Spark Foundry Hearts Media Training 'Academy' Developed With Sales-Side Partner

In an unusual collaboration, Publicis Media’s Spark Foundry has turned to a supplier of media to train and educate its staff on how to plan and buy its medium.

The collaboration with radio and audio advertising giant iHeartMedia grew out of a series of brainstorming events and meetings about the growing complexity of the medium, so they teamed to create a new media training curriculum for the Spark Foundry staff dubbed the Audio Academy.

While it’s not unusual for media suppliers to provide information, and technical training to advertisers and agencies about the media they sell -- big digital platforms do that all the time -- it’s usually more about technical aspects of executing advertising and media buys on that medium than about strategy, planning and explicitly buying that medium.

But Spark Foundry and iHeartMedia executives said radio/audio have grown correspondingly as complex as digital media, citing the role of mobile phones, a new generation of automobile streaming technologies, and concepts like “sonic branding,” requiring more technical education for buying the medium than the agency was equipped to handle via its own internal training program.



The academy has two modules. The first is more of a primer on the “evolving audio ecosystem,” which was developed primarily by the iHeartMedia experts. The second, which is focused on planning and buying the medium, was handled mainly by Spark Foundry’s internal experts.

The collaboration speaks to a more fundamental change within Madison Avenue, which historically took great pride in its internal media training programs, which were focused on ensuring “media neutrality” and not being influenced by media sales and marketing organizations.

“I think we were very cognizant not to have this be an iHeart sales arm,” Chris Yarusso, vice president and national audio investment lead at Spark Foundry, acknowledged during a Zoom-based briefing with two top iHeartMedia sales and marketing executives. “This was meant to be educational.”

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