​​​​​Our previous hivio 2015 posts were written in chronological order. Our first blog described Mark Ramsey's introduction, setting the mood for what was to come. Scott Baker's "we're currently in the golden age of audio" statement followed​.  As many of NLogic's clients are from the agency and audio selling world, I've decided to jump ahead to Mark's very last guest whose role is perhaps more in line to our reader's day-to-day duties within the industry. 

Kirsten Wolf is VP, Media Director at Starcom MediaVest Group in Los Angeles and has worked on the buying side of media for over 20 years. My top take-away from her conversation with Mark is that Kirsten and her team are open to all conversations on how they can better use the audio space to address Starcom's clients' business challenges.    

Drawing from her career working on the local and national buying side for many top brands, Kirsten mentioned that today's conversation between buyers and sellers is more collaborative than it used to be. Negotiating the lowest cost for her client is no longer the only priority, it is also about how the media outlet can address the specific business challenges in this changing landscape. Reach and frequency are taking a back seat to engagement and creating experiences that respond to the client's campaign goals.    

Kirsten's agency takes a "holistic, platform agnostic, audio neutral" approach where the audio platform does not lead the conversation. Her team will determine what works best based on the specific challenges presented. She outlined an example of a specialty retailer who was doing in-store events in about 15 markets. The front end of the campaign was about selling tickets while the back end was about partnering with local personalities to connect with the consumers attending the event. Kirsten’s team first used digital audio to drive the purchase of tickets (taking advantage of touch screen ‘tap-to-call’ capabilities) and then followed up using traditional AM/FM stations with local talent to promote and then engage with the attendees.​​ ​

She went on to explain that all the various channels have their own strengths but sees it as following the listener. "AM/FM still has tremendous reach despite people listening less because they have choices and going to other places. Local stations have the personalities that connect with people in the local market. Podcasting has figured out that personality connection but no one has the ground game like local AM/FM". Ground game being the ability to go out into the local marketplace and have on-air personalities connect and interact with listeners. From time to time Kirsten will attend listener events to witness firsthand how locals love, connect and attach themselves with personalities which remain relevant and powerful. 

She went on to explain how targeted audio content is extremely valuable when a client has a narrow trade area or using podcasts is a great vehicle to reach passionate audiences attracted to niche content.  "It's about what do you need and what are you trying to accomplish and which specific channels can I deploy that's going to answer that challenge?" When the landscape was simpler, it was easier. "When you need reach, you used TV or OOO – when you needed frequency, you added radio to the mix. The way the landscape is now, it comes back to creating experiences and figuring out how to deliver on the business challenge." ​

Within the buying process, Kirsten values her suppliers that see past the sale and educate her to better understand the environment – what's great about their proposal?  Why is it better than everyone else's and what is the longer term vision of the offering? She appreciates the ones willing to collaborate to "unlock the power and potential" and share their points of view. The process has evolved into more than just a negotiation. As a seller, if you want to stay in Kirsten's good books, just because her background is in conventional broadcast do not assume she is not knowledgeable about the emerging digital space. That being said, she is empathetic to digital suppliers considering the absence of standardized processes of buying across agencies.    

When Mark asked about where great ideas come from, Kirsten's response was "everywhere". It comes back to collaboration and willingness to have those conversations. The scales are tipping towards great ideas over price. As mentioned earlier she's always going to negotiate the best rate but feels now "it's more about the smart impression or idea" where an impression leads to a big experience. What is also important is creating breakthrough creative for the audio space. As platforms diversify, how can the creative be customized to work best on the different platforms as well has harness the power of the different targeting capabilities?

As for a unified measurement where one platform captures everything, an accepted currency would benefit both the buyers and sellers and provide a level of transparency although she's not quite sure what it would look like. Kirsten has a difficult time visualizing how the one-to-one, the one-to-many and the download etc. come together in some representative unified measurement. The fact that a particular platform or offering doesn't conform to a standardized measurement will not stop Kirsten's agency from using the platform if they feel there is a fit. They're transparent with their clients – letting them know what does and doesn't exist - that lack of measurement doesn't deter them from going to places they feel are right. Moving forward they want to shift to buying audiences instead of demos supported through data. Although unified measurement is "comfortable", in its absence there are ways to make it work providing the client is not too adverse to risk as they dive into something that they can't exactly quantify. Transparency with their clients allows them to explain their reasons behind their decisions whether there's data to support it or not so unified measurement is not necessarily the Holy Grail. They will continue to work around it until one exists.

As summarized above, Kirsten still believes in the power of audio as a viable marketing tool. As innovation keeps pushing technological advancements, the buying and selling sides will also have to evolve to keep the audio space current and relevant in the eyes (and ears) of the sponsors. 

Other posts you  may be interested in:

HIVIO 2015 An i​nterview with Scott Baker from TheBlaze

HIVIO 2015 Setting the stage with Mark Ramsay​

​Canadian Music Week 2015​