Moving Quickly

Josy Amann, Co-founder, Media Matters Worldwide (headquarters: San Francisco, CA)

Josy Amann is Co-founder at Media Matters Worldwide, an analytics-driven, brand-power-focused omnichannel media buying, and planning agency serving B2B and B2C clientele. In 2005, Josy and her co-founder left a large agency where they had been providing media buying and planning to start Media Matters – with no money and a two-pronged plan – to get their own clients and to freelance with other agencies. Their first client was a “gift” from their prior agency. Josy says referrals sustained the agency for the first ten years. In 2019, MMWW hired a leadership team to help scale the business, to be able to serve larger clients and to meet the variety of technological demands. Completely remote from day one, MMWW tripled its employees from 20 to 60 in two years – during Covid!

Omnichannel marketing encompasses both traditional and digital advertising. Traditional advertising includes linear (scheduled broadcast) TV and radio, outdoor displays, direct mail, and print. Digital advertising may involve:

  1. Programmatic purchasing (using automated technology to buy advertising space)
  2. OTT (over-the-top) delivery (customized, precisely targeted content on online streaming channels, CTV [cable TV], digital radio), or 
  3. The utilization of banners, videos, and social media. 

In this interview, Josy explains that digital outdoors has increased in importance because this adspace is: 

  1. More available than in the past, 
  2. More trackable, and 
  3. Can be purchased in dayparts as is done on TV . . . increasing efficiency and reducing costs by buying the time and location that reaches your target (commuting?) audience.

Josy says buying advertising to promote brand power affects strategies, the types of media purchased, “and even sometimes the audiences.” Josie finds the need to adapt to constant technological change is both a challenge . . . and exciting . . . and notes, in particular some current issues that will affect her industry. 

Internally, the MMWW media team leads the overall strategy of the business and provides thought leadership and communications planning by:

  1. Consulting with clients to define target audiences 
  2. Researching where the audience lives and how they consume media
  3. Determining what the client can afford and the most efficient way to use the client’s budget
  4. Establishing a strategic messaging framework that seamlessly aligns audiences with the messages, types of media used through the consumer journey, KPIs, and client goals
    1. Traditional media (which requires relationships with channel representatives nationwide) and 
    2. Programmatic and social media (which requires experience on all the different platforms).
  5. Purchasing a client’s strategic mix of: 
  6. Utilizing analytics and attribution reporting to ensure the interrelationships between the various media channels are supportive.

Josy can be reached on LinkedIn or on her agency’s website at: https://mediamattersww.com/.

Transcript Follows:

ROB: Welcome to the Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m your host, Rob Kischuk, and I am joined today by Josy Amann, Co-founder at Media Matters Worldwide, headquartered in San Francisco, California. Welcome to the podcast Josy.

JOSY: Hi, Rob. Thank you so much for having me.

ROB: It’s wonderful to have you here. Why don’t you kick us off by telling us about Media Matters Worldwide and what your superpowers are as a firm?

JOSY: Superpowers, I love that question. I always tell my kids, “Focus on your superpower, focus on your superpower!” [laughs] Media Matters Worldwide, we are a media buying and planning agency. We’ve been in business since 2005. We are buying omnichannel media across all different types of businesses. Half our clients are B2B, half are B2C. But we play in the media buying and planning space and the analytics. It’s kind of the dorky side of the business.

ROB: [laughs] Perhaps dorky, but very important to get right and also probably quite easy to do wrong. When you say omnichannel, right now in 2021, what channels are encompassed in “omnichannel”? What should people be thinking of?

JOSY: The landscape is shifting very quickly, but omnichannel traditionally means traditional – how you think about linear TV and radio in your car and outdoor and direct mail and print – and then everything digital under the sun. It can be programmatic media, it can be OTT or CTV or digital radio or banners or video or social media, all of that. Omnichannel is truly everywhere where you can possibly consume media, we are buying it.

ROB: I know even out of home is getting very digital these days. Is that increasingly in the mix, or is it static but different formats? How does that fit into the puzzle?

JOSY: Digital outdoors is much more in the mix because it’s (1) more available, (2) more trackable, and (3) you can serve up ads on digital the way you do on TV. So you can buy dayparts. If you just want to buy when people are going to work and coming home, you can buy that. It’s little ways, a little bit more affordable and more targetable.

