The evolution of a media man.

conversion_rate_optimizationFollowing college I channeled my inner Darrin Stephens, the ad man from the iconic 1960’s sitcom Bewitched (think Don Draper without the charm, money, intelligence or looks), and secured a job on Madison Avenue. I was not really sure what I wanted to focus on once I got through the doors at Y & R, but after just a couple weeks walking the halls I knew what I didn’t want to focus on…media.

It was the late 80’s and a career in media made an entry-level position in toxic waste management seem more desirable by comparison. I remember the tedious routine of those jobs like it was yesterday. Each year the media team was summoned to a client’s office to get briefed on how well the brand managers did in securing media budgets for the brand.

“Here you go media team. You’ve got $20 million to spend this year. Get us as many eyeballs as you can. Plan wisely. Godspeed!”

The media minions would dutifully trudge back to their cubicles and dig through Standard Rates and Data Service catalogs to begin calculating GRPs late into the night. After a few weeks of research these bleary-eyed media mavens would venture back out of the office to torture clients with a mind-numbing array of spend levels and options neatly wrapped into an earnest two-hour presentation. Clients would pretend to be interested and at the end of the meeting would invariably say, “Looks good. But did we get enough eyeballs?” It was always about eyeballs and always about how much money we could spend. Getting eyeballs was anti-creative and boring to me. No thank you! I will do something else. ANYTHING else!

The birth of digital marketing changed this model dramatically. While gaining awareness for a product or service was still important in digital media, the focus was more about getting people to actually engage in the ad unit to consider a purchase. Eyeballs were replaced with actions, typically click-throughs. A career in digital media became a mix of art and science with data to back up success metrics. Which ad and what placement got the most click-throughs and view throughs? Media was getting more strategic and interesting.

And over time it became even more intriguing as media became tied closer to user behaviors. It was no longer enough to get people to your site (or your partner content or wherever you needed them to end up). You had to get the right people to your content. By leveraging retargeting, digital media began converting window shoppers into potential buyers. And at that point media had done all it could – it led the proverbial horse to water. Now what?

Well, over the last few years more and more marketers have been focusing their efforts on Conversion Rate Optimization. By A/B testing changes in content, or generating dynamic content, marketers can gain a more thorough understanding of their visitors and determine what elements of the messaging and content are leading to the highest number of conversions. Now the focus is less on getting people to your site (the modern version of eyeballs) and more on maximizing the number of people who actually make a purchase. So instead of spending a ton of money to just get more qualified people to visit your site, you can instead strategically funnel more of your existing traffic into actual sales by providing the right people with the right content in the most efficient manner possible.

One of the best side benefits of this evolution? Well, media downloads with clients have now become completely integrated with content and creative…far more interesting than they were back in the day when Vanilla Ice was topping the charts.

Word to your mother.