Few marketing communications disciplines have undergone as dramatic a transformation over the last 10 years as paid media. A decade ago, the most dominant form of media was linear television, with brands and agencies alike focused on advertising on cable and local television. Now, much of the content we consume is distributed via programmatic media and over-the-top (OTT) media services. Not only have the types of media changed dramatically, so have the technology and regulations. According to the latest Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic, 7,040 different technology solutions are available now for brands and agencies to buy. Ten years ago, we could never have imagined a world governed by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which are fundamentally changing the way paid media is executed.

With great change, though, comes great opportunity. Paid media has never been riper for disruption. Increasingly, the conversation is shifting from “how much do we spend with the major networks in a given year” to “how do we leverage data and technology to reach our key audiences and deliver value back to the business?” This conversation shift is why W2O has rooted our paid media capabilities in being transparent, results-oriented, channel agnostic, global and agile so we can respond to changing market dynamics. These are all differentiators that clients want from a paid media agency partner.

The new conversation advertisers are having about paid media requires a different type of leader – one who understands the old model and how it’s broken and can adapt to the changing environment. At W2O, that leader is Jake Vander Linden, who recently joined the firm after spending the last 20 years at various media agencies. He brings a fresh perspective to building the right paid media activation model for W2O’s clients. We asked him to share his perspective.

Tell us about your background in paid media.  

I have an atypical background for W2O, which is great because this is a place that welcomes different backgrounds. I’ve spent most of my career at big holding company media agencies supporting clients in the consumer-packaged goods, automotive, travel and luxury, and beer and spirits industries.

I spent nearly eight years working in Asia – in the Philippines, China and Singapore – and then in Berlin before returning to New York about five years ago. I have provided communications planning as well as strategy and agency and account leadership. In everything I’ve done, I’ve enjoyed building things, whether opening a new office or building a team for a new client win. I love pitching new business and have been part of some remarkable new client opportunities.

I most enjoy, and have been most successful at, stitching together various capabilities or parts of an organization to make the product bigger than the sum of its parts – such as analytics and media or content partnerships.

What trends in paid media activation should W2O’s clients be paying attention to?

One of the biggest trends – and this is by no means a “new” trend – is personalization at scale. As an industry, we’ve been building the infrastructure to handle identifying and messaging to the right consumer, at the right time, and in the right way for a while now but it’s not really been applied as a lead strategy. Rather, it’s been a nice element below traditional media like TV. And that’s been easy to defend – most measurement tools, especially for CPG – are biased toward big, blunt force instruments like television.

At W2O, we have a unique opportunity for our clients to build a very addressable and response-oriented paid media system on top of our robust analytics framework. This type of innovation  can have a sizable impact on a communications plan.

Additionally, we have lived in an epoch of continuous fragmentation for years, and there are many incidental trends that create new opportunities to connect with audiences and build relevance – from podcasting to voice search and sonic marketing to technologies in digital health.

Increasingly, paid media is serving as a silo buster. Communicators and marketers alike are buying different forms of media. How do you see paid media serving as an integral part of the overall paid, earned, shared and owned media ecosystem?

Paid media can’t exist only to amplify content. It’s often one of the larger line items in a marketing budget and creates the biggest opportunities for an audience to see a brand or message. Specialization is important, but the reality is that audiences don’t consider silos when they are experiencing a brand or product or service.

I think it is particularly attenuated in healthcare. The information we deploy has much more gravity to peoples’ lives as it is used to inform important decisions so it’s imperative that we are linked up and consistent.

At W2O, paid and earned/social integrate closely, and we make sure our processes, briefing documents and reporting are consistent. I think we’ll see more patient-centricity even if our audience is a healthcare provider, and a deeper strategic understanding of the audience journey in communications as a way to prioritize and build plans across paid, owned, earned and shared media.

Paid media activation has become a very tech/data driven discipline. What is the interplay between technology and data, and the need to balance the opportunity to creatively explore reaching our core audiences?

There are a couple different ways to think about the tension between creativity and technology. Many articles have been published in the trade press about how we’ve lost our way as an industry by prioritizing creating versions of banners rather than focusing on creativity. From my experience, the demise of the Big Idea has been greatly exaggerated. I can’t think of a recent experience that didn’t prioritize content over distribution. And that’s fine as long as the idea is media agnostic and we have the flexibility to execute in a way that reflects what we know about the audience.

To reiterate what I said before about the audience journey, for many of our clients, we need to understand the practical nature of how audiences are making decisions and what content our PESO plans need to deliver. A lot of what we do begins with search, but we also need to make sure insights from our data analysis inform the creative idea upfront, so the creative outputs are that much richer.

What similarities and differences have you seen in paid media activation between the U.S. and other markets? 

The biggest difference is the speed of innovation. The U.S. is a very cautious market whereas many ex-U.S. markets, particularly in Southeast Asia, are very quick to identify opportunities to test and scale. Some of it is cultural, but it’s important to remember that the size of the U.S. means that mistakes can be very costly.

Overall, all media are local. Local customs, insights and language skills must be prioritized and leveraged. Relationships are fundamentally important when activating anywhere.

What’s a fun fact about you that you’d like people to know?

I’m an identical twin.


If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About and Analytics pages.

Want to chat? Drop us a line.