Explore Communications turned 25 years old in July. Its been quite a quarter-century going from working in my boxers in a spare bedroom to owning space in the Lower Highlands and having the privilege of working with so many amazing people. One of the first tried and true lessons I learned as an entrepreneur was to surround myself with talented people. The seven co-workers I have right now are the best example ever. They are all rock-stars and not only do they make Explore successful, they make it fun and fulfilling to work together. I’m one lucky dude!
One of the many things I love about my peeps is that they are all passionate about media. We are seriously total media planning and buying dorks. We get excited when we see one of our clients on a billboard or have an ad pop up on our phones. And of course, no matter how clever and creative our strategies are, the only thing that matters is if our clients are successful.
So yeah, we get stoked when Pancheros sells a record number of burritos or CollegeInvest exceeds their account deposit goals. We know we can’t take credit for our clients’ business success nor take the blame for failures, but we take pride when we achieve and exceed media objectives of our campaigns.
How in the world did we get so geeky and enthusiastic about media planning and buying? I mean, computing Reach & Frequency or comparing CPMs sounds as fun as watching a sloth race on a Saturday morning. So, we do the necessary quantitative work (and secretly really like it) and then dive into the qualitative work to consider things like timing, impact and relevance. And then we come up with strategies that are creative and different in order to break through the clutter to cause behavior change and/or action. It’s fun stuff, I’m telling you!
I love what we do at Explore and I love what media can do for our clients. From day one, 25-years ago, I’ve been an advocate for what media contributes to the overall marketing of clients. It’s not just about the creative or branding or research. Everything needs to work together and media planning/buying should never be an add-on to a client choosing an agency based on creative. Get the best of everything, right?
One of our initiatives as innovators in media planning and buying has been to educate clients, creative firms, branding experts, public relations firms and perhaps most importantly, college students about the importance and power of media planning and buying. I graduated college eleventyseven million years ago as a Sociology major. I had no idea what I’d do with that degree and when I looked into advertising agencies per my sister’s chosen career path, I had no idea what the media department did.
Our summer intern Sarah Smith just had her last day yesterday. She is going back to U Dub Milwaukee to finish her degree and lo and behold we may have a future media planner eating cheese curds up there in Wisconsin. She had a class that touched on media planning and buying in college and she recalls it being super boring and nothing but math. One assignment involved choosing the best print vehicles for a particular client using the formulas and research they were taught by a professor that may or may not have ever actually worked in media.
Sarah turned in her assignment and was told she was wrong. The prof wanted to see a chronological list of publications ranked from a combination of demographic indexes and CPMs. Listen, we aren’t talking about Sarah recommending Guns and Ammo Magazine for a yarn manufacturer targeting grandmas. But Sarah thought there should be intangibles taken into consideration so she chose some publications that ranked well, but not at the top. This professor doesn’t know media is an art. There is never one exact answer.
Lets say the assignment was for a beer company (Sarah lives in Wisco, after all) and the research/CPMs said go in ESPN Magazine and Beer Connoisseur Magazine. But what if Sarah used her creative thinking to decide to avoid those publications because they are full of competitors and this beer client doesn’t have a ton of money? So screw the rankings and as long as the alternative isn’t completely untargeted (lets not go on Nickelodeon), what about running in Wall Street Journal (we can all use a drink after reading the news)? Or how ‘bout we dominate Rolling Stone Magazine and encourage readers to pop open a beer and Tweet or Snapchat their favorite songs to jam during happy hour? As Dewitt Jones says, there is always more than one answer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdRGEz0rldc
Sarah said her college course made her think media is boring and mathematical. And when she wanted to consider behavior and psychology, her professor told her she was wrong. Now that Sarah has completed her summer internship at Explore, she knows her professor was the one who made a mistake.
Prior to her internship, Sarah would not have pursued a career in media planning and buying. Now, its at the top of her list for when she graduates and looks for a job in the marketing world. She may choose a different path, but at least now she knows what media is and can cater a pretty awesome resume to a media shop or ad agency of any size. I hope she chooses media.
Cheers to Sarah the Intern and cheers to my coworkers at Explore. I really love what I do and I love doing it with the people that have made our company so great for 25 years. If there is one legacy I leave behind with Explore someday, its that media planning and buying is exciting, creative, powerful and a whole lot of fun. I hope clients, creative firms, PR, branding, students and other media firms realize there is always more than one answer. It sure is fun finding the best answers.