Meet 2022 Silver Apple Award Honoree: Steve Carbone, Chief Digital Officer at MediaCom
On behalf of the Marketing Club of New York (MCNY), The Customer recently interviewed several honorees – leading up to the Silver Apple Awards Gala (November 10, 2022) in New York. Here, we speak with honoree Steve Carbone, chief digital and activation officer, MediaCom. Register today to join the greater MCNY community in celebrating Steve’s accomplishments to date.
Steve Carbone joined MediaCom in 2013 as managing director, chief digital officer. His in-depth experience across the digital ecosystem has helped MediaCom evolve its offering to a digital first, and platform first activation approach. In this role, Steve oversees all biddable media operations, as well as ad operations, artificial intelligence automation development, offshoring capabilities, and optimization teams.
As Steve leads MediaCom’s strategic relationships with large platforms partners among them Google, Amazon, Facebook, and TikTok to name a few, he has been able to drive MediaCom’s digital leadership position in the market. This has led to the training and certifications across all top platforms for MediaCom practitioners in the U.S. By incorporating the best and certified talent, as well as partnerships around data, and technology, MediaCom’s clients have achieved higher performance across their digital activations.
Prior to MediaCom, Steve was president of Nurun, a global interactive agency based in Paris, and spent 20 years at Grey Global, where he started one of their first digital agencies and eventually became President of G2 Direct & Digital.
The Customer (TC): How did you find your way into advertising, and into media in particular?
Steve Carbone (SC): My experience in art and design, combined with my working knowledge of computer graphics, landed me a job working for the City of New York’s inhouse advertising agency postgraduation, which then led me to Grey Advertising. After a few years of working in computer art and design, I started their first Internet-based company.
One thing I have always loved about my job is the constant learning. You need to be on the cutting edge of technology and innovation, and you need to be aware of what drives consumer behavior in order for your advertising to work. Media and advertising have never been the same since the launch of the Internet and of digital media. Since then, the business evolves and changes yearly. There are always new ways to advertise, target, and use technology to drive better media executions.
TC: Name a favorite career highlight to date.
SC: My favorite career highlights have been being a part of winning teams, all throughout my career, when you win a big new piece of business, or even the most recent Media Agency of Year awards. Being a part of these amazing winning teams is what you work in advertising for. I don’t have any individual accomplishments that outweigh the success you feel when winning together.
TC: The media landscape seems to be in constant change. How do you keep brands in pace with consumers?
SC: You learn from consumers; they constantly teach you on how they want to be approached. Our job is to make advertising a valuable experience for them. Make it relevant, timely, and respectful of their privacy. Consumers want relationships with the Brands that are a part of life or provide a service for what they need. As long as there remains a value exchange in how you connect with them, they will respond.
TC: And how do you keep up with all the change?
SC: There are many ways to keep up with the change, conferences and seminars help. However, for me, I like to stay connected to the technology companies that are reinventing the space. This includes not only the major the companies we all know, but the start-ups we don’t yet know. The most valuable time I spend in a week is meeting with our largest Tech partners or new technology providers.
TC: Do you have a favorite story about a mentor (or mentee, or one of each)? What’s the best business advice you’ve received?
SC: I firmly believe you cannot be successful in any career without a mentor. I have been lucky enough throughout my career to have mentors across multiple stages of my life. I remember a time when I had reached a CEO level of a “traditional” digital agency and yet feeling unfulfilled in my ability to truly “know” the business, or realization that I only knew a small part of it. One of the hardest advice I ever had to hear from a mentor was the reality that you need to step back in order to step forward and further grow.
I have benefited from having great mentors in my life, and I constantly strive to be that for those that I have mentored throughout the years. Nothing is more fulfilling then seeing your mentee’s grow into successful “C” level leaders and know you had a part in helping them reach their potential.
TC: Your clients seem to universally love you. What is it about those relationships that makes them work so well?
SC: It’s mutual respect and trust. Clients have tremendous amounts of pressure, and our job is to be an extension of their team and to help them succeed. We as an agency can only achieve success through the success of our clients. No agency ever won any awards without doing great work with an amazing client that supported their ideas and helped to make them better. As I always say, this is a team sport.
TC: What’s the best advice you’d give to a person choosing advertising as a career today?
SC: Whenever I’m asked to speak to new interns, or new entry level junior hires into our agency, I always advise them to immerse themselves in data. Data is the fuel of all communications, so don’t shy away from it. Crunch the numbers, do the math, study the performance, and understand the value that data brings. I also encourage them to raise their hand, volunteer for the next new business pitch even though it might entail working late nights. Those collaborations build experiences that are invaluable for growing in your career. Lastly, find a mentor, everyone needs honest feedback and support.
TC: How do your best friends describe you – in a word or three?
SC: Loyal, Honest, Reliable
TC: Tell us something surprising about you.
SC: I breed tropical fish.
TC: Peer into your media crystal ball, what’s next?
SC: My focus right now is on the Metaverse and WEB 3. The Pandemic did a lot to both put these on display, as well as show the value they provide. The Metaverse has shown us the value of virtual socialization, to work, learn, and have meaningful relationships. It also proved how stores could virtually remain in business and sell product while their brick-and-mortar stores were closed. Gen Z audiences have grown up with Roblox, Fortnight and Minecraft and these interactions are not new or uncomfortable for them. WEB 3 has proven that these online experiences powered by distributed databases, where the “verified” ownership of digital goods, and assets can be secured and sit with an individual user via the Blockchain. This allows for growth of NFT’s, or for Snoop Dogg to buy a house in the Snoopverse, or JP Morgan to buy property in Decentraland.
TC: You’re given the media magic wand – what would you like to change?
SC: Decarbonization of media. To help our environment, and to make sure Advertising can do its part to reduce rising temperatures. I would love to see Media owners and advertisers work together to reduce the reliance on hardware, servers, and power we need to deliver the billions of impressions in advertising each year. This is an obtainable goal, and there are many companies working on developing technology platforms that will reduce their energy footprint while still delivering strong custom messages.
TC: Well said. We look forward to celebrating you, Steve, on November 10 in New York!