While the pandemic and looming global recession have created unpredictability in the advertising market, these events are also impacting the ad departments themselves as news media companies reimagine what a team needs to thrive in the constantly evolving landscape.
Media leaders discussed how they are building team knowledge and competencies, restructuring and compensating advertising teams at The Future of Advertising Sales Teams INMA master class series.
Developing knowledge foundation
Sometimes it’s OK to get in each other’s business. In fact, one man in the media industry believes it’s essential.
Thomas Lue Lytzen, director of ad sales and technology at Ekstra Bladet in Denmark, said that to keep and grow advertisers, you can’t have a hierarchy. Everyone has to be educated in the facets of that side of the business.
An efficient team develops employees who can sub in for various roles as backups. It also creates greater understanding of the products they are selling, Lytzen said: “We cannot be siloed. We make sure information goes around the organisation.”
And if the entirety of Ekstra Bladet’s sales team knows what’s going on, that can only better serve its advertisers, who will continue their relationship with the media group.
“We are everyone more or less in the same room,” he said. “If a salesperson has a problem with a campaign not working, he only needs to walk five or 10 steps to the adaptive tech team. Everyone listens and takes part in how you would design the product offerings.
“The people responsible for the product, they have an obligation to always include other team members from the sales side, the documentation side, the order management side, so we don’t design products that we cannot deliver or cannot document or cannot sell.”
Filling competency gaps
After watching their ad revenue decline year after year, NTM Media in Sweden decided to stop the trend and start fighting back. About a year ago, the company decided to start reimagining its business. Key to this strategy: ensuring every department was filled with the right faces.
Annie Lidjesjo, head of operations and people, started to see the decline turn around as soon as the company began the transition.
“[We can do this] because we have the right people on the boat right now,” Lidjesjo said. “We have the right competence and the right team that all wants to change this.”
All 150 people who work at NTM understand and work in the ad business area, no matter their title. NTM has also put a lot of money in education for both sales reps and sales managers.
To succeed, employees have to be engaged, and there’s a need to develop them. Above all, the mantra that drives NTM Media is: “The will to grow digital must be greater than the fear of losing print.”
Restructuring and resizing teams
Dutch publisher Mediahuis recently restructured its ad sales team to shift from a print focus to a more digital one, and in the process reduced the size of the team to make it more efficient in a post-pandemic environment.
Boaz Shkolnik, director of advertising, said in addition to incorporating lessons from a previous restructuring effort into account, it also involved adjusting to pandemic work styles. The staff was all in lockdown and budget ambitions also hadn’t been met.
Shkulnik believed they could do almost exactly the same work with half of the people. Management decided to downsize from more than 80 people to only 30. They reorganised 13 sales teams into just three by combining them based on client spending.
The ad sales team is now more efficient, has higher margins and more revenue with less than half the people. Though it did involve deep cuts to the staff, the remaining workforce is happier and works better as a team with less internal competition.
Account managers are becoming more important than ever as advertisers look for more data to support their return on investment. Keeping the people in those roles happy and supported will be key to having a strong future, Quang Do, principal at U.S.-based management consultancy firm Alexander Group, said.
Salaries for account managers have increased about 20% this year, Do said. Another big change is that executives are now saying they want their sales teams to be happy.
“In 11 years, I’ve never heard that before,” Do said, pointing out that previously they would be much more likely to say they wanted their teams to be more productive.
All of this goes back to the overall job climate in which companies saw a lot of turnover during the pandemic. A high number of people looking for new jobs during the pandemic looked outside of their own company, a sign the market is not promoting internal mobility.
Companies will need to rethink career management, Do said. Incentives, job roles, and team structures will all be on the table. Compensation is still important, of course.
Sales people tend to be ROI-based and want to feel like their efforts are worth it. Compensation should be team-based, too, Do said: “When you think about it, during the Super Bowl, when your team wins, everybody gets a ring.”