Organizations are spending countless hours and dollars to
transform into digitally-deep, Snapchat-savvy marketers.
In lieu of a better plan, many have relied on hiring digital
natives -- or at least the "digitally immersed" among us -- to
teach everyone else how this new-fangled stuff actually works.
These employees spend their days servicing client needs, and
their nights creating training programs intended to help their
colleagues grasp the difference between DSPs, SSPs, DMPs and a host
of other acronyms. (Ad Age just published some useful definitions
here, actually.) The last decade has been dominated by remedial
classes for traditionally trained advertising practitioners who
grew up before the digital era.
The problem is, there hasn't been adequate attention paid to the
While agencies focused on educating offline experts about
digital, they overlooked the fact that many digital natives have a
limited knowledge of marketing overall.
Many digital companies are a refreshing mix of former science
students, Bachelor of Arts majors and business graduates. What they
typically lack are employees with marketing degrees. This was less
problematic when digital tactics consumed one's day, but as these
people rise in the ranks and begin managing cross-disciplinary
teams or seek roles as strategists or researchers, their lack of
marketing savvy becomes apparent all too quickly.
True, they may have completed countless channel-specific courses
run by Google and Facebook, but because their careers to date have
focused on the executional end of campaigns and budgets handed down
after investment justifications have already been made, there has
been little need for them to acquire a wider view.
Even those in client-facing roles have traditionally needed one
simple argument to drive success: The internet is big, people use
the internet, your competitors use the internet to advertise, and
you should too. That theory -- slapped across a few PowerPoint
slides and backed up with appropriate statistics -- has driven
growth in digital platforms, from desktop to mobile to search, and
is still being used for new innovations like virtual reality.
But digital isn't simply "digital" any more; it's just the way
we live, love and conduct business. In the marketing arena, new
technologies such as programmatic have also compressed the distance
between executional and strategic.
In 2016, every employee, whatever his or her job title, needs to
add an understanding of the core marketing principles to their
You need a plan
Agencies need to stop focusing on digital "up-skilling" and
start thinking about connected training that covers all media
channels and marketing principles -- for all their staff.
Google has recognized this need by expanding its Squared Online
digital marketing course to include modules such as "A Connected
World" and "Think Like A Brand." The Institute of Direct and
Digital Marketing also goes far beyond tactics with its
Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing.
AOL's Grow program is another inspiring initiative. It covers
topics from the art of the pitch to leadership to agency-client
relationships, and is backed up by experienced mentorship from ad
industry legends like leadership veteran David Bell and ex-P&G
CMO Jim Stengel. Although not specifically aimed at digital
experts, its targeted audience of mid-senior agency management
ensures that it's providing wider learnings to many rising stars
who grew up in these channels. At MediaCom, we are building a
global marketing curriculum that ensures that all our staff,
whatever their level, have a broad understanding of marketing
principles, along with those that may specifically apply to their
An essential part of the process for our industry is to
encourage people to own up to the fact that, despite years of
digital success, they may have no formal marketing training, and
The truth is that we all recognize we can't know it all. But an
organization has to make it safe and comfortable for a high-flyer
to admit that she or he has not been adequately trained in
We can still celebrate their executional expertise. The ability
to execute auction-based media, A/B testing, optimize creative
formats at scale, as well as understand technology stacks and
harness them for personalized marketing are all critical for our
business. But we can also make it a positive when people add a new,
broader perspective to this knowledge -- assets that will help them
grow, develop and, ultimately, take on larger responsibilities. Our
industry has come a long way when it comes to digital, and has
rightly focused on training traditional marketers to confidently
toss a "SERP," "interstitial," or "container tag" into their
Now we need our digital employees to have the best possible
understanding of key concepts and principles too.
Article originally published in
Advertising Age on October 7, 2016.
Hannah Mirza is responsible for managing the
relationships of Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and Twitter
amongst other key digital entities with the agency as well as
sourcing the pipeline of next future partnerships across technology
and media through collaborations with Venture Capitalists Firms.
She has previously worked at MediaCom as Director of Digital
Operations, running product development and infrastructure change
initiatives to ensure our markets and clients are equipped and
advancing their processes and practices at a common pace to ensure
consistency and best in class digital offerings.