Emmis Communications Corporation has a long history of innovation and business building with the successful ownership and operation of diversified assets, including large- and small-scale media operations in radio, television and publishing.
When Bob Parrish became general sales manager for Emmis Communications’ Terre Haute, Indiana, market in 2014, he knew that their approach to digital advertising sales needed to evolve to capture more of the digital ad space and revenue. The team was successfully selling owned and operated (O&O) ads but wanted to expand into third-party digital advertising. However, with a rudimentary digital advertising platform, they struggled to scale their digital sales strategy.
“We needed to enable our salespeople to fly on their own, not manage every single campaign through one person,” shared Parrish, now director of business development at Emmis Marketing. “That meant upgrading our technology to gain access to The Trade Desk, as well as improving our reporting capabilities, so we could more effectively communicate with our advertisers.”
The Emmis team needed a digital advertising platform with cutting-edge ad tech, powerful reporting and support, customizable proposals and an easy-to-use interface for their account executives. After reviewing multiple options, they chose Pitch from Marketron in 2018.
To launch the platform, Marketron supported Parrish and his team on a four-week market tour, running two- to three-day training sessions with the account executives in each market. The regional leadership teams were heavily invested in the training, an element that Parrish attributes to the successful adoption of the platform. Emmis-internal and Marketron-sponsored incentive programs, weekly training sessions with the Marketron team and high expectations from the general manager to the director of sales all contributed to almost immediate time-to-value.
“The Marketron team spent every Monday and Friday for 13 months with us,” Parrish said. “They scheduled trainings with topics in line with the incentives, and as time went on, they trained the trainers, so we could continue that level of education. Their support was incredibly helpful and made all of our sellers successful.”
The Emmis team’s commitment to training paid off.
“We felt the difference right away,” Parrish said. “Clients were incredibly impressed with the platform, which gave the AEs more confidence. They knew how to run it and knew it was a reputable product, which led to more activity and more revenue.”
The Pitch platform enabled Emmis to significantly expand and scale their digital advertising sales. Before Emmis began using Pitch, social media was the top revenue generator. By 2020, less than two years after implementing the platform, Pitch accounted for about 22% of the company’s total digital revenue and 60% of paid/non-O&O revenue.
The platform’s reporting capabilities have resonated strongly with Emmis’s advertisers. The transparent site list, web crawler and screenshot tools help clients see and understand what they are buying, creating proof of performance without the need for time-consuming mockups.
“Pitch allows us to show actual screenshots, demonstrate where the ads ran and why we approached the campaign that way,” Parrish explained. “We can prove the direct correlation between the advertiser’s investment and the campaign’s performance.”
Pitch also enables better decision making through powerful reach and frequency metrics. Parrish considers Pitch’s strong analytics to be one of the platform’s most impactful capabilities.
“Before Pitch, we were just guessing how many impressions to buy, going off our gut or historical data,” Parrish recalled. “Now we can use census data in the proposal builder to apply frequency metrics and build credibility with the client. It has opened up far bigger opportunities because we have hard numbers to stand behind and can show them what it will take to be successful.”
The proposal builder influences Emmis’s revenue in other ways, as well. It makes it easy to put in standardized margins and to set rates in place that guarantee, in Parrish’s words, “That we aren’t just breaking even — we are gaining bottom-line revenue.” As a result, Emmis can accurately control their margins, predict their revenue and adjust as the market allows.
Additionally, the proposal builder allows the Emmis team to customize their proposals to the brand standards of the radio stations they represent in each market. Matching each station’s look and feel further supports the company’s sales reps by personalizing each proposal to better connect with local advertisers.
What’s next for Emmis and Pitch?
“Businesses are realizing how meaningful the digital space is, that this is where their customers are,” Parrish concluded, “and we’re here to support that. Pitch makes them see how easy it can be. We hope to grow that trust into even more sophisticated conversion campaigns and see how we can continue to deliver a positive return for everyone.”
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3 Key Takeaways from Emmis Communications
- Comprehensive, continuous training for sales reps is essential to success.
- Top-down buy-in and support play a critical role in meeting long-term revenue goals.
- The right digital advertising platform turns a guessing game into a science, ensuring that campaigns reach their full potential and that advertisers continue to invest.
“We can prove the direct correlation between the advertiser’s investment and the campaign’s performance.”
– Bob Parrish, Director of Business Development, Emmis Marketing