ROB: That absolutely makes sense. You look at these digital billboards, and sometimes I wonder – I’ll see a local restaurant advertising that they’re hiring, and I don’t even know how the economics of that work, but I suspect maybe there’s a branding component to it as well beyond just the hiring. But it’s a little crazy to think about a little seafood restaurant running a billboard ad to hire somebody for their kitchen.

JOSY: Yeah. You asked about superpower, and brand performance I would say is our superpower. Thinking about, exactly to your point, a restaurant trying to hire someone, that’s really lower funnel type of advertising. That’s very pointed. It’s not trying to say “We’re the best restaurant in the world.” We’re trying to get someone in the door to get hired. That’s brand performance.

Brand is a whole different world of types of media you buy, the strategies behind it, even, sometimes, the audiences. So linking those two and providing analytics, providing the thought leadership and the strategy behind that – that’s our superpower.

ROB: Someone’s got to be a superpower. That sounds overwhelming. That sounds like a lot of different goals, a lot of different channels, a lot of different objectives to pull that together. How do you structure your team to be able to manage that range of channels, of thinking, of objectives, even just picking from the menu of options for a given campaign?

JOSY: That’s a good question because that has evolved so much over the last 16 years that we’ve been in business. Structure of the teams is that you have to have your media team as the overarching strategic group.

Part of that media planning team is comms planning. They are setting up that framework. They’re going to clients and saying, “Who do you think your audience is? Let’s think about it in a media buying landscape. That might look a little bit differently because we have different targeting abilities and things like that. Let’s set up that messaging framework that aligns the audience with the types of media, with the messaging, so that everything is aligned through the consumer journey.” We’re thinking about how these people are consuming media. We’re thinking about what messaging aligns with them, and that could look very different for the audience. So that comms planning team is really in charge of heading up that overall strategy.

The media department as well leads overall strategy of the business; however, underneath that you have to have people that have traditional buying experience, that have the relationships with all of the different stations in the country. You have to have programmatic media buyers and social buyers that know all of the different platforms. So it’s a really, really specialized skillset of people we had to hire along the way. Programmatic media is new to the scene – what, seven years ago now?

To keep a media buying agency in-house and really have all the chops in-house takes very specialized people to hire. But you have to have that overarching media team that brings it all together.

ROB: Talk about the relationship side a little bit, because that sounds almost counterintuitive. We’re all used to just firing up our web browser, we go over to Facebook, we push some buttons, we have a campaign that lets us do the same thing. And then you’re talking about TV, you’re talking about radio – I’m sure you’re even talking in some cases about print or detail newspaper – and needing a relationship to get that work done. What does the structure of that industry and those buys look like? It’s a different animal, for sure.

JOSY: Yeah. There’s a lot of nuances to media planning, and a lot of it has to come down to budget and audience. Doing the research, getting back to that at the beginning part comes planning. To think about where your audience is living and how they’re consuming media is Step #1. Step 2 is budget. What can you afford? You can’t run nationally TV if you don’t have budget north of $80 million. So you really have to start thinking about the most efficient way to spend your money, but also aligning with the audience’s media consumption habits. That’s the relationship that’s really the most efficient. Then when you’re talking about KPIs and goals and all of that, all of that has to align as well.

ROB: That budget part I think brings us to an interesting intersection. It sounds like a lot of moving parts. It sounds like I have to have a big budget to play in this game. Maybe it helps, just for context, for us to understand and think through a particular client or two and what an overall campaign looks like for an example client. What kind of messages do you have, where, to facilitate that overall buyer journey?

JOSY: A typical client could look like – I guess it would be pretty different for the budget ranges. We have some clients spending $10 million a year; we have some clients spending $100 million. That looks pretty different.

The $100 million might have a lot of TV that’s happening, linear TV. A lot of connected TV. A lot of video is great across all different audiences. Then you might have a layer of programmatic media, especially doing a lot of private marketplace deals or retargeting, and then 30% of the budget could be social, 20% could be search. It’s broken up to support each other.

There’s a relationship between media that supports each other, and that comes through when you’re doing analytics and attribution reporting, looking at the relationship. If you run a CTV campaign, you’d want to see your organic search and your paid search lift. Seeing that relationship between your paid channels is really, really important as well.

ROB: That definitely helps us understand how you can keep eyes on it, because there’s a lot at stake, and what a tremendous responsibility as well to be managing that sort of budget for a client.

