BrandVerge 5 for 5: Curiosity, Partnership, & Learning to Say 'No'

At BrandVerge, we’re on a mission to deliver an easier way to discover, collaborate, and create strategic solutions between advertisers, agencies, consultants and media companies.  

In the spirit of knowledge-sharing, our BrandVerge 5 for 5 spotlights talent at all levels (in five quick questions), who bring collaborative, creative, and future-forward thinking to the industry every day.

For this 5 for 5, we had the chance to catch-up with Jonathan Kim, Digital Engineering Director at the Media Kitchen, and early-adopter of BrandVerge, as he shared a glimpse into his own experience and innovative thinking.


Industry Leader: Jonathan Kim, Digital Engineering Director, The Media Kitchen (TMK)

Role: One of my main focuses is putting myself out there and meeting with emerging ad tech start-ups that can help our clients keep innovating. The Media Kitchen works with a lot of great partners today, but we want to get in front of as many future partners as we can to understand how they can help solve questions we may not even be asking today. Our field evolves on a weekly basis and I enjoy meeting with so many smart people.

Company Description: To describe TMK in one line…we have a culture centered around curiosity. This empowers everyone to push technology/data to its limit and grow, not only internally, but also with our clients, partners, and platforms altogether.

2.     How do you and TMK make sure you're embracing disruption to push your company and counterparts forward in the industry?

It takes that curiosity and mentality to grow with our partners and clients. We have to be willing to ask the tough questions and challenge our clients to think differently. Doing this allows us to maximize the outputs of all the tools and technology that can be used across our agency and industry.

Here’s a cooking analogy since we’re the Media Kitchen: Two chefs are given the same knife to prepare a meal. What is plated will look and taste vastly different depending on how they use that same knife. Similarly, two agencies could be working with the same partners and platforms, but the way they collaborate with those partners and utilize their data will lead to completely different results.


3.     What's your approach to keeping your clients and their brands relevant through media?

To boil it down…by learning to say ‘no’ and keeping performance real.

What I mean by that is, results can look amazing and we celebrate with clients on a weekly basis. However, and maybe it’s to our detriment, we can’t take the results at face value. Digital Marketing is a small piece of one’s decision-making so we have to keep a level head in that sense. We can’t revel in achievements but should rather push for a better understanding of why something works and why something does not. There’s a lot more the industry still doesn’t know than it knows.

It’s also important to say ‘no’. We need to have the type of relationship with our clients to challenge them, say ‘no’ when something doesn’t make sense for the brand and have a transparent partnership that can grow together. This is what will ultimately help keep a brand and brand image resonate with consumers.


4. When thinking about high-touch custom activations, what do you believe separates good from 'great'?

There are two factors. First is creative. At the end of the day, technology exists to elevate the creative, not the other way around. No matter how perfect the placement is or the moment is, if the creative is tone-deaf, the campaign itself is tone-deaf. So, platforms like BrandVerge allow us to quickly assess how to pair good creative with appropriate publishers, because we only want to work with publishers who have nothing to hide and know who they are. Who we like to work with are publishers who come to us and say, ‘This is who we are and, no we don’t have 10M active monthly users, but this is the quality of our content and these are the users we reach. That’s where we have a real impact.’

So creative first and partners are the second part. We want partners who have a real identity. It is difficult for a media partner to leave money on the table and say ‘no, I don’t think this is a good fit for your brand’ or to come back to us after getting a brief and saying, ‘we think we are setting ourselves up for failure.’ We (TMK) tend to end up going back to these partners because we trust them.

5. Future-self: If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give to yourself when you started in media? 

Don’t sell something that you’re not going to buy yourself. The whole thought there is, don’t sell something because you think it’s a cool idea and the client will like it, sell something as if you were the buyer or an ad experience you would embrace as a consumer.

Sometimes you can fall in love with an idea or be friendly with the counterpart from the partner/ad tech side, and sometimes that pushes you to sell something that shouldn’t be filling a media plan. This doesn’t benefit either one in the end.  If I could go back, that’s the advice I would give…don’t sell something you wouldn’t buy yourself.

Lynn Browne