To all but the most plugged-in industry insiders, the rapid proliferation of ad technologies, platforms and processes that have been changing the way advertisers and agencies plan and buy online advertising, and increasingly offline as well, can make them feel like they need to be institutionalized. And now, there is an institute precisely just for that. Aptly named the New Marketing Institute, the ad technology education initiative is being launched by DSP (if you really want to understand what that acronym is, you’ll have to attend one of the sessions) MediaMath, and marketing trade group the Direct Marketing Association, to fill the educational void needed to keep digital media buyers up to snuff within an industry that is being transformed by rapid advancements in technology, especially computerized systems for targeting the best consumers, and so-called “programmatic” methods for buying them.
Acronyms, buzzwords and trade jargon aside, MediaMath CEO Joe Zawadzki says the goal is to help the uninitiated get a grasp on the growing complexity of terms, concepts and processes involved in the rapidly evolving digital media buying infrastructure, and in essence, to demystify the confusing array of options that have been so well optimized by LUMA Partners’ infamous LUMAscapes eye-bleeding charts.
“Our hope is for it to provide a broad foundation in terms of all the things going on, both in terms of platforms and programmatic stuff, but mostly in terms of the best practices in buying digital marketing,” Zawadzki says, adding: “The idea is to provide a place where people can get a 101 in digital marketing.”
And if some of those people happen to get indoctrinated into using MediaMath’s systems for managing it along the way, so be it, but Zawadzki says that isn’t the explicit goal. In fact, he says the most basic levels of the institute’s curriculum are open to anyone or any organization that is either a bona fide agency or marketer who buys digital media, even if they are not clients of MediaMath. The more advanced levels, he says, require working with MediaMath, because they are explicitly tied to learning how to utilize MediaMath’s system for managing digital marketing.
That said, Zawadzki says the goal simply is to make the industry’s rank-and-file more knowledgeable about the overall advances in technology, and that the base curriculum is completely “neutral” and doesn’t tout one vendors’ wares over another, which is why the DMA is collaborating on it. In fact, the first classes will begin June 27th at the DMA’s offices in New York City, and more than 100 attendees — mostly ad agency staffers — have already signed up to participate.
Zawadzki says the institute doesn’t replace other continuing education and professional development training provided by individual agencies, outside consultants like the Laredo Group and Upstream, trade associations or even actual academia, but is intended to complement it to help agencies and individuals get up to speed faster than they might otherwise.
Zawadzki says the courses are broken into modules that can be customized around the specific educational needs of individuals and organizations, and can be tailored to suit more basic or more advanced and detailed instruction. The modules are also designed to focus on specific subject matter that might be more relevant to a particular organization’s need, such as a deep dive into so-called “audience attribution” modeling and analysis, or a section devoted mainly to “programmatic trading.”
“It’s been something we’ve been using elements of internally for a while, and it’s part of our onboarding,” Zawadzki concedes, adding that the idea behind the institute was to take that internal and client-specific expertise and open up to the industry-at-large to “provide a baseline for everyone –- even if they were engineers who were rolling up their sleeves and writing code, they should understand the market in order to understand why they were writing code and what it was going to be used for.”
Adam Cahill, senior vice president-director of digital media at Boston-based Hill Holliday, is a big fan — and says the institute is exactly what his organization has been looking for as a means of supplementing the Interpublic shop’s own internal training initiatives. Cahill says that Hill Holliday happens to be a MediaMath client, but he says the agency also works with an array of other similar organizations in the ad technology industry to support its push toward what he calls “platform-buying,” or the increasing movement toward utilizing computerized systems and exchange to plan and buy media for its clients’ digital campaigns.
“It gives our teams access to information and training that’s going to make them better, specifically for us, at buying media through technology platforms. As we shift more and more spend through platforms, a key need we have is getting people who manage these campaigns truly fluent in the tools,” he explains. “This is kind of a nice start in that process.”
Cahill says the program is especially helpful for the not-so-digital-savvy people in Hill Holliday’s organization, including the “people coming from more of a traditional media background. It helps them understand it.”
Cahill says that Hill Holliday is committed to shifting most — if not all — of its media buying to online platforms, and he says even traditional media like TV and print increasingly will be processed that way.
He says that education is a key component in that shift, because many of the most significant impediments are not business practices or processes, but human ones –- especially the cultural orientation of people who come from non-digital backgrounds, as well as the fear that machines will replace some of the roles that humans had handled in the past.
“It’s a big conceptual change,” Cahill explains, adding that no outside educational program can deal with that, and that is more of an internal management issue. But in terms of helping to keep people up to speed, in an industry where technology and processes seem to “change every week,” the institute is a “pretty serious commitment to keeping up with it.”