Defining Leadership in Today’s Fast-Moving Digital Media Age

Defining Leadership in Today’s Fast-Moving Digital Media Age 1

The digital media and advertising industry of today commands a new style of leadership. Regardless of your product or service, you’re likely facing new terrain in terms of communication, workstyles, and available technologies. Think of how different everything was just 10 years ago when the iPhone was brand new technology. Today? Mobile is ubiquitous—more prevalent than desktop technology, and offers more tools for geographical and behavioral targeting.

Established and emerging media and marketing executives are steering their organizations through some big changes – from programmatic and analytics to viewability and fraud. The digital age is creating a “ripple effect,” according to a recent article on leadership from UPenn Wharton.

“Along with the new sources of value, customers (sic) and employees’ wants and needs have evolved as digital technologies have created new ways of interacting with businesses,” writes Barry Libert, CEO of digital strategy consulting firm OpenMatters and senior fellow at Wharton’s SEI Center for Advanced Studies in Management. “Attracting, satisfying and retaining these connected and savvy stakeholders requires leaders to learn some new tricks.”

In support of the IAB Digital Leadership Program February 2016 Semester, IAB asked three digital media professionals to share their best tips for leadership in today’s fast-moving (and sometimes confusing) digital age. Here’s what they shared:

1. Get comfortable with ambiguity

Tip inspired by: Keith A. Grossman, Head of Sales, Americas, at Bloomberg Media

Grossman has observed that the biggest opportunity in digital media is the space’s biggest challenge: the path to success for today may be different tomorrow. And at the rate that technology is changing, it’s impossible to predict the exact steps to take.

“The opportunities for those who can take advantage of this evolving marketplace are amazing,” says Grossman, also an instructor for and board member of the IAB Leadership Program.

But few leaders are positioned to succeed.

“The types of individuals that will be able to succeed in today’s marketplace are those that can recognize marketplace trends and identify solutions enabling their brands to monetize them, be willing to evolve the way in which their own organizations operate, and essentially lead their teams forward from a ‘blank page.’” says Grossman.

The bottom line: leaders need to guide their organizations across an ambiguous and ever-changing canvas.

2. Recognize that the best solutions still need to be built

Tip inspired by: Thomas Troyano, Director of Client Services at Fuisz Media

Troyano makes a poignant observation about the digital media landscape: as new and innovative as it is, it’s also flooded with many different players who are chasing the same goals and customer bases.

“To me, the biggest challenges and opportunities involve being different from the rest in a cluttered space,” says Troyano, who recently completed the IAB Leadership Program.

Complicating things even further? Sometimes, the technology that digital media leaders want doesn’t exist. And today’s tools, in some cases, just don’t cut it.

Leaders need to be prepared to build the tools that they want to see. A cross-functional perspective will be imperative along the way.

“Leaders who understand the complex ecosystem that is digital media are in highest demand,” says Troyano. “There are a lot of components involved with building an effective product, and those professionals who have a full vantage point will rise to the top. Additionally, these leaders must be good at listening and prioritizing. Your coworkers and teammates need to feel comfortable speaking their minds.”

3. Create cultures that keep up

Tip inspired by: Eric Greenberg, Head of IAB Leadership Programs

As media and marketing companies get bigger and more established, their processes and business models will often become archaic and less flexible. In digital media especially, organizations need to create processes and workflows that can keep up with industry changes. Your culture needs to evolve too, and as a leader, it’s your responsibility to make these shifts happen.

“The biggest challenge is often digital transformation. Most large established media companies have existing processes and strategies in place that are based upon old business models that are no longer relevant, or insufficient to compete in today’s digital ecosystem,” says Greenberg, who has built his career developing executive education programs.

“From business strategy to measurement tools, these organizations need to acquire a new mindset and more importantly a new culture to stay ahead of the competitors. Those firms that recognize this paradigm shift and invest in new organizational structures and professional development of existing employees can often create entirely new streams of revenue.”

The leaders who succeed most in today’s marketplace are those individuals who can recognize marketplace trends and build key monetization links.

Hone Your Executive Skillset

Leadership in digital doesn’t just ‘emerge’— it takes careful cultivation, nurturing, and training. IAB created the Digital Leadership Program to help individuals and organizations foster the skills needed to become the next generation of executives.

As Grossman puts it: “The IAB Digital Leadership Program exposes its participants to the realities of this ever-changing marketplace. Only by recognizing and confronting these industry changes can the next generation of leaders begin to understand how to move forward within it.”

IAB Digital Leadership Program, Winter Semester takes place February 23-25, 2016 in NYC.
Learn more at or email [email protected].