Media ad teams need to be consultative, differentiated, trustworthy

By Mark Challinor


London, United Kingdom


I recently returned from New York, the location for the 2023 INMA World Congress of News Media in New York, where I ran a Digital Advertising Workshop for delegates featuring a range of speakers from media companies in Canada, USA, Brazil, Ireland, and, of course, myself from the UK.

Today, I want to showcase to you some of the main highlights that came out of what turned out to be an excellent workshop, appreciated by the many who turned up for it in a packed-out ballroom in Manhattan. The focus of the workshop was placing our bets and these topics rose to the top.


For publishers, now is the time to understand and focus on who their best customers are and produce the time and resource on the rest. Maybe, for example, self-serve is the answer for those smaller accounts or maybe for the good of the industry from a collaboration point of view?

Cross-channel partnerships naturally take longer to build, are resource and time intensive, and use different skills. More solutions-based sales teams need client and agency relationships — from planning managers to trading directors — to deal with many people in the chain for the bigger deals.

Sales team skills/roles

Technical competency on details, at a transactional level, across different platforms is also needed. Campaigns across multiple channels with different creative, objectives, and performance metrics are more complex and rely on clients also having the same operational infrastructure and understanding, maybe with our guidance? What, for instance, will be the impact of AI in our ad business?

Mark Challinor with Lauren Amato, vice president/digital sales strategy at The Philadelphia Inquirer, at the World Congress Digital Advertising Workshop.
Mark Challinor with Lauren Amato, vice president/digital sales strategy at The Philadelphia Inquirer, at the World Congress Digital Advertising Workshop.

Tightening up those sales roles to really develop those valued relationships on a different level is going to be important. How sales teams are going to be shaped as a consequence will change. Can we show we are creative, trustworthy, adaptable, present ... and have the pulse of the targeted audience?

Most publishers won’t have 100% of staff in the office ever again, for instance — nor perhaps our clients. Are we dealing with the pros and cons and impact of that?


Are you differentiating your brand, your service, your offerings from your competitors enough? Those media companies that have a true focus on trying to solve clients’ challenges will be able to proactively approach those clients with unique solutions for unique times.

Taking back control

We need to take back control of our future, where no one can change our business overnight in an algorithm amendment. And one of the solutions is contextual advertising — targeted advertising where site content and keywords are analysed in real time to determine their suitability for a brand’s message. Contextual targeting does not use search or browsing history or cookies, therefore, respecting privacy.

Trust and better user experiences

As digital advertising continues to battle with still negative consumer perceptions, the onus is on advertisers to find ways in which they can recover trust. They need to serve engaging ads that fit seamlessly into publisher pages, enhancing the user experience. The industry is indeed adapting. While contextual targeting has become one reliable alternative to cookies, marketers have seen a number of other new solutions enter the fray over the past few years.

First-party data

Many brands are turning to consent-based, zero, or first-party data collection. Consumers may sign up for say, a newsletter, and share their personal information, such as names and e-mail addresses (the first-party bit) or marketing preferences (the zero party bit). This then allows brands to better target individual prospects or existing customers to convert or retain them. 

The fallout from the death of the coming cookie scenario creates an interesting outlook for the next few years. A number of brands and advertisers will be forced to rethink their strategies. A wide range of new solutions will be tried and tested, and there will certainly be winners and losers.

However, no one will win more than the consumer as advertisers place a higher focus on the user experience in an attempt to deliver better results without the use of cookies — with more creativity, more insights, more tech focus, more thinking out of their advertiser comfort zones. That’s where we can help them. We need to be more consultative in our approach. 

The industry and consumers will see a human-first, research-led data experience, and brands will need to develop trust with an increasingly skeptical consumer society. Those that build a strong bond through accurate targeting and greater customer engagement will come out on top during this transition period.

The sooner businesses look toward the future, the quicker they’ll be seen by the right people at the right time, reaping the benefits across the board.

Getting closer

Deeper relationships with key partners is critically important for media businesses, especially now. We should be trying to extract, manipulate, and exploit first-party data for impactful insights for clients as much as we can. 

Mark Challinor with Eimear Moran, media solutions director at The Irish Times.
Mark Challinor with Eimear Moran, media solutions director at The Irish Times.

You know, at the INMA Media Innovations Week in Copenhagen last September, I presented on how important it was to link subscription data with adverting data in one big data lake. So many publishers contacted me afterwards and said they collected lots of data already but didn’t do anything with it. And they felt, hearing that presentation, they would now go back to their offices and do something about it. I hope you are already acting on all that. Just saying … 

So, as we journey further into 2023, I think we can expect more industry collaboration, more efficiencies as a result, more smart targeting of audiences as we seek to provide a more personalised service to our advertisers and more focus on creativity as a result.

Joint projects for the good of the industry

Maybe with joint and competitive media house projects like we see in places like Germany, Switzerland, the UK, Norway, and others — where resources are being combined for synergistic efficiencies and purposes — we are perhaps finally realising that we are all in this current economic situation together? Maybe it took the triple nightmare of a pandemic, a cost-of-living crisis, and even a war in the Ukraine for us all to knock our heads together and realise this? 

Just make sure every digital ad campaign you create for your advertisers or adapt on their behalf in 2023 feels authentic, engaging, and as relatable as possible to the targeted audience. 

And our New York workshop showcased many of the above issues and opportunities — all which allow for an efficient and modern media company to “get closer” and provide new ways to show us our advertising future, all with a bedrock of data, insights, and revenue diversification.They can all equip us well on where to place our future bets. 

So, here were the overall takeaways which stood out from our range of speakers:

  • Future bets: We need to beseen as trustworthy, adaptable, experts, consultative, differentiated (deeper relationships). 
  • Reality: We need to prove our credibility and influentiality to decision makers, giving us a high-value perception. 
  • Data: The cookie-less future still approaches. Have an integrated sales strategy allowing for this. Share the insights (our USPs). 
  • Technology: We are in an age of collaboration (both internally and externally). It brings new solutions, new insights. Do we have a first-class tech stack to deliver this? 
  • Creativity: We (and our clients) need to think differently, use storytelling techniques, use graphics, find different channels/approaches (e.g. branded content), show understanding, authenticity, provide measurement, and begin to loom at what AI can offer.
  • Empathy: Invest in people, get the right talent, train them well, make them a catalyst for change, create a work environment where people want to work in. It’s good for your company (and the soul!).
  • Sustainability (something I covered in the last Advertising Initiative newsletter so please refer to that for insights): Is it on your radar? Are you commercialising it responsibly, whilst being true to values?

If you’d like to subscribe to my bi-weekly newsletter, INMA members can do so here.

About Mark Challinor

By continuing to browse or by clicking “ACCEPT,” you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance your site experience. To learn more about how we use cookies, please see our privacy policy.