Word to the wise: Don't let Scot McLernon make your bets for March Madness this month. During his two-and-a-half years as senior vice president of sales at CBS Interactive, McLernon brought all of CBS's Web properties under one umbrella, and successfully distracted cubicle toilers everywhere by streaming some 32 college basketball games online. How did he fare last year? "I led the office pool all the way to the Final Four before betting with my heart and going down in flames," he recalls. "This year, despite my better judgment, I think Duke and Kansas have a great chance."
We hope his new office pool rivals are taking notes. McLernon left the Tiffany Network in November to join Upstream Group, an online advertising and marketing consultancy. Next month, the company will launch Upstream Habitat, a two-day workshop for digital salespeople. Conjuring images of Will Ferrell we'd prefer to forget, Upstream CEO Doug Weaver has compared the program's atmosphere to "the environment of a college campus." While McLernon admits he never saw Old School, he does fondly remember Animal House. "You know, the motto of Faber College was 'Knowledge is good,' " he says. "Maybe we should borrow that for Upstream Habitat."
Upon joining the business, did you get much resistance to buying ads on the Web from clients?
>> Back in 1995 when we first started selling Web advertising, there was no interactive-media line item. So, we had to execute three sales in one: We had to sell clients on the interactive/Web media notion, then on the individual property, and the third sale was where their budget might come from. Even if we had a champion on the client side, we still had to get creative as to how we would find the budget. When I tell salespeople that today, it's as though I told my kids I walked 10 miles to and from school in the snow.
What was your logic in de-emphasizing the value of reported clicks seven years ago?
>> That made much more noise than I ever expected when we launched it. I just wanted to emphasize that there were a lot of other ways that Web advertising could be measured. And I thought then - and still think - that the least important measure was clicks. Back then it was pretty controversial. But people regard today as the post-click era, and brands who have embraced Web advertising know that there are multiple other ways that Web advertising can be measured, such as reach and frequency, share of voice, time spent, frequency of visits and other criteria. Flash had just gained critical mass when we de-emphasized clicks. But, thanks to Dynamic Logic, we now can all embrace these new measures.
Why is your seminar Upstream Habitat a necessary crash course for digital salespeople?
>> Our focus has been on the depth and breadth of knowledge required to really excel in the digital selling space. Whether you're just entering the industry from the traditional side of the business or you're a mid-level seller that executive management wants to invest in, you're constantly challenged to either get up to speed or to stay current on the variety of changes that seem to happen almost weekly. I've hired a lot of people from the print side and those candidates often liken their first few months to drinking from a fire hose.
What is the most annoying online trend?
>> It would have to be all the Facebook apps and accompanying widgets. While I appreciate that people think to invite me in and I'm always interested in what people are doing with the Web, let's face it, we're expanding upon a terrific business right now and as far as Facebook goes, I barely have time to post another cute photo of my kids. I commend Facebook and the companies that have thrived within it - I just don't have time to be bit by a vampire, hit by a sheep, rate any movies or play Scrabble right now.
If you were not working in the online industry, what would you want to do?
>> I'd be making and selling subscription-list only Pinot Noir with a wait list at least 50 deep and Steven Comfort begging to get on the list.