What is interesting to pull on here – you mentioned the relationships on that traditional media side. You’ve been doing this thing for a while. Take us back a little bit in time. What led you to start Media Matters in the first place, and what does that origin story look like?

JOSY: It’s always a funny one to me a little bit because I’d just moved to San Francisco from New York. I had no idea what I was going to do. I didn’t even have an interview yet. A girlfriend of mine from college called me and she said, “I have this agency that you should go interview for. The boss is great.” I said, “Okay, let me go do that.”

Went to go interview at Lowe & Partners, big holding company, and I had no idea what I was even doing there. I thought I was getting a job in creative. I had no idea what media was. I got the job. Not sure how, but I got the job. [laughs] That was my entrance into media. From there, I worked at the big holding companies where it’s a very different life. It’s great in your twenties. You work an unbelievable amount of hours, and I learned a lot, fast.

But then I realized, “I’m 29.” I’d gotten married a few years earlier. I wanted to have children, and I couldn’t see how that was going to be possible in the big agencies. I had met my business partner; we’d worked together at an agency for four years. We had a really, really good balance of our backgrounds and also a balance of the way we think about the world. We both talked about it for years. “How are we going to start our own agency? What is that going to look like and how are we going to build an agency that we want to work at and can work at, having families and children and all of that?” That was really the biggest impetus.

ROB: Wow. What did those first few years look like? I think all statutes of limitations are over on this. Did you have some clients that were ready to follow you away from the holding company world? How did you scrap together those clients that made it make sense to make a run in those early years?

JOSY: We had a two-pronged approach. One was to get our own clients and the other was to become a kind of a super-duo of other agencies. We worked for a really large agency and did all of their media buying and planning. That was a great way to get involved and get billings up, because we came into the business with nothing. We didn’t have any money. We didn’t raise any money. We didn’t have any money from family. [laughs] We just had the shirts on our backs and that was it.

So that was one approach, and the other one was getting our own clients. Our boss that we had worked together with at that agency, Roger Becker, ended up giving us one of his clients that I had worked on. He said, “You guys are starting your own agency. Have this client. You guys would be a great fit for them.” That was really kind. Really, it was the kindness of him getting us our first client and then the freelancing option.

ROB: That’s wonderful, and I think that is one of the stories of, overall, the marketing and agency industry. There’s not a lot of room, I don’t think, for sharp elbows. It all comes back around. All the people flow through the industry and you end up being tag teams more than enemies.

One of those transitions that a lot of agencies struggle with from the early stage is getting from – a lot of agencies will come up and do those sub-deals for other people. A lot of agencies will get an occasional referral. But at some point you have to sharpen the tools and go out and hunt the elephants yourself. What did the development of that capability look like for you all?

JOSY: Definitely developed through the years. I’ll tell you, referrals have been our best friend. Very, very lucky to have wonderful people surround us, our entire experience.

Really early on, I guess I wouldn’t say it was that hard, but it was a little bit hard being a woman in business, starting your own business, back then. We were very careful early on to have our website, and we didn’t really want too many pictures of us on the website. We wanted the website to look a little masculine. Our logo looked masculine at the time. So we hid that until the last minute, till we could show off and actually go to a meeting and show them we know what we’re talking about. That was tricky at the beginning.

But then once we got clients and built those relationships and they saw, I think most of all, that we were authentic and we were not salespeople and we really cared about their business and cared about media, that took hold. So I think the referral side of the new business development is what sustained us for the first 10 years.

But after then, I think you get to a certain size and you have a lot of people on payroll. We have over 60 people. Even five years ago, we were at 20 people. You have to start thinking a little bit differently. If you want the larger clients, business development starts to look different.

ROB: Is that something you’re still largely handling? It can be one of those challenges you see sometimes; for a services organization to scale that business development away from the founders can be challenging. How have you handled either scaling yourself or getting someone else up to speed?

JOSY: We made a decision early 2019 to start hiring a leadership team. It was a huge investment in general and a big leap of faith that this type of model could work, because we were so used to being the Josy and Taji show. We did that. We hired a leadership team, and they are phenomenal. It was 100% the right thing to do, and they are responsible for the new business development.

We still show up for the pitches. We still are I guess the face of the agency, but they are the substance and what really leads all the new business development now. It’s just been a wonderful transition to have more of a team in place for that.

