Market dollars are shifting and demand for Internet advertising is increasing. It's only logical demand for online media buyers is also greater. A quick review of any online or trade classified ad section proves the point.
To more clearly understand the demands of this employment market and how it's changed since the Internet advertising heyday of the late '90s, I interviewed Leslie Laredo, president of The Laredo Group, a company that's provided Internet sales, media, and marketing training since 1997.
Hollis Thomases: Leslie, what's going on in the agency world in respect to hiring online media buyers?
Leslie Laredo: The biggest message that came through at September's Advertising Week in New York was the "retooling and rescaling of the agency." The agencies are very closely looking at who and how their staff is able to service clients in these evolving advertising times. On the Internet, for example, we deal with measurements like engagement and interaction, and traditional media folk are not used to dealing in these terms.
HT: What do you see as different now, as opposed to the earlier days of online advertising?
LL: Back in the late '90s, in our classes of about 350 attendees, we used to see about a 3-to-1 ratio of media sellers to media buyers. Nowadays, the ratio is completely reversed. Our media buying courses are sold out. We also see more senior-level people attending our courses, like agency presidents and directors of marketing for large corporations who say that they want to become more adept at the Internet medium so they can better deal with their agencies.
HT: Who typically makes up your attendee audience now?
LL: Definitely mostly small to midsized agencies, 50 percent of whom have little to no experience with Internet advertising (previously, they may have only bought a banner campaign), and 50 percent with only some experience. The experience level seems to vary by DMA. For example, in Washington, DC, 50 percent didn't even know what an ad server was. In Boston, we were dealing with new hires already working for Internet agencies, whereas in New York, many were experienced traditional media buyers trying to become educated because online advertising is what their clients now ask for. On the West Coast, the attendees overall are much younger and, in general, much less experienced.
HT: What are the typical questions being asked?
LL: This, too, varies by DMA. In DC, where political advertising is hot, questions revolved around locally targeted advertising. In New York, media buyers wanted to know about the intricacies of writing and evaluating a good RFP. In only the last two months, the questions are becoming more tactical in nature. But the most consistent questions revolve around rich media and media research. Buyers want to understand how to do online media research, what is syndicated research, how to research local buys, and how to relate offline research tools to online ones.
HT: What are their most common misconceptions or misunderstandings?
LL: Going in, most new media buyers definitely do not realize that online is a lot more complex and detailed than traditional advertising, and there are a lot more considerations when making the buy. That the plan really can't be made before doing the buy is also hard to grasp because it's the reverse of traditional. New buyers are surprised at how fast results come in and that campaigns can and need to be optimized equally as fast as a result.
HT: Where are you seeing the greatest need for, or surge in, new media buyer hires?
LL: The traditional agency, definitely. About 60 percent of our attendees are working in traditional agencies expanding into interactive.
HT: What should the agency be thinking about when hiring online media buyers?
LL: Everyone needs to revisit the fundamentals before trying to understand new online advertising, because even the fundamentals have changed, like IAB's new guidelines for measuring ad serves. Also, new hires cannot do the job without tools, and without historical data or past relationships with publisher reps, it's going to take time to get up to speed. Remember that everybody is still learning, because online advertising is still evolving.
HT: By what rate do you think the hiring of online media buyers has grown since this time last year?
LL: By gut check alone, I'd say by 500 percent or more. We're selling out our workshops in all our markets, and big agencies are calling us, asking do we know people or asking us to come in and do private training for whole departments. There's a huge demand.
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A ClickZ expert columnist since 2005, Hollis Thomases (@hollisthomases) is president and founder of Maryland-based WebAdvantage.net, an online marketing company that provides results-centric, strategic Internet marketing services, including online media planning, SEO, PPC campaign management, social media marketing, and Internet consulting. Author of Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day and an award-winning entrepreneur, Hollis is the Maryland 2007 SBA Small Business Person of the Year. Hollis speaks extensively on online marketing, having presented for ClickZ, the American Marketing Association, SES, The Newsletter and Electronic Publishers Association, The Kelsey Group, and the Vocus Worldwide User Forum. WebAdvantage.net's client list has included Nokia USA, Nature Made Vitamins, Johns Hopkins University, ENDO Pharmaceuticals, K'NEX Construction Toys, and Visit Baltimore. The agency was recognized as a "Small Giant" by the Greater Baltimore Tech Council and was chosen as a "Best Place for Business Women to Work" by "Smart Woman Magazine."