This issue, “10 Questions” checks in with Wanda Artus-Cooper, vice president of advertising at The Gazette in Colorado Springs. A veteran in the industry with stints at Freedom Communications (corporate senior VP of advertising), Harte Hanks Communications (VP of national accounts), Gatehouse Media (director of advertising) and direct mail expert Advo, Inc. (regional VP), she now supervises the gamut of advertising programs at The Gazette, from local to national clients.
On the personal side, she has three children: daughter Lauren, who attends school in Maryland; middle son Michael, a chef in Pennsylvania; and oldest son Stan, a restaurateur and artist who recently moved from New Hampshire to Colorado. She’s also the proud parent of two adopted cats. Here’s her take on herself and the current advertising landscape:
Q1 – You were born in northern Maine and grew up in New Hampshire. You went on to earn an associate’s degree in liberal arts from Bradford College in Haverhill, Mass., and a bachelor of science in business management and marketing from the University of Maine. What was your original career path or goal?
I had originally gone into the sciences and planned on going to dental school. That goal ended when I interned with a dentist in Maine, and I switched my major to business.
Q2 – From 2011-2012 you worked for a private equity firm focused on “acquiring promising newspaper properties in the Northeastern United States.” In August 2012 you became senior vice president of sales with Freedom Communications in Santa Ana, Calif., overseeing the Orange County Register and many additional newspapers, a post you held until May 2015. What did you learn there that honed your executive skills regarding the newspaper industry?
I have been in advertising for over 25 years, so the California position was not particularly new to me. What resonated with me under Freedom was the velocity of new products and programs being rolled out, that there came a point of diffusion in the sales force – in other words, pick your initiatives wisely, focus your sales force, achieve success, then add the next initiative.
Q3 – You became president of Next Level Newspapers out of Maryland in October 2015. What did that job entail, and how did it facilitate your move to Colorado?
We provided pay for performance programs for newspapers. It was not particularly the conduit for my ending up in Colorado Springs. I consulted for The Gazette in acquiring and assimilating two community papers. The Gazette had a baby Pay for Performance program; we re-tooled this program and more than doubled the revenue. My predecessor resigned, and I had the luxury of being in the right place at the right time.
Q4 – You joined The Gazette in November 2015 as acting general manager of community newspapers, then in March 2016 became vice president of advertising. What major changes have you overseen – including personnel, organization and direction – in each of these leadership roles?
We have done a significant reorganization of the leadership in advertising, and we re-organized national and keys and classifieds most significantly. We then launched a few new products and a few events with success; the last year we have been focusing on adding digital assets, both human and capability-wise. We have revamped variable compensation to a more “performance” based model for local, key and national accounts and have done some “nuts and bolts” tactics such as minimum standards of performance.
Q5 – What are the challenges today of increasing advertising revenue that you didn’t have even just a couple of years ago?
Like every other daily paper in a metro market we continue to struggle with national revenue declines. Selling efforts today need to be much more polished and fact-based/strategic than even a few years ago where the relationship prevailed. We are employing much more sophisticated vertical platforms than we needed in the past to help advertisers increase their ROI and target market to the best potential audience.
Q6 – How has emphasis on native content advertising affected your sales strategy, and what is the next new advertising or marketing technology or trend you’re working on?
Native and SEO are both tactics where we have a core competency. Native has grown, mostly in the SEO space. The new technology we have on-boarded this year is data-based marketing powered by Acxiom. This is a huge data warehouse where we can take current client lists, segment them and search for look-alikes. We are embarking on audience matching and predictive modeling for both our core products and our new products and programs.
Q7 – You’re a director on the relatively new SYNC2 Media board. What prompted you to join and what is on the agenda that you’re excited about?
I am new to Colorado, and I have formerly been coastal in my advertising networks. I became a director to get involved with Colorado newspaper peers and network, as well as help me to become knowledgeable on unique Colorado issues.
I am excited about the support services SYNC2 is providing, and is working to provide their newspaper members, as well as the ability to help smaller papers co-op in on services that they would not be able to afford on their own. As I am a veteran on the advertising side of the street, this seems like a good fit for my experience and skill sets.
Q8 – What kind of volunteer work or mentoring are you doing with the Karen Possehl Women’s Endowment at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs?
I am a mentor to a scholar in their program. I have a very high-functioning scholar, so my primary support has become networking support. We get together monthly and talk mostly about her aspirations in home schooling and how to take the concept to the next level. She has done a remarkable job of working with the public school system here in Colorado Springs in providing an adjunct home-schooling support program, as well as launching the Springs’ first home-schooling convention. This experience has been particularly satisfying as my scholar is a real “go-getter,” nothing daunts her.
Q9 – Neat desk and office or not, and what would we see there?
Office is more often a cyclone than neat. You would see a white board full of this month’s initiative; a bulletin board full of schedules, deadlines, programs and maps; a desk littered with piles by project; and a table with the last appointment work in progress strewn on it. I have some pictures of my children, otherwise, the office is pure function versus form.
Q10 – What advice would you like to offer to the next generation of newspaper advertising and marketing professionals?
Don’t forget that you most likely still own the largest audience in your market. Always look for efficient ways to leverage that audience and augment that audience so you can deliver the best prospect pool to your advertiser. Ideate all the time – create 20 even if you only keep one idea.
Keep close to your clients and prospects and their needs, know your competition and their strengths and weaknesses. Know your business, know your numbers, understand the tools available to you and keep networking with your industry peers for good ideas.