Zenith’s Karen Finelli on Why Cross-Media Data is the Key to Selling Brand Vitality

June 4, 2018

Having recently joined AAM’s board of directors, she shares her views on the importance of independent media audits and the need for setting standards in digital advertising.

Erin Boudreau, Marketing Manager

 

Karen Finelli, senior vice president of magazine and digital activations at Zenith, has more than 30 years of experience in advertising and publishing. Having recently joined AAM’s board of directors, she shares her views on the importance of independent media audits, how agencies use cross-media data and the need for setting standards in digital advertising.

 

Karen Finelli, ZenithmediaAAM: Why is Zenith an AAM client?

Karen Finelli: As an agency, we are responsible for safeguarding our clients’ media spend. A big part of that is the ability to prove the validity of our partnerships. AAM has always been a leader in this validation space from a publishing perspective and in recent years has moved more aggressively into the digital realm. We must provide our client partners with valid sources of advertising so that they know that what they're paying for has value. I believe third-party accreditation and auditing is key to the media-buying process.

 

AAM: Why did you join the AAM board?

Karen Finelli: I've been on the Magazine Buyer Advisory Committee for several years and I liked the opportunity to learn more about and to help steer the endeavors of this trusted business. I have a publishing background, so AAM has been a trusted partner of mine for many years. As AAM continues to evolve its digital auditing focus, I believe I can lend insights into this process given the concurrent evolution of my role into a digital-first, cross-media investment leader.

 

AAM: How does having access to a publisher’s cross-media data—such as via AAM's Brand View or the MPA's MM360 report—help agencies evaluate brands?

Karen Finelli: This report provides agencies with audience vitality data to identify growth and challenges for our key publishing partners—giving buyers another tool to determine how best to activate with these brands across platforms. The challenge with the data is that it is often quoted in its entirety, with no delineation of audience gains or losses. It is our responsibility as buyers to interpret this data and share it transparently with our clients so that all decisions are properly informed.

 

Ad fraud is the 800-pound gorilla in the room that everyone knows about, but no one can prevent. The best we can do is to identify fraud, avoid it and block it.

Karen Finelli, Zenith

 

AAM: How important is it for a publisher to have third-party audits?

Karen Finelli: Third party audits are essential. Given the heightened awareness on ad fraud and brand safety, it is more important than ever to ensure that our clients are getting what they paid for. Auditing has been an inherent part of print planning for the duration of my career. As more money is spent on the less regulated digital platforms and more exposure is given to the challenges with fraud, bots, viewability and data safety, the need for assurance through third-party audits is greater than ever.

 

AAM: Do you think there still needs to be more education about ad fraud?

Karen Finelli: There's room for more education at all levels. Ad fraud is the 800-pound gorilla in the room that everyone knows about, but no one can prevent. The best we can do is to identify fraud, avoid it and block it. Again, since it is not a regulated environment, it is ripe for continued challenges. Vigilance is key for advertisers to ensure that we are eliminating as much fraud and non-human traffic as possible given the tools at our disposal.

 

AAM: What excites you about the industry?

Karen Finelli: There is still love for legacy print vehicles—which excites me—since the media has been exaggerating the death of this medium for some time. Even historical digital properties see the value of the printed vehicle, as many have successfully moved into that space. What's interesting to me about the marketplace right now is the settling of digital as the medium becomes more measurable. People are demanding audits, and I think that leads to greater accountability and a better ad product. That excites me because I like rules and structure. Digital will eventually be held to the same level of principles as traditional media whose standards have evolved over the past number of decades.

 

Get to Know Karen:

 

Earlier riser or night owl?

I'm an early riser, but on weekends I choose to stay up late. So I guess I'm both. I don't sleep a lot.

 

Favorite book/movie/TV show?

I am a reality TV junkie. I really love watching American Idol. I love watching people fulfill their dreams. Favorite book? Memoirs of a Geisha or the Five People You Meet in Heaven, which is really an awesome, feel-good read.

 

I would be lost without my…

Phone. It’s what keeps me connected.

 

My favorite travel destination is…

The mountains of Vermont.

 

A must have/must do part of my morning routine is…

My workout class. That’s a must have, followed by coffee.

 

If I could have one superpower, it would be…

Invisibility. For many, many reasons.

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