Welcome back to ‘Behind the Screens’, a monthly blog series in which we introduce members of our Cox Media team. From coast to coast, there's a lot of collaboration and behind-the-scenes efforts that go into each client relationship and campaign, and every person on our team of experts brings a unique background, perspective, and area of expertise. While we each have different day-to-day roles, we're all working toward the same goal: to help our clients' businesses succeed.

This month, I was joined by Kansas-Arkansas Vice President Tony Smythe to discuss his journey to Cox Media, the power of live sports and the recent changes in the media landscape.

Hi Tony, thanks for sitting down with me. I always like to kick it off with an intro. Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to Cox Media?

Yeah, well I’m Tony Smythe, Vice President of Cox Media Kansas, Arkansas. I've been in the industry since about 1994. I started out as a sales representative in Chicago. That's where I grew up.

I was doing scripts and voiceovers in the commercials we were selling. It was an exciting and vibrant time when we only had TV to sell and we had, maybe 40 networks. I then went to ESPN and worked on the programmer side. I then went and worked for Bright House Networks, which was the cable company for Tampa and Orlando, and I was there for about 8 years. I did all our trainings for our folks with sales, selling skills, presentation, negotiation for managers, for coaching and then I was in charge of all of our sports, programming and products. Then I came to Cox Media in September of 2018. So, I've been here a little over two years.

Based your experience and your general sports fandom, you’re seen as one of our biggest live sports advocates. Can you tell us a little bit about why live sports are such a powerful tool for clients to use in their marketing campaigns?

Well, I think they’re great for several reasons. For starters, sports are DVR proof. People usually watch it live. On top of that, we can get people out of the home. So, if I'm at the grocery store on my on my cell phone watching the Monday Night Football game, I can still be served an advertisement. So we're catching those folks as well.

I think it's also good because it's the audience is so large. I had a conversation with a client recently where we had ESPN in the proposal we gave him and he's like why ESPN? I said well look at one of the shops down on the Main Street here and there. You could put a cardboard cutout in front about a sale you're having, and you'll catch, you know, maybe 20 people. If you take that down the road to where the Dolphins play and you put that sign up, you're going to catch a hell of a lot more people.

And people have a passion for sports. I mean, whether you live for Saturday college or Sunday NFL or love baseball or the NBA, you’re going to get your biggest audience in those events regardless of the sports.

How has your team evolved with the accelerated change in the media landscape over the last 18 months?

We're still we're still trying to find the right formula. I think there's a little bit of hesitation because of clients don't want to talk about digital. I don't need to try and sell. I want you to tell me what you're doing so I have a better understanding of your marketing so maybe I can offer suggestions of gaps that you might have.

We want to be a trusted partner. Some of your best relationships are with clients who come to you and talk to you about things that have nothing to do with you.

One of the more accelerated changes we’ve seen is in how we can use our data to really maximize campaigns. By diving into the data, you can start to see that maybe the 20 spots on ESPN aren’t the right place for you to be. Maybe the data tells us that 60 spots on the Game Show Network are better because that’s where your audience is.

Not following the data is like driving with someone who's arguing with the GPS. I've had more car rides that have lasted longer because I didn't just listen to GPS or the person chirping in my ear.

What are you most excited about for your markets customers as we kind of, you know, close the door on 2021 and move into 2022?

I’m excited to start leading with creative.

We have one client that loves us because we do just that. I see a lot of bad commercials on broadcast television here. We want to start having conversations with people about shooting a new ad for them

You create something that's going to resonate, and it's going to leave an impression, don't just run one commercial spot and think that it. That’s not a strategy. That's just checking the box. So, I'm excited about how we can use, create, and leverage creative.

If you could tell your clients or prospective clients one thing what would that be?

Have a goal in mind. When you look at our clients, someone is a good baker, a good chef, good woodworker, etc., but they're not looking at a three-to-five-year strategy. When you start asking people where do you want to be in five years? They often gloss over because many of them are just month to month.

I’d ask our clients to broaden their lens and start looking at their business differently and figuring out why they’re marketing and advertising. Maybe you want to have another location in five years? Let's start working toward that. Let’s create a campaign that will get you to a place where you can do that.