ROB: Some things are easy to hand off. If someone else wants to build a deck or something like that, have a nice day. Some parts of that transition, though, are a little bit harder to get your hands off. What are the pieces that were the last to leave your hands and your calendar, if you will?

JOSY: Hmm. I think it’s managing the decks, managing the flow of conversation. We were so used to being so closely tied to that; that was really hard to let go of, that control. But once we did, everything became better. [laughs] Better than it was before. I was just so thankful.

ROB: It sounds like a relief. It sounds like an opportunity. Goodness, even what you’re saying about going from 20 to 60 people requires a leadership team, but it’s even a little bit messy no matter who you’ve got on the train. How do you think about scaling the organization, scaling culture? How have you been able to triple the company without breaking everything?

JOSY: Yeah, and that tripling has happened in two years. [laughs] It’s been a wild, wild ride. I think the honest truth is always be looking at your architecture. We went from a place where our agency – and I know, Rob, you have a background in analytics – we would have a client that would have one or two analytics people on their account. They would basically do everything. They’d pull all the data, they’d help with the data viz, they’d do all of that.

Now we need three people to do that job, one, because the technical side of the business has gotten a lot more fragmented and hard to manage, but two, working on bigger clients, you have to have a different architecture to support them.

Again, I go back to our leadership team really taking a close look at their departments and how they’re set up. And we’ve had to reengineer that, sometimes in six months’ time because that growth was so fast. Having that strong structure is what I think makes you build for scale. And being flexible in that structure, because it might have to change pretty quickly.

ROB: Absolutely. That makes sense. It sounds like it’s still probably a whole lot to think about, but at least you’re able to think about that structure and not as much about the decks anymore.

JOSY: Yeah, that’s true. [laughs]

ROB: Josy, as you reflect back on the journey so far, what are some key lessons that you have learned in building Media Matters that you might tell yourself to do a little bit differently if you were starting over?

JOSY: One of the key pillars of our agency – I don’t know if it’s really a lesson, but I think it’s a lesson to other business owners and agencies – is that true transparency and honesty will keep your business alive. Over the last 16 years, there’s been a lot of ups and downs in the market, in our company, in our lives, and to weather those storms, the honesty, the transparency, but also what we were just talking about with the team structure, the flexibility and being able to adapt and evolve – and we’ve learned that in the past two years with COVID – to scale a business during COVID… [laughs] It’s like a double whammy.

I don’t know if I would’ve done anything differently, but that would be my biggest advice for people starting out. Remain flexible. Don’t be tied too closely to things, and be honest and transparent with yourself, your clients, and your employees.

ROB: Absolutely. You didn’t really harp on it too much, but the mix of media that you have been handling has changed remarkably over the life of the company. If you’re starting something early to mid-2000s and up until now, you didn’t have social media. How people even used pay-per-click was remarkably different. The quality of what you can buy and display and how you buy and display has changed dramatically. If all you were doing was calling up TV stations and newspapers today, you’d be – somewhere else, is what I’ll say. You wouldn’t have 60 people.

JOSY: Out of business. [laughs] It’s remarkable. Our industry is so cool. The second you think you have a grasp on it, the second you’re wrong. It’s about learning and moving quickly. It’s exciting.

ROB: For sure. Something I think you bring to the table that’s also interesting is a lot of us are kind of new to this working from home and building a company remote, but you have been distributed for a little while. What are some of the key tools and key cadences and ceremonies that you have found to be essential to building the kind of company you want to build, but not to meet everyone in an office?

JOSY: It was built out of stubbornness. My business partner, Taji, and I live 40 minutes from each other. I was not going to commute to Marin; she was not going to commute to the city. So it was really out of stubbornness that we were going to figure out how to work from home, and that’s how it started.

Then everyone we hired after that point wanted to work from home, loved to work from home, loved the culture of working from home. So for us to grow organically since 2005 till now as 100% remote always, and we’re hiring people across the country, we’ve always had the true culture of loving working remote. I think that’s different because a lot of people are trying to get used to working remote, or companies are struggling with hybrid. You have the “us versus them” mentality, the people in the office and the people at home and how they’re going to solve for that.

When you have a culture that’s always been remote, it’s a whole different world. I think the advent of video and Slack and all the collaboration tools have really helped that throughout the years, but also, especially pre-COVID, getting together in person and really spending the time with each other, whether it be a new business presentation or a client QBR, whatever it is. Getting together in person whenever we can, it lasts forever. It really does.

