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An Interview with Lauren Boyer

CEO at Underscore Marketing

Lauren Boyer, partner and CEO of Underscore Marketing, runs the company’s day-to-day operations and is responsible for evaluating its long-term strategy and vision. She’s tasked with putting these objectives into operation with Underscore’s leadership team, while also serving as both a general business and marketing strategist for the media agency’s sweet spot, health and wellness brands.

Prior to joining Underscore Marketing in 2007, Boyer consulted for a variety of clients, including Wyeth Consumer Healthcare and digital agency Wunderman. She has been a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization since 2013.

What are your business priorities over the next 12 months?

Lauren Boyer: When I think about the overall industry, the fact is that agencies really need to change and a lot of innovation is needed.

Then we look at how we can put those into a proposition that’s both valuable to the client and profitable for us. Admittedly, that can get you into a kind of back and forth, and many hours spent. The deliverables can also get kind of vague when you’re doing it that way. But it’s our activation of pricing charges that I believe helps us and our clients. We want them to feel like they’re getting more value, and for us to feel like we’re not being nickeled and dimed all of the time. It’s one of those dynamics that’s really evolved in the client-agency relationship, and it’s just unfortunate. I think both sides are getting value. It just doesn’t always feel that way.

What are the biggest challenges today for your clients, and how does eMarketer help?

Boyer: Our clients’ biggest challenge is that they never seem to have enough funding to be where they want to be with regard to what media. And for us, we’re always having to offset this notion that the big agencies have more buying clout than we do in digital. That’s a fallacy. Digital is based on knowing the upper and the lower bounds of the market. It’s also based on relationships.

As a small, independent agency, we often get better price deals than some of the big agencies, because we don’t have a whole sister network that we share rates with. It’s one of those things that’s hard for us because we come up against it in our fees all the time. And certainly in broadcast and TV, I’m not going to argue that one bit. But when it comes to digital, it’s just a different animal.

It’s about having clients understand that there are nuances in how you buy different forms of media, and that’s where eMarketer comes in. Sometimes an independent is your best bet. Other times, I can completely appreciate why a brand wouldn’t want to go with an independent, but would instead want to go with buying clout.

What value does eMarketer PRO bring to your business?

Boyer: eMarketer PRO has been a great resource. And I’ll say, I was introduced to it in 1999 when I was back at a startup. To me, it’s like an unbiased opinion of what is out there on any given topic. You’re able to aggregate all of the different research studies into one perspective that doesn’t slant the agency, client or publisher. Simply put, eMarketer says, “Well, here’s where things are.”

eMarketer PRO does a good job at looking across some of the categories that are the most critical, and then helps people see where things stand without it feeling like it’s biased. It always feels like a very credible source of information, and there’s a lot of due diligence done. When I use eMarketer numbers in an argument, I can actually back up what other numbers are out there.

What have you and your team used eMarketer PRO for recently?

Boyer: I’ve been doing some work in the space on hospitals, and I didn’t expect eMarketer would have a ton on that. But I was really surprised. eMarketer had a really interesting piece that listed out some of the top spending across hospitals. It was in a really easy-to-digest format, which was particularly helpful to me as I was trying to get a lay of the land for a new industry.

Another great example we use eMarketer PRO for is during budget time. I’ll want to help some of the clients understand what they’re planning to spend vs. what some of the other competition is planning to spend. To do this, we find it helpful to take our own numbers, and then also add some baseline numbers from eMarketer PRO that are across different industries.

By leveraging eMarketer data we’re able to bring a bigger, broader picture and perspective to our client, both when we’re talking about budget setting, as well as planning and strategy.

Underscore Marketing has Open Access. What's the benefit?

Boyer: We’ve been a customer for a few years. We have three different offices, one of which is overseas, and felt it was important to make sure that everyone has access. If there’s any way that we can support the business and get a leg up, we want to.

How did you make the case for eMarketer PRO?

Boyer: The fact is, if I need something quick—for instance, I need a three-day turnaround—nine times out of 10, eMarketer is going to have the stat that I need. Then I can walk into a meeting or a presentation feeling confident that if I throw this figure out there, I’m not going to get called on it.

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Luaren Boyer

On eMarketer:

“By leveraging eMarketer data we're able to bring a bigger, broader picture and perspective to our client, both when we're talking about budget setting, as well as planning and strategy.”

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