Disintermediation is a word that companies in the digital media world have used for a decade now, much to the curiosity, if not the chagrin, of branded publishers. But while this has been discussed as a pipe dream for years, the millions of dollars of venture capital that have entered interactive, combined with meaningful technology development in behavioral marketing, have made true audience targeting a reality.

Spurred in part by the hundreds of millions of dollars spent to acquire companies like Tacoda and Blue Lithium in recent years, so-called “quants” have become sexy in digital. The men and women running these companies are, more often than not, the same right-thinkers who have developed the business’s “patented” algorithms. This means they need help buying, selling, and marketing. That, combined with the sheer growth of the segment, has spurred the impressively large growth in the number of opportunities in this fast-growing segment.

 

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Multiple segments within behavioral marketing

As the digital media industry continues to morph into something closer to the digital audience discernment, identification, targeting, and measurement industry, the skill sets that previously enabled traditional media professionals to transition to interactive are not enough. Companies today are looking specifically for competent people who can think strategically and understand metrics. This is true on both the sell side and the buy side of the industry. At some point, everyone in the data business has to wear both hats, or at the very least understand the triangle of benefit for both sides in order to execute proficiently.

You know these companies from all the media coverage they’ve received. They have names like AudienceScience, TRA, Media6Degrees, Lotame, even TiVo. Each one is looking for the same kind of candidates, and while these candidates will effectively be “in” social media, they won’t be thought of as merely social media experts; to these companies, the entire web is social. That said, these candidates had better be well-versed in social as it exists today.

Candidates who are successful here will be leaders who understand not just where the segment is but where it’s going. Companies in this segment are looking for visionaries who understand how to build brand equity in social media, monetize social media, and monetize the data gleaned from social media to capture audience and create value there.

This segment is nothing short of a wild, dangerous, chaotic frontier that is rife with opportunity. If you don’t believe me, you haven’t been paying attention to all the explosions coming out of Silicon Valley as Facebook keeps stepping on mines in the privacy minefield.

Within the audience segments resides another sub segment: shopper marketing. Shopper marketing gives retailers and brands a 360-degree view of a consumer before they go to the store through online behavior, including transactions and search data. While there is not a whole lot of talent on the street in any of these categories, shopper marketing may be the single hottest segment in the industry.

 

Complex playing field

The combination of the complexity of these segments with the proliferation of so many companies has made this a really chaotic scene for candidates. Stephen-Bradford Search has been on a CEO search for a company in this space, and finding the right kind of smart candidate who knows this segment and executes is especially difficult.

While there may be a half-dozen or more viable candidates for many senior executive searches, the nature of this segment and its lack of history makes it extremely difficult to find the right candidate who is going to scrutinize the funding, work the numbers, and regard the reality of the situation for credibility — that is, can the company plan be executed? It’s that much of a frontier, which is why we’re targeting the true visionaries.

 

How do you prepare?

Somewhat ironically, there are many people looking for individual jobs in these segments, but there is a corresponding dearth of talent. We advise job seekers — especially those from within agency settings — to get smart on these segments and get their hands dirty by working directly on campaigns and with clients to understand the issues as deeply as possible. Also, it’s vital to understand the privacy issues implied within these segments, as there are so many opportunities within privacy now that it can be considered its own segment.

There are maybe 400 ad networks, and new audience measurement firms popping up every day. They run the gamut from geo-targeting to segmentation to behavioral, and there will likely be more to come. The right candidates are really in the driver’s seat, if they are willing to get in the game and understand how these technologies benefit the brands doing the spending.

 

Erika Weinstein is president of Stephen-Bradford Search.

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