This is the second installment in "PII," a series featuring the talent that makes the wheels turn in our data-driven advertising world. Read the first PII interview with Nazanin Jazayeri.
As associate director of social experience and custom product at Publicis’ Mediavest | Spark, Andrew Klein loves discovering new technologies and platforms.
That wasn’t how he started out, however. He began in engineering at an internet service provider, working his way into sales and product innovation.
“We lit up Lollapalooza [and other] festivals with internet so they could get credit card functions, media and broadcasting,” he recalled. “While I was there, I was very passionate about social media and started my own consulting gig.”
At a high school reunion, he reconnected with an old friend who did social strategy for Bing.
“I’d love to do social strategy for Microsoft,” Klein told her. The next Monday the head of social and content at Mediavest called him, offering to let him run Microsoft’s social strategy, a job that included social, digital, out-of-home and even print.
Now, at Mediavest | Spark, Klein focuses on all things new.
“Every time there’s an [app] update I get in there and go through everything,” he said. “I try to define the user experience. What’s the flow? What can I do with it? How can that weave into my clients’ campaigns?”
Klein and his team of 20 are responsible for figuring out if emerging platforms are viable media outlets. Their discoveries feed back into the agency’s data and programmatic teams to place targeted buys for clients.
“Clients always want what’s never been done before,” he said. “My role is to have my finger on the pulse of technology and how it relates to [them]. There’s lots of shiny things out there, but it doesn’t necessarily that mean it’s right for the client. You have to be really smart about that.”
Klein, who comes from an IT background, stays on the cutting edge by constantly researching new offerings in the tech space.
“You have to create your own kind of system where it’s not a chore to educate yourself,” he said.
Klein spoke with AdExchanger.
AdExchanger: How does your role tie into media planning and buying?
ANDREW KLEIN: My role is to [tie programmatic and data into products] in unique ways. We create new media and ad products for clients rather than something that any agency can just buy off the shelf. We think outside the box of what our vendor is selling to what we can actually start building.
I work with Comcast Labs, Duracell’s R&D department and Yahoo to develop products that will not only be awesome for consumers, but are ready for media, rather than sitting in a silo and having media be the afterthought. I regularly meet with product folks to figure out how their products work for our brands and what our brands want from measurement and reporting.
What do those products look like?
We built the first 30-second [pre-roll] VR experience [to target] someone in a VR headset for Post’s Fruity Pebbles. If you have a headset and try one of those VR roller coasters it would likely pop up for you. Through Facebook and YouTube, we're not able to actually target people inside of a headset at that moment. That wasn’t good enough.
Is it challenging to get clients to embrace new technology for media?
It used to be, but this innovation group is making it way more approachable. They’re not shocked anymore that a media team is bringing a piece of technology. They understand that we’re part of that core team and they’re expecting something new and potentially disruptive.
How well do you need to understand technology to work at a media agency today?
We want everyone to understand it. If you have an older executive team they won’t be so proficient in Snapchat. They probably downloaded it, but just like my mom they get lost in two seconds. Even our summer innovation interns didn’t know about tricks I was showing them in Snapchat. It’s about setting aside time to learn about what’s happening out there.
How are the world of content creation and media buying coming together?
We need content. We’re in a stage right now of banner blindness and trying to reach millennials who are just flying by. The rise of ad blocking is definitely hindering reaching the right eyeballs. You have to make sure [content] is something people will organically be magnetized to and want to consume. Content that is great is shared. You don’t have to worry as much about coming up with tricky ways to get in front of people. Especially in native placements, the content really shines.
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in a career in digital advertising?
I would just say start. I didn’t have a digital advertising background. I was doing community-facing social. It wasn’t even social media buying.
What could advertisers and agencies do better?
Take the sales piece out of the equation from a vendor perspective and get to the core of what the developers are doing. We’re seeing these walls come down where it was just sales and buying, but now it's co-creation.
Is data-driven advertising creepy to you?
We have to be respectful with data and how we utilize it. It’s very easy to overstep and concern people with media that overtly taps into what we know about them. This information is important to reach the right audiences with the right message at the right time and place. We make sure the audience knows they must opt in in order to fully customize the experience.