Dave Smith’s Keys to Longevity in Media

Editor’s Note: A shorter version of the interview was first published by Digiday on 5/21/13. Some additional comments are added from several iMediaConnection articles that appeared several years ago.

David Smith has spent more than 40 years in the advertising industry, beginning as a media planner at Mad Men-era Benton & Bowles in the late ’60s. Not much has changed. “The main thing that we did differently vs. the show was we didn’t drink in the office before noon and rarely at all,” he said. “Everything else (on the show) is spot on.”Now, the founder and CEO of Mediasmith is an internationally recognized digital advertising and media expert. He’ll be at the Digiday Agency Innovation Camp mentoring some of the most talented digital ad executives under 30.———————————————————————————————————–
What was your introduction to marketing?I sold a lot of things to my neighbors door to door. When I was in grade school, middle school and high school, I sold soap to go to YMCA camp; I sold greeting cards; I delivered Fuller Brush catalogs. I had several newspaper routes and whatever else I could do to make a buck. I did things myself from the time I was about 8 years old. My neighbors at some point saw me coming.And what did you learn from that formative experience?

If anybody says no, there’s another door right next door. There’s always somebody who will say yes a few minutes away.


Mediasmith Morsel

You Know What’s Cool? 1 Million Advertisers On Facebook

Facebook just hit 1 million advertisers, a milestone signaling that it has become a mainstream advertising channel for small and medium-sized businesses.

A couple more telling stats: Facebook claims more than 2 billion connections between members and local businesses, with 70% of users in North America connected to a local business. On average, local business Facebook pages produce 645 million views and 13 million comments (not always positive, it must be said).

Best work you’ve ever done?The best work has always been the work I’ve learned from. Early on in my career when I was a media planner at Benton & Bowles for Crest Toothpaste, somebody high up at P&G wanted to know what would happen if we spent less on advertising. So instead of doing an increased spending test, we did a reduced spending test. And in the area we advertised, it ruined the brand development in that region for about 10 years.Another example: When TV was the basic medium, the learning said do a good job of establishing effective frequency of 3+ at a good (40-50%) reach level. When we introduced CBS MarketWatch, they had deals across the CBS network of properties. This effort included out-of-home, radio, TV, and of course digital. We learned that with the new consumer, vertical integration, establishing frequency across media rather than within a single medium could be effective.There are many other examples I could give. I like to think that our best work is what we are doing for clients today as the world of technology and data is more and more complex all of the time.You ruined the brand development for a decade and that was your best work?

I learned a lot from that. I learned that advertising does matter.

If I knew then what I know now?

I would’ve learned how to code. Because software engineers get paid more and because it would give me more control of my own fate if I could generate some of my own solutions.

What you look for in a young executive?

I want them to understand the sociographic makeup of the marketplace. They need to understand what makes the consumer tick. They should have street smarts and understand innately why people do what they do. And, of course, it helps tremendously if they’re good with data.

What do you want to see from the executives at the agency innovation camp?

I want to see their energy.

Most traumatic career moment?

In 1983, when a client stuck us for all of their media bills. We had undergone an almost two-year battle, and I had to declare personal bankruptcy and lost almost everything. But the wonderful thing was that the next day was a sunny day, and I realized I still had my brain, the good will of my contacts and a willingness to “get up and do it again”. They can’t take that from you. And I started all over again.

Below are a few more points that were not part of the interview but are Dave’s added observations on the topic…My top things to do for longevity:Find your nicheLearn one thing better than anybody in the agency. Specialists and experts are highly valued. Pick something that you do regularly (competitive analysis, R/F runs, demographic analysis, third-party ad serving analytics…you get the picture) and go as deep as you can with it. Take reach and frequency analysis as an example. Don’t just learn how to do them in the medium you are working in; study up on use of this tool for other media and experiment. You may learn some things from one medium that you can apply to others. Then, learn how to accurately combine reach and frequency data from disparate media into an overall plan R/F. And learn how different plans of the same level show varying frequency distributions. Whatever you are studying, read the documentation and take all of the training that is available. Then, apply what you have learned and quietly let those around you know that you can help them out when they are tackling this tool or process. The word will spread, and you will gain respect and visibility among higher-ups. Then, over time, broaden yourself by taking on other initiatives to grow your expertise and reputation.

Think like a producer

Learn how to do everything, or know someone who does. Tap into the other experts in your media department. They may be people outside of your chain of command. They may even be in another office of your company. When asked for help, people are generally flattered and will go out of their way to assist in solving your problem.
Keep the big picture in mind: develop a true understanding of all media from a management standpoint and know someone who is an expert in each.

