Take a rare look inside General Motors Mediaworks, the media buying unit of GM.
It is preparing to work with GM's new media planning unit, Planworks, in December. And it is getting ready for the day a couple of years from now when it will buy media online.
Linda Thomas Brooks, managing director of GM Mediaworks and GM Cyberworks, which handles interactive buys, explained those issues and how the unit operates to Automotive Marketer Staff Reporter Julie Cantwell.
Brooks reports to Michael Browner, GM's executive director of media and marketing operations, and works with all GM division ad managers, as well as those of Saab and Isuzu. She works in Warren, Mich.
What does Mediaworks handle?
Magazine, newspaper, out-of-home. It does not include direct mail. Where there are Internet solutions like e-mail, Cyberworks gets involved.
What is a typical day for you?
We negotiate deals with all our media partners, so some of what we do is dedicated to the actual negotiation, some to preparation for the negotiation. Preparation means working with the (GM) divisions - and agencies for media planning, up until now (with the formation of Planworks) - finding out what they want to buy, helping them ascertain what portions of their budgets should go where.
Media companies bring ideas in here, but sometimes we approach them and say: 'Hey, this division wants to do a program aimed at this target. Can you help us develop that?'
Ideas go to the divisions or to the agencies a lot. We get involved in the evaluation and the back end.
How much guidance does GM give you?
We bring them a lot of suggestions because we're living in the media world every day. They're often providing alternative ideas, but a lot of the decision making is done by the divisions because it's their money we're spending.
How is Mediaworks structured? By media? By divisions?
By media. I have three group directors: Cyberworks, which is the technology part; interactive media and newspaper; and magazine. Under them it is cross-functionally organized. There are media company assignments, so someone handles Time Warner. And there are people cross-assigned by division.
What about events?
Eventworks is a separate organization in Detroit, but we work closely with them. We coordinate with Mediaworks New York, where the broadcast is done. We also work with RWorks (the regional offices). The cross-communication is constant. We don't bother to make it formal anymore.
Are you becoming more regionally focused?
Magazines have been OK at accommodating regionally. Some of the divisions have used them to a greater degree than others.
With newspapers, you have to think more regionally. You can do a lot of tailoring on the Internet, relative to specific geographics or demographics. Our out-of-home people are definitely regionally focused.
How will you work with Planworks?
Right now we have to work with every GM divisional planning agency - a lot of coordination on our part. It's going to streamline our relationship with the planning people. It will be easier to react to opportunities and market conditions.
What major change have you seen at GM Mediaworks since you started?
We've changed a lot internally. Mediaworks started before Cyberworks, and all we did was magazine. I was the seventh or eighth employee; now we have 30-some people. We have to be efficient in our communication flow, so we use technology to make that streamlined.
When will there be online media buying for areas such as print and outdoor?
Two or three years. Outdoor won't be sooner than the others. The outdoor industry typically has not been very cutting edge. They've got a lot more fundamental issues they need to address before they address electronic buying, such as industry standards and measurement.
Some stuff is less likely to go online, mainly multimedia packages, which are becoming more complicated. But in straightforward media - I need to buy a page in Denver, I want to buy some basic banners - that's not far-fetched.
Would that make sense for GM, considering it has so much leverage?
It might in some cases. It can be negotiating and buying. It could be just facilitating the back end of the buy. It's hard to imagine negotiating computer to computer.
Most of what GM buys is the cream of the crop. Right now most of the electronic exchanges really deal with leftovers. For some advertisers, it's really powerful to be able to do that - not, primarily, automotive marketers.
What opportunities are there for women in your industry?
I know the world is not a completely level playing field for women yet, but even in the time I've been in the business, it has gotten better.
There are a lot of young media buyers today. Should media buying be reserved for senior level positions?
We've got people from all over the board. The way people get to be responsible for more buys is based on their performance. We don't have many people here at entry level, but the youngest people on our staff get tag-teamed with people with more experience. Their list of responsibilities changes over the time that they're here.
Is that changing for the rest of the industry?
The industry lost a lot of training programs as a victim of downsizing. People are going to have to go back to that. Our training is more informal because we're a smaller organization, but it has to happen.