement.  You may have fancy attribution models that take you beyond this, but the main point is to spend some time UPFRONT to define the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) so your road to success is clear.

  1. Choose the right tool for the job.

Once you understand what you want to accomplish, you can identify which tactics will best drive the desired result.  Do you want to use standard display ads?  Do something cutting edge like social gaming?  Or incorporate email, mobile, social media or video?  Each of these digital media platforms is ideal for eliciting a particular type of consumer response.  Email is great to use as a call to action, while social can get a conversation started.   Even your “owned” and “earned” digital assets (such as company websites and social media platforms) have a complementary role to play to maximize your overall impact.  It is important to keep in mind that each piece of the digital campaign should work together with all your other endeavors.  So please don’t isolate mobile or digital video from the rest of the team.

  1. Don’t be a lemming.

We’ve all done it, whether with a fancy car, a flashy designer handbag or the latest tech gadget.  We see a well showcased new toy and you think “I gotta get me one of those.”  This happens faster and more often in the digital marketing space than in any other platform.  As the pace of change continues to accelerate, there will always be interactive advertising fads.  Please, please, please don’t simply check the box and invest in the latest digital trend because everyone else is doing it.   Go back to #2 and make sure the digital tool/s you put into play meet your campaign goals.

  1. Find your hook.

Consumers are bombarded with marketing messages at every turn.   What is going to make your campaign stand out from the crowd?  The answer lies in good old-fashioned storytelling.  Decide what story your brand is trying to convey and to whom.   The fabulous thing about digital is that we can experiment to figure this out.  With the low cost of specialization, we can create a variety of “hooks” designed to appeal to a number of target consumer segments.  Take the time to leverage this capability.  When executed properly, you can really hone in on your audience and what is going to move them to act.

  1. Measure. Optimize. Repeat.

Don’t wait until the end of the campaign to take a look at the reporting!  One of the most important advantages of digital is that we can take the temperature along the way and gauge performance.  Check the analytics and the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you established in #1.  Look to see if your campaign is meeting your goals.  Monitor your results by medium, website placement, target audience, clicks, etc.  and keep a close eye on progress toward your goals.  If things aren’t on target, you can still implement new ways to “optimize” and improve outcomes for success.

With these 5 steps in mind, you are well on your way to launching some killer digital campaigns.  Happy marketing everyone – have fun!

Contact Sheila at

The Next App Store Is In Your Car, Auto Opens Road for New Media, Ad Channels



As the advertising industry attempts to grab the mobile sector, there are growing reports that the next venture may very well be within the auto industry. Today, more and more vehicles are becoming connected to mobile devices and even some in-dash navigation systems are exploring an in-car app platform. These in-car apps can provide new opportunities for advertisers; however, not many are fond of the idea. Current in-car apps such as iHeartRadio do not allow advertisers to target consumers. Other companies such as AT&T and BMW are implementing campaigns against texting and driving, causing this opportunity to generate further question as to the kind of in-car app platform to be implemented.

If Pandora Can’t Monetize Mobile, Can Anyone?

Massive Mobile Usages Comes With Big Costs



Synopsis: Today, many digital-media companies such as Facebook, Apple, Google, and Microsoft claim to be mobile-media companies. As a way to target the growing mobile community, these companies are still trying to find ways of creating streams of revenue from mobile-ads. The music-streaming giant, Pandora, is currently facing the many challenges most of these companies are enduring. Currently, mobile-media companies are teaming up with the Mobile Marketing Association to achieve some industry-wide standards and practices for mobile advertising. As the amount of consumption is growing exponentially with users, mobile-media companies are striving to come to an agreement with publishers and the mobile community, in order to create new research allowing better advertising and new business opportunities.

Increases in Digital Spending on the Horizon

Significant increases in digital spending are on the horizon for 2013. While TV spending will still account for the majority of the global marketing spend, many CMO’s realize the potential impact of digital advertising. It is important for agencies and clients to understand how to maneuver through this new digital market in order to create efficient digital strategies that will have a positive effect on their bottom line. There will be a ton of new business for agencies that understand how to effectively utilize digital technology in creating digital campaigns, as 60 percent of CMO’s surveyed in the Chief Marketing Officer Council’s “State of Marketing 2012 report say they will be making agency changes in 2013. The top reason for these changes is the need for improved social media expertise.

Read the full story on

5 Trends That Will Shape Digital Services In 2013

A recent article on Fast Company written by Olof Schybergson of design firm Fjord predicts five key changes in business and design which will shape digital services in 2013. They are:

1. Dawn of the “Personal Ecosystem”

Connected objects start to take their place–right by your side.

2. K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

How good old-fashioned K.I.S.S. principles are making a comeback.

3. Access Will Supplant Ownership

What does it mean to own something in the digital age?

4. I Belong to Me

How to survive if you find yourself on the personal data battlefield.

5. A Personal Shopper for Everybody

The coming revolution in retail

Read the full article, including in depth explanations for each prediction.