I read an article in iMediaConnection this morning by Jim Meskauskas. I am actually reading a lot of articles this weekend as the holiday is affording me the opportunity to catch up!
Jim wrote an article this week called: Use Failure to Your Advantage. He talked about his experience with a brand new media assistant and the reminiscent experience of having to take someone through the process from scratch.
Jim’s article brought me to a different place, establishing habits at the beginning that will stick with you throughout your career. A hiring manager can have a huge influence on you and the time that s/he spends with you during those first few days are critical. At an agency, so much of the way things are done are ad hoc that very little is standardized or processed with a sense of consistency across the entire organization.
I need to put this into context. TruEffect’s ad server, TruAdvertiser.xls, leverages Microsoft Excel as the UI for the entire process of media planning, campaign management and reporting and analysis. Our clients do not login to a web-based ad server to manage their campaigns. They plan, manage digital assets, schedule creative, traffic and generate reports all from within a Microsoft Excel workbook. It is a workflow automation tool that auto-magically (to quote our VP of Product Development) populates the ad servers with the required information to generate campaigns in real-time. Furthermore, users create reports and format them on-the-fly in Excel that auto-update. Data is streaming into analytical picot tables and charts that the users create. No longer do people have to download reports into Excel and then reformat them to look like their agency’s production. They create a template once and then simply select the advertiser, brand and campaign and all the data freely flows into the report cells in real-time.
Jim’s post got me thinking about workflow and standardization of workflow, workflow automation and even the most simplistic workflow consistency. TruEffect’s product suite was built with all of this in mind. When Jim brought on a new media assistant he had a beautiful new opportunity. Sure, he had to teach her ‘what an impression’ was and a click-thru and ‘why certain tabular results mean better things than others,’ but he had the opportunity to guide her in a direction to build positive workflow habits that would later create significant value to him and his agency.
The critical bottleneck to online advertising management at an agency is time. I provided some really good data in my post, “Hidden Media Costs Associated with Online Advertising (Ad-tech) – Some Real Good Data” that identified the lack of standardization of workflow within most agencies. People spend a tremendous amount of time doing the same things, differently. Collecting data, formatting reports, re-formatting reports and creating multiple versions of the same processes, which should be standardized across the agency, suck a lot of time out of a firm.
This new media assistant that Jim hired will initially follow the processes that Jim laid out for her; using DART to create a campaign based on trafficking worksheets, generating reports in DART, and downloading data into a format that she has seen. But over time she will begin to take some latitude. She will start to change the trafficking worksheets to make them “more efficient” for her. She will change the output reports to reflect what she begins to find to be more relevant and she will begin to create media planning worksheets that feed the trafficking process in a way that is better for her. This will happen over time and will happen as she goes from being a media planning assistant to eventually being an assistant media planner. But as this happens she will re-create a process that already exists within the agency. In fact, and in all likelihood, this process already exists several times over within the agency. Each of the people that do this job, probably do it in their own slightly unique way.
From research that TruEffect conducted during our R&D period, we found that over 90% of the agencies that we surveyed all had multiple versions of the same procedures being conducted at the same time by people in the same positions. Each media planner had their own versions of their own media planning worksheets, RFPs, media buying management spreadsheets and preliminary documents that led to a trafficking worksheet. Traffickers used various formats of Excel worksheets to transfer data into ad servers and data that was exported from ad servers went through various procedures into a wide range of to-be-formatted reports. Standardized procedures were non-existent within some of the largest agencies in our space. NY offices with 80 Media planners had 80 versions of the same worksheets. San Francisco offices had difference worksheets than the Chicago office of another agency. If someone working on an account were to go out and get hit by a bus, nobody could step right in and pick up where that person left off without having to go through a learning curve to figure out where everything was. There is very little standardization of procedures in the media planning and online advertising management space.
So when I read Jim’s article, and the title: Use Failure to Your Advantage, my mind spun to this topic before even reading it. After reading his article all I could think about was the great opportunity that he had to create a positive set of habits with this new person at the beginning. If IKON International is procedural and standardized, then it is uniquely wonderful and this new assistant has joined a place where she will learn good habits right out of school. But if it is like most agencies she is embarking on a career that will be rife with chaos. Jim has the opportunity to introduce a series of processes and practices up front that will send this person on her way towards being an efficient member of his team. Down the road she will know where her data is because it will be organized. As she is promoted she will train others in her practiced methodology and it will become more widely practiced. With time, time will be recaptured by the agency.
Standardization of repeat processes improves efficiency because people can more easily move in and out of roles. They can more easily identify where to find information within the organization.
TruEffect built an ad server that integrates proceduralized ad serving with standardized media planning and reporting, and put the whole thing into Microsoft Excel – where 90% of the industry already manages their lives. We have found that the learning curve is very short and that our clients are using our tools to introduce standard practices to their organizations. Our clients are recapturing vital segments of time and resources to better allocate towards things like strategic planning and analysis.
There is nothing more wonderful than having the opportunity to work with a blank canvas. Be it a new campaign, a new account or a new hire. It’s up to the manager to decide whether good habits or bad habits will be created. Good luck Jim, guide her well.
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