If there is no expert in your company, find someone willing to learn it, or learn it yourself. This includes TV, radio, newspapers, OOH, magazines, web, search, WOM, viral and technologies like web video, VOD, third screen, podcasting and blogs, as well as user-generated advertising, RSS, advergaming, social networks and mobile.

Mediasmith Morsel

Targeting is a Key Advantage for Digital Video

Almost three-quarters of marketing professionals worldwide planned to increase their spending on branded video content or video ads in the next year, according to a survey conducted by AOL Networks in April 2013. More than 50% of that group said that the added investment would come from TV and display budgets. Only 4% of respondents planned to draw back spending on digital video ads.

In keeping with digital advertising’s frequent role as a direct-response vehicle, the study found that digital video ads beat out TV ads for achieving engagement goals: 58% of marketers thought digital video ads performed better than TV ads by this measure, compared with 15% who said engagement was worse for digital video ads.

video vs tv

Read more here.

Thanks to eMarketer for their permission to reproduce this graphic.

Pick up the loose initiative

If you ask, there are always things on management’s plate or within the maintenance of a brand that have not been gotten to. Find out what they are and take them on. Again, following the rules above, you don’t actually have to do all the work, just see that it gets done.

For example, work with other planning or buying groups in your agency to collect all of the buys done in a single medium by vehicle on a post analysis versus pre-buy or planning basis. You will learn a lot by looking at the variations on pre-buy versus post-buy, and by studying the trends; you’ll learn which vehicles have the potential to over deliver.

This is something you and others can use in your future planning. Make your superiors know that you will deliver and go the extra mile on these projects; they have great visibility.

Make friends with the creatives

Find ways to generate ideas in concert with them.

A while back at another agency, I found out that one of the head creative guys on the most visible account loved bowling. So we did that for lunch! It became easier to talk once we found common ground. Sometimes the collaboration flow starts socially. Sometimes it starts in hallways. Don’t count on it happening in meetings. Go out of your way to make it happen.

Pull one of the creative team that you connect with aside after a group problem-solving meeting. Offer to go into greater depth with them on a specific area that came out of the ideation. You just might strike up a great partnership that extends far beyond the life of the project at hand. One of the other ways to make friends with the creatives is to make their work famous. Finding ways to buy media that stands out helps the client and makes you a creative favorite.

Toot your own horn

Write an article or two and be willing to appear in public showing off your work, including the reason you succeeded.

Digiday, iMedia and other venues are always looking for good case studies on effective plans that worked. There may be some aspects of your client’s data that is confidential, but there may be other aspects that are acceptable to discuss. Many of the speaking venues in our industry are open to proposals, as well. Be persistent and you will find places to talk about your work. Writing is not that difficult. The hardest part is finding a topic, followed quickly by getting started. In this case, you know the topic: it is your favorite plan.  I get started by opening up my word processor or notepad and jotting down as many ideas as I have. Then I organize them and proceed to flesh them out. Pretty soon, I have a first draft. You’ll find a lot of people within your organization who are willing to help proof and make your writing better. And, you’ll find the trades very willing to discuss publishing your work, if it is quality.

Mediasmith MorselTwitter is Developing Geo-Targeted Ads for RetailersAs soon as the end of the year, Twitter is planning to let brands show promoted tweets to people who open its mobile apps within close range of their stores. Twitter will enable ads to be targeted to people who are near specific latitudes and longitudes and could be ready as soon as the fourth quarter, according to two people briefed on the product. This kind of radius-based geo-fencing could potentially be useful for the likes of a pharmacy chain like Walgreens or even a quick-serve restaurant like McDonald’s. It’s for marketers who are looking to drive up their in-store traffic with the carrot of a deal or a special, or just by tipping people off to their presence in the immediate vicinity.

Let others toot your horn

Win an Effie and countless other awards for your work, creating demand for your services inside and outside of your organization. This can be done. Maybe not the first time around, but if you keep learning, keep the big picture in mind, collaborate, experiment with new media and document your success, you can win.

You don’t have to start with an Effie or Cannes. There are more media awards every year and many are for ideas in individual media, not an overall plan. Keep applying for the awards and you’ll get better at that too.

After all, as they say, “you can’t win if you don’t enter.”

Some final thoughts:

Work in NYC at least once in your career

The earlier the better. Your network will be stronger, you will learn a lot quickly and you will be challenged big time. “if you can make it there, you can make in anywhere”

Get a mentor

If someone has not adopted you, find one. I have seen a number of successful people find a mentor when one did not take them on early.

Pay it forward

Don’t worry about what you are going to get from an interaction. Maximize what you can do for the other person. Give your time and your best advice. The payback will come in having a very strong base of supporters all around you.

By David L. Smith, Founder and CEO at Mediasmith, Inc.