On the Front Lines of Digital Media

"Mad Men" it isn’t. Don Draper would be baffled by the advertising world of the new millennium: LinkedIn, gamification, smart phone ads and Mediaocean, the Bloomberg of digital marketing. These four alumni: Bill Wise ’94, CEO of Mediaocean, Neal Ostrov ’10, Mobile Marketing Specialist, Bethany Hillman ’04, Operations and Strategy Consultant, and Chris Muccio ’90, Chief Technopologist, SFGI/Catapult Interactive, work in different areas of digital media.  The one thing they share is a passion for finding new ways to reach consumers in the digital age. 

The world of "Mad Men," Madison Avenue of the 1960’s, dealt in print, radio and television. According to Bill Wise '94 the space has only recently broadened to include the nearly infinite possibilities of the internet.

Wise, who was honored with the "2013 University at Albany Alumni Association Excellence in Business Award" and received an award for "2013 EY New York Entrepreneur of the Year," started his career as a CPA. He left after two and one half years. He said, “I was not necessarily a good accountant. I knew I wanted to get into operations. In 1997, the only company stupid enough to let me try to bring their company public was a digital company. When I told people I was leaving for an internet job they thought I was crazy. The company was soon acquired by Google.”

Then, internet ads were bought and sold the same way as TV and print.  Now his company, Mediaocean, is the standard operating system for advertising. Wise compares it to the Bloomberg system that Wall Street uses for transactions, in which stocks are bought and sold in real time; Mediaocean is the system of record for advertising. Wise said, “All campaigns are put into our system. We pay publishers and bill advertisers.” The company handled all but one Super Bowl ad last year.

Real time analytics show advertisers where their money is best spent. In Don Draper’s day, and until recently, advertisers paid upfront after previewing programming. Wise said, “The best example of traditional TV advertising is Proctor and Gamble. Through the 80’s they advertised on soap operas to reach the person who was buying the product. When I joined the industry in 1997, they were using the same format.  You use this much advertising and you commit to a year. Now advertisers don’t buy a particular show, they buy ‘people who are in the market to buy a car.’" Since   information from the internet changes in 40 milliseconds, advertisers bid on the next ten minutes instead of the next year.

The amount of data capacity to run an advertising campaign has greatly increased. The job of marketing has extended to incorporate metrics in way that was not possible before. Wise said, “Mad Men has become Math Men.”  He noted that his degree in accounting is an asset to his marketing work. He said, “Thirty years later, Don Draper would have a pocket protector and a calculator.”

Neal Ostrov ’10 was named a Forbes "30 under 30 Marketing and Advertising" when he was only 24 years old.  He noted that now marketers are brought in as a product is being developed, often with marketing built into product design.

On "Mad Men," Phillip Morris developed their new cigarette brand,Virginia Slims, before they asked ad agency Sterling Cooper to create a campaign.  By contrast, Ostrov has been involved from the start with the creation of an online trivia game. Ostrov works to integrate features to encourage users to share the app. In this way, the application advertises through its own user base. Ostrov points to Candy Crush, a popular online game that started on Facebook.  He explained, “When you reach certain checkpoints you need to get invited (by another user) to next level. If you run out of lives you ask a friend. Marketing is built into the product. It’s the most effective approach.”

Ostrov sees his role as “user acquisition.”  He said, “There are two parts to the job: paid media, which is web and mobile advertising, and the marketing that comes from the product itself."  Legwork happens before launch as he sets up targeting and the platform.

“I shy away from basic web-focused ads because they are not targeted to needs. I tend to lean towards more social forms of advertising,” said Ostrov.   His latest project is QuizUp, a trivia game app with of course, the social proof aspect built in. In its first week, the game garnered over one million users, and is number one in the app store as of publication.

Bethany Hillman ’04, Operations and Strategy Consultant, observes new opportunities in the marketing field.  Hillman’s work connects brands to the digital market. But she didn’t start in marketing.  Hillman graduated from Albany with a degree in business and a finance concentration. She began her career on Wall Street with JP Morgan. Hillman did not like the industry. She said, “It was old school in a lot of ways.”

Hillman's first non-finance job offer was in digital marketing, as an online media campaign manager for 24/7 Real Media, She said, "Though 24/7 was one of the largest companies of its kind, nobody knew who they were.” She loved the work: The human element; the youth of the industry.

Hillman is excited about the personal growth potential of the field. She said, “There are lots of entry level possibilities.  You can move up quickly. No one has been in the industry for 40 years like on Wall Street. Most have been in the business for five or six years.” She noted that at age 30, she is now on the older side of her field.

Hillman touts the adoption of mobile devices and the decline of television as a boon to advertising. Like Wise, she appreciates the benefits of using metrics to measure effectiveness of ads. 

The potential audience of 1.8 billion people who are online each day heartens Chris Muccio ’90, who is the author of “42 Rules for 24 Hour Success on LinkedIn.”

Muccio earned a degree in accounting.  He said that the degree provided a terrific foundation for business. His favorite class was Accounting Information Systems – at that time their work was on floppy disks. Muccio said, “I had a thirst for emerging technology.”

The technopologist said that he uses a variety of techniques to harness and target audience and create awareness, credibility and visibility, converting to sales. An integrated marketing package might include tools like HubSpot, LinkedIn, videos, and Google+.

Muccio notes that social media is about communication and relationship building. He said, “Ten years ago no one knew how to use all of this stuff.  This was the time when MySpace and Friendster dominated.” Muccio looked for a book to explain social media. There wasn’t one.  He said that in the mid-2000’s as we were dealing with 9/11, and the economy, business did not have time to use social media to its fullest. He said, “I identified LinkedIn as a strong tool and in 2008 wrote one of the first books on it.” The 2013 version of the book was published this fall. Muccio said “There are now 240 million people on LinkedIn – we need to focus on increasing our engagement with them.”

Playing with Technology

Wise, Ostrov, Hillman and Muccio are certainly not Luddites. They are on top of their game. What technology do the use in their spare time?
As would be expected, Ostrov loves to play with apps and games on his phone, critiquing them and identifying improvements. Hillman said, “I love going to the store and trying out all of the new phones.” Her favorite social media outlet is Instagram.  

Wise binge-watches TV, but usually on a tablet or computer instead of a television. He loves that Netflix released twelve episodes of “House of Cards” at the same time, and watched them over a couple of days. He said that he loves social media, “I am terrible at keeping in touch. I feel connected even if I don’t speak to people. It’s very efficient.”

Muccio spends time with social media, eschewing Facebook in favor of LinkedIn, of course. He also uses the internet to check the stock market.

Most Exciting Digital Development

Our experts mentioned a variety of factors that enhance online marketing.  Top of the list is bandwidth (Need more!) Another important development is that TV isn’t watched exclusively on a television, but on computer screens, tablet and phones, marketing more data available to marketers.

The technological advance Hillman is most looking forward to is the entire home being connected, so that computer, phone, television and other devices automatically sync through the cloud as you walk through the door.

Ostrov is excited about augmented reality, known to most people as Google Glass, a type of eyeglass that operates somewhat like a smartphone.  A voice command enables the glasses to take a photo or video, get directions, send a text, search the web, obtain information on what the user is looking at, and other functions. The information is displayed on a tiny screen, readable only to the person wearing the glasses. Ostrov said, "It’s been implemented but not to its fullest. The technology isn’t there yet.”