Teach-ins Offer Crash Courses in Emerging Media

Agencies Are Stepping up to Employee Education

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Depending on the day and the need, Lori Schwartz is new-media evangelist, professor and therapist. Often, the senior VP-director of emerging media at Interpublic Group's Emerging Media Lab is all three.
Lori Schwartz educates employees at Interpublic
Lori Schwartz educates employees at Interpublic

That was the case one recent Tuesday at the midtown Manhattan headquarters of Interpublic-owned media agency Initiative, where Ms. Schwartz presented two two-hour talks on consumers' emerging-media behaviors. "I know it is scary, but the door is being opened with or without you," she told each group, composed largely of media buyers. "You might as well get in."

Learning the lingo
Efforts like Ms. Schwartz's talks are increasingly common at creative and media agencies. Increased broadband penetration combined with increasingly sophisticated technological devices are changing consumers' media habits, which is forcing marketers to rethink how to reach consumers. Marketers' agency advisors must increasingly be conversant in new media.

Agencies are stepping up to this challenge of employee education. Publicis-owned Starcom's Teaching IP Some Stuff training program, launched several years ago, provides all Starcom staff with online media training. TIPSS is updated regularly.

Carat this year is enhancing aspects of its long-running training program by integrating curriculum and employees from its online-and-interactive agency, Carat Fusion. Carat Fusion Media Planner Christine Petersen is teaming with two account directors from Carat USA to develop classroom and extracurricular work that will start with classes in New York and then roll out to other Carat offices. Combining Carat with Fusion siblings reflects "how the industry is evolving," said Judy Schwartz, senior VP-director of human resources at Carat USA. "It's got everything to do with talent and our need to develop it from within."

Informal networks
Some agencies are relying on informal networks for information sharing. At BBDO, New York, Toni Racioppo, a client communications director at Omnicom Group sibling media agency OMD, who works primarily on shared client GE, sits in the creative agency's offices to work more closely with the account, planning and creative groups. Just recently, Ms. Racioppo presented overviews of new prime-time schedules to keep senior BBDO staff informed about programming opportunities.

John Osborn, CEO of BBDO, New York, in his weekly communiqués dubbed "Notes from the Dugout," often writes abut the agency's use of new technologies, particularly in recent work for GE. Ogilvy's Digital Innovation Group recently launched a website that aggregates the latest news, trends and approaches to digital for clients and the agency.

Agencies frequently rely on handpicked staff to develop training curricula. "They know enough about what entry-level people do and don't need to know," says Carat's Ms. Schwarz of the midlevel execs who update Carat's training.

Executives at most agencies today agree with Initiative Chief Activation Officer Tim Spengler when he says, "Our employees have to be amphibious, capable of surviving in both the old [world of media] and the new."
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