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Measuring today’s media use presents ‘major opportunity,’ says panel

The day Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the East coast, a storm of another kind gathered along Northwestern’s shores: a storm of ideas. On Oct. 29, the School of Communication’s Office of External Programs, Internships, and Career Services (EPICS) hosted a panel on marketing and analytics in the digital media world. A quartet of accomplished experts in the field weighed in. They were:

Gian Fulgoni, executive chairman and co-founder of comScore, Inc, an internet technology company that provides data and software services to 2,000 clients worldwide

Jon Sayer, vice president of Comcast Media 360, a new business division within Comcast focused on helping marketers take advantage of rapidly developing cross-platform advertising opportunities

Kate Sirkin, executive vice president and global research director for the Starcom MediaVest Group, a brand communications and consumer contact organization whose clients include GM, Kraft Foods, and Procter & Gamble

Jon Suarez-Davis (SCS97), vice president of global digital strategy and North American media at the Kellogg Company, one of the nation’s leading food producers that Forbes recently named one of the world’s most reputable companies

The panel was the brainchild of Pierre Bouvard (C83), senior vice president of media sales at TRA, Inc., who was scheduled to moderate until weather conditions forced him to return home to New York. He was ably replaced by James Webster, professor of media, technology, and society in the School of Communication’s Department of Communication Studies, who mentioned, at the panel’s start, that “digital technologies have reshaped the media environment in the last decade,” presenting a whole new landscape to those who work in the field, as well as untold opportunities for those hoping to enter it.

The biggest challenge facing the industry today, said Fulgoni, is learning how to measure the media consumption habits of millions of people across multiple platforms (TV, smart phones, tablets, the fixed Internet, etc.). “Nielsen has built a magnificent business in television by using 26,000 people for measuring TV,” he said, but it’s a whole different story today.

“You’ve got to throw away the traditional ideas” of media measurement, he said,  “and come up with breakthrough methodologies. It’s a major opportunity. Whoever figures it out first is going to be very, very successful, but it’s not easy to do.”

Suarez-Davis counseled those in the audience who were looking for jobs to understand their core strengths. “We’ve seen some mistakes of enthusiasm by people who think they have skill sets in certain areas that they do not,” he said. “At this level, you need to understand what your core capabilities are, and then bring your humility and brains to the table to help draw other smart people around you. I would say that’s more important than ever.”

Sayer advised students to make the most of their internal networks. “Go after the right people,” he said. “Search out the right companies. Fish where the fish are.”

“For me, experience is the key,” Sirkin said. “Find a way to do an internship, or get some pro bono experience with a company.”

Suarez-Davis said the future looked bright for new job seekers. “I believe that now, probably more than at any other time, you have the ability to wow us,” he said. “You have all the information you need to tell the story. Whether you’re interested in marketing or media or analytics, you have the ability to articulate that now, with all the information that’s at your fingertips.”