Our Flavor Graveyard.

I just finished speaking to a cavernous room filled with ad operations executives, technology and platform companies and assorted others at the Yield Executive Summit. Naturally the keynote focused on sales, language, death and ice cream.

When you visit the Ben & Jerry's factory up near my home in Vermont, you'll likely take the tour, snap some pictures, and marvel at the real live cows inside the factory gates. You may or may not notice the flavor graveyard. You see, the people who gave us perennials like Cherry Garcia, Chunky Monkey and Phish Food not only recognize that many flavors fail, they actually celebrate it. On a gently sloping hill, encircled by a white picket fence are a collection of lovingly tended headstones acknowledging discontinued flavors like White Russian, Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz and O Pear.

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My point in sharing this little slice of Americana with the tech crowd? In their conversations with digital sales leaders, tech vendors and other experts have consistently piled more and more new flavors into the freezer: last week optimization was the thing....then RTB alignment with Demand Side Platforms...today viewability...and on and on. To the sales leader - who deals with a complex set of shifting demands that span revenue, customization, personnel, channel conflict - it can all seem disingenuous and confused: the ad-tech industrial complex lurching from one manufactured crisis to another. It's all real, of course, just badly communicated by the tech and ops experts.

My advice to the group - which I've covered in this space before - was to get closer to the real life of the seller, drop the meaningless descriptors (Robust and Best-of-Breed come to mind), and stop treating every new temporary flavor like a staple in the publisher's diet. Instead, build your media sales relationship, your marketing materials and the focus of your sales calls (or interdepartmental meetings) around the Three C's:

  • Clarity: You see data as a huge resource. The media sales leader sees it as a confusing business problem. Start speaking to meaning and insights.
  • Certainty: We all realize that we're navigating uncertainty and that nobody can guarantee outcomes. But you can give me certainty about how your well-built and managed organization will respond when issues arise or change disrupts. I don't care how smart your team is; smart is cheap in our business. I want to know how committed and "on it" they are.
  • Control: Help the sales leader reestablish control over her total sales environment, not just over per-ad or remnant yield figures.

These are the perennials; the foundational principles on which great digital media businesses are being built. And they should be the core of what operations, technology and sales talk about.