Recently we had our “chefs” take a survey that assessed their digital media platform skills. The information they provided got me thinking about how cross-training has really helped define our agency and has the potential to define any agency in today’s media environment.
A little history. Back in 2008 we had two large media teams, one to buy digital media (remember, this was before social) and one to buy offline. We wound up merging the two groups once it became clear that all media was becoming digital and everyone who worked at the agency wanted to develop digital buying know-how.
But we kept the search team separate because it required a different skill set from direct-to-publisher buying (social wasn’t yet a real channel). SEM was bought on its own platform, with its own vocabulary and strategies (bids and auctions).
Five years later programmatic and social became the dominant channels, and all media was becoming auction-based. So the search team evolved into the biddable team and we gave them responsibility for all media bought using auction-like tactics, including programmatic and social.
Facebook changed everything
But then came a big change: Every client started investing in Facebook, a platform built for small business owners that didn’t require advanced skills or experience to launch campaigns. All our digital teams were buying Facebook ads, not just the biddable team.
Once we started buying media on Facebook it became
easier to buy Snap, Pinterest, Amazon, YouTube and, more recently, TikTok. Instead of the experience chain going from search to other channels, the opposite started happening.
The rise of cross-training
Now when I look at our skills, the platforms and where we’re investing clients’ money, we don’t need a dedicated biddable team. Everyone has become biddable planners and buyers because that’s just how media is bought today.
It’s also become easier to buy media directly from publishers, so chefs who grew up buying only biddable channels are exposed and trained to buy non-biddable channels.
How cross-training can help define a media agency
So as I looked at our survey results, it dawned on me what benefits cross-training can bring to an agency:
Nimbleness: Cross-training makes it easier to deploy people in the areas where they’re needed the most. Agencies are not limited to one channel or one type of client.
Agency silos dismantled: No longer will client work grind to a halt while it is passed on from one area of expertise to another. The more people who are cross-trained, the more cohesive the agency is as a whole.
Clients are happier: Clients rarely work with one agency team that can support all of their needs. Having a team trained in a wide range of disciplines makes an agency all the more marketable.
Employees get media-fit: Our promise to newly-arrived chefs is that they will get the experience necessary to help them on their career journeys, wherever that takes them. Cross-training provides them with skill sets that will undoubtedly come in handy in the future.
For all of this to work, agencies must be willing to evolve and shake things up if necessary. They also need to keep a keen eye on industry trends, and emerging digital platforms. Overall, cross-training is a great way to keep an agency, its clients and employees in great shape.