ROB: What does getting together look like for you? Has it been visiting people in different places? Has it been getting everybody together in one place? How does that work?

JOSY: It’s hard because a lot of our employees have families, so getting everyone together in the same place – we’d have to plan it years in advance. [laughs] I would love to do something like that. But it usually looks like either regional hub parties – we might have one in New York, we might have one in LA, Seattle, wherever it is – and then people will drive in for those hub parties, or it looks like “Hey, we have a client QBR or new business. Please fly in” and we all get together. It’s a little bit more fragmented instead of having a whole company thing, but it works.

ROB: It’s interesting to hear what different people are doing. Maybe the good news of where we all are is that we’re going to hear a few more people with ideas, best practices, trying things and all of that. I’ll certainly say it’s been strange adding people to our team that I’ve never met. But it keeps on happening, and you’re probably used to it.

JOSY: Yeah, we are. It is really strange, especially when you meet people in person for the first time after working with them for years and not seeing them, and then they’re taller than you thought or whatever. [laughs]

ROB: I think that popped up in my LinkedIn feed the other day, an article on “You look taller on Zoom” or something like that. We know what that’s like.

Josy, when you’re thinking about what’s next for Media Matters Worldwide and the areas of marketing that you touch, what’s coming up that you’re excited about?

JOSY: I think the whole media world is changing yet again. Deprecation of cookies, how we’re thinking about personalization with our audiences, and just even the media types in general – a new social platform will be invented in the next year or so. So really thinking about how to make authentic – and I always go back to transparency and honesty, but it’s true for brands, too – how to be truly authentic with your customers.

I think that is the biggest struggle for brands, and they’re missing the mark, some of them. But some of them are doing an amazing job, and that’s because they’re getting to the root and doing the research about their audiences and really figuring out what makes them different and what makes them excited and thrive.

To me, figuring that piece of the puzzle out, having the research tools, having the analytics that pull it all together, and the artificial intelligence that’s involved in advertising now – that to me is all really exciting.

ROB: There’s a lot going on there. How do you keep those data people and data tools together? It’s a lot to wrangle. It’s a lot to bring into one place. What’s in your toolkit?

JOSY: It is. We have an amazing analytics department, and that’s our toolkit: their knowledge, their understanding of the market. But also obviously all the technology that goes along with that. And it looks different for every client because a lot of clients come to you with their technology that you have to integrate with. There’s a lot to unpack with new client relationships and how to integrate their technology into yours, and really how to make things as seamless as possible. That’s the tricky part.

ROB: That’s right. When you’re talking about the budgets, I’m sure there’s many a data lake that you have to feed into, many an internal analytics team that you’re accountable to as well.

JOSY: Exactly right. I love that you know “data lakes.” [laughs]

ROB: [laughs] The data lake where you put the data and nothing ever comes out, maybe.

JOSY: Very murky.

ROB: Makes absolute sense. I think it’s very relevant what you said there, Josy, about that transparency. In services, we have technology, we have tools, we have things that we’re buying, but a lot of times what they’re buying is people. I congratulate you also for being able to scale having what I would perhaps strangely say is buyable people. You have people on your team that clients can buy into that are not just the founders. That’s a real challenge to get past.

JOSY: Yeah, it’s something that happens organically, and only with the vision of hindsight can you say “That was a great idea.” [laughs]

ROB: [laughs] Josy, when people want to connect with you and connect with Media Matters, where should they go to find you?

JOSY: They can find me on LinkedIn, or go to mediamattersww.com.

ROB: WW. Worldwide, right?

JOSY: Worldwide.

ROB: Excellent. Josy, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. It’s good to meet you in this remote way, like you talk to your team all the time. Someday we’ll all get out of our houses again. We’ll figure it out.

JOSY: Yeah, I’d love to meet you. Thank you so much for having me today.

ROB: Sounds good. Thank you so much, Josy. Bye.

JOSY: Have a great day. Bye.

ROB: Thank you for listening. The Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast is presented by Converge. Converge helps digital marketing agencies and brands automate their reporting so they can be more profitable, accurate, and responsive. To learn more about how Converge can automate your marketing reporting, email info@convergehq.com, or visit us on the web at convergehq.com.