New to the digital media industry? Mastering the foundations is the most important thing you can do

Jon Windred
By Jon Windred | 29 July 2021
Jon Windred.

(Half the industry has between three and eight years’ experience. But we don’t always get to hear their thoughts. As part of a collaboration with GroupM’s Young Leaders Committee nCo, AdNews asked four of GroupM’s rising stars for their perspective on an industry hot topic.)

Don’t run before you can walk, advises Neo Media World’s Jon Windred. It’s critical to master the foundations of digital when you start out in media agencies.

Joining the digital media industry is both equally exciting as well as overwhelmingly intimidating. On one hand, I was exposed to some of the smartest people I’d ever met and work with some of the most advanced technology available. On the other hand, it was unnerving to attempt to understand cross-channel assisted floodlight conversions and their attribution modelling tools available (can someone please help me out with that?). 

But now three years into my career, and mentoring the newest crop of inductees into digital media has helped me to realise that everyone asks the same question - where’s the best place to start?

We want to run before we can walk, and progress quickly to the next big thing, but I really cannot express how important it is to understand and appreciate the foundations of digital marketing. 

Opportunities to learn, discover, and refine knowledge about our industry are abundant. Some of the examples of the sources available include MFA certifications, Google Skillshop, Facebook Blueprint, Amazon online learning modules, and countless more. Every agency also has its own learning agenda for its people to tap into.

Each of these provide content introducing what we can achieve through digital media, the tools and solutions at hand to reach our goals, and how we can analyse our results to reproduce or improve that performance again in the future. A genuine understanding of metrics and measurement are crucial as they are applicable to all mediums to evaluate marketing success. The courses provide clarity through examples and are flexible through their on-demand structure so you can complete them at your own pace. 

There’s a strong desire from eager new recruits and recent grads to jump ahead, and whilst one of the most effective ways of learning something is by doing it, rushing into implementation may be restrictive to your development. Yes, it will accelerate your learning and create some muscle memory of what needs to be done, however that may lead to an uninformed viewpoint on what can offered. I learnt this quickly when my team proposed a full-funnel recommendation featuring objectives, formats and targeting I didn’t know were possible. This made me realise there is such depth to the available pieces of technology that requires expertise to know the correct configuration to get the best out of our client’s investment. 

Developing a broad base of knowledge of each platform’s purpose creates a more nuanced understanding of what they can help you achieve. You’re then able to become a well-rounded expert and leader who can pinpoint what is the right choice to make to solve a specific business problem. This results in your relationship with your team and clients becoming that much stronger as you are the trusted source of guidance. This also means that you can break down complex topics and are to explain them using simplified language which is a crucial skill to articulate your point to stakeholders & gain their support.

When you first graduate there can be an ego that comes with youthful enthusiasm. And a tendency to think that you’ve finished the education part – but really, it’s just the beginning. It’s a mistake to leap ahead without nailing those foundations. Ask any of my managers who will tell you that I was rash in thinking I knew everything from completing my university degrees. The technical, commercial, and interpersonal skills developed from my team have been as enriching as any other education I’ve received.

Not only is this foundation great for client work, but it’s also integral for your own career development. Having a wide-ranging knowledge allows you to find where your passion lies. From here, you can expand your skills into a nuanced field where you can become a genuine thought leader for the industry.

Whilst this is of the most critical note to entry-level individuals, it’s something that shouldn’t be ignored for marketers of any experience. Revisiting the basics gives a fresh perspective on what can be produced, especially in the case of tech publishers which consistently change their platforms through new features. Developing a habit of curiosity through continuous learning leads to a deeper mastery of the subject which improves aspects of your life and career too. Michael Jordan would practice bounce passes at every training session; Denzel Washington still takes acting classes. There is always more to learn.

So many leaders have told me that “Your career is a marathon, not a sprint”, “You need to walk before you can run”, “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” But I must admit – it took a little time for me to believe it and understand. But it’s true. Investing in yourself from the start is such an important factor towards long-term growth and becoming the best version of you that you can. Time to go back to basics.

Jon Windred is a Performance Manager at Neo Media World, part of Mindshare and a member of GroupM’s Young Leaders Committee nCo.

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