Art & Commerce: Back to School

Successful media demands technology and training
The first time I saw an ATM, I was a journalism student at Syracuse University, Gerald Ford was the leader of the free world and an Apple was a fruit. I had just finished visiting a grizzled veteran of the daily newspaper, who told me in no uncertain and colorfully profane terms, he would never give up his battered Olivetti typewriter for a computer.
I walked out of the newsroom and across a sludge-filled street and saw this … thing. I knew what it was because I’d heard about ATMs, and I was entranced. The prospect of not waiting in line at a bank was, to me, the promise of technology incarnate.
Not so to my fellow Syracusans, who walked past the ATM as if it wasn’t there. They didn’t know what it was, so they ignored it.
Here, indeed, was a metaphor for a soon-to-be wired world. Those who exploit change get cash. Those who don’t have to wait in line and pray they get to the teller cage before their lunch break ends.
In just the same way, U.S. media agencies need to re-evaluate how they train their people.
The job of a media specialist is changing faster than banking did when ATMs were introduced. Part of this is driven by media executives’ insistence that their part of the communications pie is as much about ideas as statistics, flow charts and cost per thousand. But a large part of their business is being driven by technology.
There is good news here. Being the arm of advertising that arguably is most dependent on technology, media mavens recognize the need for a training overhaul. Ogilvy & Mather’s much-admired training program will change as it morphs into MindShare’s media-training program. Next week, Initiative Media executives will huddle to discuss this issue. They will discuss how and in what direction their training program should be modernized to meet today’s media realities.
So vital has this process become that Grey Global Group’s HR department has just hired a training manager whose main task will be to create a new regime for MediaCom staffers. He may be the first; he certainly won’t be the last.
The question is this: What is effective training in an area where skill sets and job descriptions change daily, if not hourly?
The shops that answer that question successfully will have money in the bank: best-of-breed staff. Those that don’t are going to be competing with a battered old typewriter in an Internet world. K