Meet The Training Consultant Helping TV Buyers And Sellers Decipher Programmatic

Intellectual curiosity and a well-tuned BS detector.

If the students in his digital marketing seminars come away with both, independent training consultant Steven Golus says he’s done his job.

“You’ve got to have people who can do sniff tests in this industry, and to do that, you need a really good sense of the mechanics,” said Golus, a DoubleClick and dataxu ad sales vet who founded his consultancy, Steven Golus Consulting, in 2013.

For the last two and a half years, he has focused on training traditional media buyers and sellers in the ways of digital marketing, measurement and programmatic. To date, he’s trained thousands of reps at broadcast networks, including A+E, Viacom, NBC, Fox News, Scripps, Discovery, IPG Mediabrands, Horizon Media, Hearts & Sciences, GroupM, Dentsu and Havas.

With the coronavirus lockdown, Golus has transitioned his business online. He recently completed a remote session with AMC.

But while the venue might have changed for now, the underlying message is the same.

“Digital can be confusing for TV execs, because they’re used to a black-and-white world,” Golus said. “My job is to help them get a handle on digital – programmatic, tracking, targeting – so they can have confidence when they’re in those conversations.”

Golus spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: How would you describe your approach to training?

STEVEN GOLUS: Senior sales teams and experienced agency folks hate training. They don’t want another dull PowerPoint presentation. You need a hook, an angle, something to keep them engaged and participatory. I use whiteboards and make it into a conversation with case studies and real-life stories. There’s also testing and homework, which makes it into a real classroom environment.

How are the virtual sessions going?

There is a renewed interest in remote learning, although, honestly, it could be busier. I do have a handful of clients now split between TV companies and agencies. I set up a mini classroom in my garage storage room downstairs at our place in Long Beach on Long Island with a whiteboard and other props. I’m trying to make it as real of an experience and as interactive as possible with games, quizzes and lots of Q&A.

What burning questions have been cropping up considering the situation?

Once sellers understand the fundamentals of tracking and targeting and cookies and programmatic, the question they ask is: What is my competition doing? If you’re a linear network, the question is twofold: What is my linear and cable competition doing, and what are Amazon, Roku, Hulu, YouTube and Facebook doing?

That question hasn’t changed much pre- and post-COVID, although the context has. Sellers don’t just want to know what their competition is doing in general, they want to know what their competition is doing right now, given the situation.

From there, the next question usually is: Where’s the money and how can I sell more? For example, I’m getting calls from folks looking to capitalize on sports money, which isn’t being spent on sports right now.

The fact is, everybody thinks everyone else is in a better position than they are, but the reality is that no one really knows what’s going on. People need to be ready for ongoing disruption, especially in the traditional linear space, which is only going to accelerate. I liken it to dinosaurs roaming the Earth and then an asteroid hits and speeds up evolution. COVID-19 is that event.

How will TV and video consumption trends cropping up due to the coronavirus change your curriculum?

I don’t see major changes. The basics are still the basics. But what will change is the narrative. We’re no longer just talking about the ecosystem in general. People want to know about specific CTV and AVOD trends. There’s a lot of good, hard data coming out about that.

What are the main knowledge gaps you’ve identified at the big TV players?

Honestly … everything. It’s actually sort of funny. Every client says, “Oh, our team pretty much gets this stuff, give us the 2.0 version,” but then when you sit down with their linear sellers, it’s clear they need the 101, and through no fault of their own. They’ve never been formally educated about this stuff.

Will the upfront cancellations help buyers realize they don’t really need the upfronts anymore?

Will the upfronts go away? I’m not sure they will. Advertisers need to be able to secure inventory guaranteed in bulk at a lower rate. TV sellers want the highest rate of change year over year, buyers want the lowest. For advertisers, there’s at least some utility and purpose to the upfronts, including from a planning and budgeting standpoint. That’s true, at least, of the way TV is bought now, and it is not going to completely change overnight.

But what about the glitzy celebrity-studded parties?

That’s just fluff. My first job out of college in 1996 was as a media buyer for broadcast at J. Walter Thompson, and my first week on the job I went to all of the upfront parties and thought to myself, “What’s this all about? This isn’t going to impact whether my client buys ‘Home Improvement’ vs. some other show.”

The upfronts can happen without that whole big boondoggle. Someone from the network can just send you a sizzle reel.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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