Audience Buying Is Crucial For Entertainment-Focused Agency Media Storm Says MD Cornfeldt

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Media StormJeremy Cornfeldt, Managing Director, Digital, of Media Storm, a digital media agency.

AdExchanger.com: On a percentage basis, how much ad spend is devoted to display in a typical campaign? Can you see this changing going forward? Why or why not?

JC: It really varies for our campaigns on the goals of each initiative.  At the end of the day, it will really be the performance that will dictate the percentage spend.  If you look at how search started to take over the budget allocation it was totally driven by performance and as long as display can continue to drive performance whether they are brand or DR metrics, it will continue to receive budget.  And I think the amount it will receive will really depend on the goals of the campaign.

As new opportunities present themselves, I do see the allocation to display eroding as marketers test and measure, but it will all come back to performance driving the allocation.

Is Mediastorm owned by an ad holding company? Please share a bit of background on the company.

Media Storm is an independent agency that was started by Tim Williams and Craig Woerz.  Tim and Craig were looking to change the agency model and differentiate their offering in the marketplace.  Almost 9 years later, we have a thriving agency of 100+ staff with great experience in the entertainment space and over 30 clients in this vertical.  We have also have been able to attract client's outside of the entertainment space, but with inherent entertainment value.  Our entertainment experience has served us well in helping client's outside of this space to build their brand and drive sales and we were recently awarded Media Plan of the Year by Media Week Magazine for one of these executions.

And yourself? How did you get to Mediastorm and what do you do there today?

Prior to Media Storm I was at Carat.  While at Carat, I had the opportunity to meet Craig and Tim to explore some possible partnership opportunities.  We never ended up partnering on a specific project, but I stayed in touch with Craig and Tim over the years.  I had always been impressed with their agency and the fact that they had built it from scratch and managed to find a niche and truly differentiate themselves.

Late last year, they called me and explained that they were looking to hire a senior level resource to run their digital team and asked if I would be interested.  After meeting with multiple people in the agency, I jumped at the opportunity and here I am today.

I oversee our digital team and I'm responsible for our strategy, management and growth in the areas of display, search, social media and data.  I'm really lucky to have a great staff that have a wealth of digital experience and clients that are willing to be first to market with new opportunities.  It's been 6 months so far and I'm having a great time.

Has audience buying through data-driven digital channels reached your clients yet?

Definitely.  The majority of our clients are all about targeting the right audience that they believe (through research and content testing) would be interested in their new/existing programs.  Audience for us is crucial.  Our goal is to continually learn more about the audience and their interests and align our content messages accordingly.  For clients our DR clients, the audience targeting and data is key for us to continually optimize our campaigns and drive business results.

Who gets it and who doesn't?

I'd say that all of our clients get it, but for our entertainment clients we have to balance our audience targeting with our high impact media/creative executions.  Entertainment campaigns are shorter in duration to keep the information recent and fresh and high impact placements help to ensure reach.  So we leverage our audience targeting to complement our high impact placements.

Brand versus DR - how does spend break out at Mediastorm for digital? Any trends you can share?

It's a little harder to answer because even for our DR clients we are still doing a fair amount of brand focused media.  We are fortunate to have a vast amount of DR and brand experience within the team, so we're able to construct robust campaigns for our clients.  Regardless of whether or not we're doing a brand or DR campaign, audience data is core to our success.  With each campaign, we strive to learn more about our target and hone in on key interest areas to continually optimize existing and set the stage for planning for our future campaigns.

Is an earned media strategy possible using data and ad targeting?

Absolutely.  Look at what companies like 33across and Media6Degrees are doing with data from earned conversations and the success that they've had for their advertisers.  For our clients, it's paramount to understand what's happening in the earned space. Entertainment is one of the most highly discussed topics in the earned space, so it's crucial for us to listen to the conversation and tie that data into our planning approach.  We tend to look at all aspects of what the user does and says online and leverage this data to help refine our target and their interests to truly pinpoint our user with our media & social media plans.

How do you manage between letting clients do what they want, and trying to prepare them to use newer, more efficient technology, for example?

We're lucky in the fact that our clients trust us when it comes to introducing new ideas and technology.  We do have the occasional push back on specific sites, but for the most part our clients have been very open to the ideas of using targeting technology, leveraging our trading desk and our social media listening capabilities.

What about a trading desk strategy for Mediastorm?

We have one in place that we are currently testing and we're always looking at other providers as well.  There are several strong players and we want to ensure that we align ourselves with the technology that meets the specific needs of our client base now and in the future.

How big of an issue is collections and billing for the agency? Does it ever keep you from executing campaigns efficiently with your vendors?

Not an issue for us as we have a solid staff and great systems in place.

Considering the speed at which innovation is changing advertising, how does Mediastorm keep up? In particular, does it train its employees regularly?

Our goal at the agency is to constantly stay ahead of the space.  It is a challenge for the team to keep up with their day-to-day tasks as well as stay on top of changes in the industry, but we have plans in place to keep the team abreast of new developments.  Each month, we meet as a group to discuss the industry and our clients, share ideas and meet with key innovative partners.  As I mentioned before, we are also fortunate to have clients that are not afraid to be first to market with a test and the best way to learn about new technology and other opportunities is to actually see how well they perform in a campaign.  And we have some other tactics that we use to keep up to date on new players and changes in the space with a goal of constantly staying ahead of the curve.

How will the role of the media planner buyer evolve in the next few years? What is your view on the ad network model and its benefits to the agency going forward?

The biggest question in my mind is the impact that the DSPs will have on the media planner.  Is this a unique set of skills?  Will this evolve like paid search did?  And I think the answer is yes.  When paid search first started to take hold, most agencies tasked their media planners to manage these programs.  But soon we found that this was a unique set of skills and we began to train and hire for search specialists.  I believe the same will happen (and is already happening) with those who utilize DSPs on a regular basis - it is a unique set of skills.  To answer your specific question, I think a new type of media planner will be born.

The benefit the ad networks, exchanges and other types of data providers can bring to the agencies moving forward is the marriage of our site side data with the front end media data to truly complete the picture of who the user is, their interests and how we can effectively and efficiently target them moving forward.  I think you'll start to see some larger CPG type clients who value this kind of targeting to take advantage of these opportunities.

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