Why Aren't We Training Our Staffs For Success?

I’ve been interviewing for a Group Director, which is the individual who reports directly to me (the president of the agency). A Group Director at The Media Kitchen is the individual who sets the media vision for the brand, builds senior client relationships and oversees planning and investment.

The persona also ensures that all plans are being analyzed and optimized. Basically, they are responsible for protecting and growing that revenue by delivering on a well-crafted SOW. 

Our teams are customized by clients after a long process of understanding client expatiations and deliverables. Each team is more or (slightly) less multi-modal, meaning they have experience planning and buying online and offline media and they have ongoing experience working with publishers and adtech vendors. 

The only channels we don’t buy ourselves are broadcast channels. But we plan all media types, including TV and radio.

We’ve found the best way to service a client is to create a self-contained team that clearly identifies a team leader (i.e. Group Director) responsible for the business. The feedback we’ve gotten from clients is tremendous. They love being able to talk to senior people who can talk strategy and also understand why certain units in Facebook perform better than others and the best way to onboard a DMP. 



Shockingly, I’ve come to realize how difficult it is to find these kinds of people. We’re doing our collective industry talent a huge disservice by not providing the right kinds of training and experience.

I’ve been interviewing a lot of people to fill an open Group Director position, and I’ve come to realize that much of the media agency industry is being siloed. We’re siloing our staff for short-term agency gain, but we’re doing the talent a huge disservice.

Several people I interviewed, all who grew up on the media strategy side, said they didn’t have any experience buying media. They never trafficked a campaign. They don’t know what the Facebook Business Manager looks like, and they don’t know how to build out a custom Facebook audience.

Two individuals told me they were discouraged from meeting with publishers because "that’s the job of the Investment Group." One of those individuals said they still meet with publishers discretely.

Sadly, none of these people are useful to me. I can’t imagine hiring someone at a senior level who has never bought media and who isn’t actively meeting with companies that create content (e.g. publishers from every media type).

I remember many years ago interviewing people from larger agencies who didn’t know how to pull an MRI or Simmons run because "they got it from Research." That always seemed silly and very inefficient (and painfully slow). But I hired those people anyway and retrained them.

It wasn’t difficult to teach people how to use standard research tools. But now I worry that we’re training a whole generation of media executives that only know how to write a strategy deck or how to buy media or only know how to traffic campaigns.

I’m worried we’re not teaching our talent to think about the complexities of the business by learning the entire business from the bottom. We’re not training our staff to be well-rounded individuals.

I’m fully aware of the counter argument that developing subject matter experts provides an unparalleled level of expertise that will ultimately benefit clients. But I don’t buy it. In my experience, people who know how their campaigns will appear to consumers in the market build the best plans.

It's better for people to specialize when they’re junior and become generalists as they get senior. As an industry, we’re letting people specialize for too long, preventing them from becoming well-rounded and being qualified to have thorough conversations with clients  looking for real time decision-making and problem solving.

No client wants to make five phone calls to get answer, at least not mine.

3 comments about "Why Aren't We Training Our Staffs For Success? ".
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  1. Neha Misra from MBuy, March 6, 2017 at 10:56 a.m.

    I agree with this whole heartedly. A team can't function with Senior Management that is not in the know of the entire process from Research, Execution through to Analytics, Technology and Return on Advertising. It is critical that managers understand what their teams do. I am surprised sometimes by how far removed some Executives become from day to day operations of their teams. The new normal to be successful in advertising isn't just knowing one aspect of the process, but being in the know of what other teams do, and how the process comes together.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, March 6, 2017 at 11:14 a.m.

    Back in the day, NY agencies had TV estimators, TV Buyers, Radio estimators, radio buyers and so on through other media. No one had a clue what was going on with the other or how any of it coordinates. Not so in smaller agencies in smaller markets. Buyers were generalists and each buyer on an account had to "do it all". #1. The educators are not professional marketing people; they are full time "teachers". #2. The media giants who live on the highest floors are deft, do not care and just rake it in. Conglomerates.

  3. John Grono from GAP Research, March 6, 2017 at 8:10 p.m.

    Can someone please edify me?

    The headline says "Why aren't we trainining our staffs for success?"

    Here in Australia (and the UK), "staff" (in the context of people who work for an organisation) is a collective noun.   Therefore the plural of "staff" (the people) is also "staff".

    "Staff" can also mean a stick, rod, walking pole etc.   In this meaning it is a singular noun and therefore its plural is "staffs".

    [I'm not delving into its use as a verb, or in the musical sense of a staff or stave.]

    So my question is whether common US parlance now allows "staffs" as the plural for both the singular and collective noun "staff".

    Many thanks.

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