The Influencer Series: Ken Magill
Ken Magill, marketing mogul and Internet marketing pioneer, has been down deep in the trenches of the industry since the early 90s. Starting out as a copywriter, and ending up as a writer for his own report, The Magill Report, Magill, he never strayed too far from the craft. In the last two and a half decades he has been learning, growing with, and writing about marketing. His first hand account of experiences is unlike any other, providing rich history and insight about the story of marketing and how it came to be where it is today.
The start of something good.
In 1991, after graduating from college with a degree in journalism, Magill aspired to be a newspaper reporter. Unable to land a job at the newspaper of his choice, he was forced to look elsewhere. Luckily for him, his formal training in writing made way for an easy jump to an adjacent career path. He got a job as a direct marketing copywriter and so began his captivation with the field. “I found the craft fascinating. So I read everything I could get my hands on about direct marketing,” said Magill.
Magill excelled at his job, but it would not be a career long position. He moved to creative director, only to get let go after his boss transferred to another branch and was replaced. He then found himself in a time of limbo. Back at his apartment in Buffalo, his copy of Direct Marketing News was just being delivered as a light bulb turned on. “I understand direct marketing and I am a journalist. I could write for these guys,” said Magill remembering that moment.
The right place at the right time.
In 1996, Magill joined Direct Marketing news. He hoped to write the catalogue beat, but to his dismay was given a different job – the Internet beat. “No one in that newsroom wanted that Internet beat, but they gave it to me because I was the new guy and I had no choice,” said Magill.
While at the time, he thought he had been handed the left over scraps of the rest of the office, Magill worked hard at his assignment, and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. “I would love to tell you I had vision – I didn’t have vision then, and I don’t have vision now. What I did do is I took the beat seriously and everything just exploded. My career took off like a rocket. Suddenly, I am the lead Internet reporter for the leading direct marketing newspaper in the land. Everything kind of went from there,” said Magill.
Running with it.
Since then, Magill has continued down the path of a marketing writer for most of his career. Now, as the president of his own business he uses his unique combination of expertise in the Internet, marketing, and writing to be successful.
Success has not always been a certainty for Magill throughout his career, but has managed to survive and even thrive. Now he credits the Internet with being the “ultimate direct marketing tool,” but at the same time the Internet has caused him some incredible turbulence. He experienced one of the most radical shifts in marketing and managed to stay in the game. He attributes his success to his grounding in traditional marketing and a few words he has always lived by. “If you reach the right person with the right offer you have a better chance of getting them buy. It is just common sense. That is the lesson I have carried with me,” said Magill.
His standing as a marketer, and marketing writer has not only survived the move from traditional to Internet mediums, but more recently, the shift from traditional to programmatic ad space buying. The latter uprooted his business model, forcing him to reconstruct and redefine the service he offered in order to adapt.
Adding a human element.
Originally, Magill planned to amass the right audience and market the right information to them, but programmatic ad buying could offer this for a fraction of what he charged. To establish his relevancy and necessity, Magill needed to offer something that couldn’t be automated – great content. “What I do is, and I don’t always pull it off, but what I do is I try to be provocative, and I try to be entertaining. I try to be interesting,” he said.
With outstanding content, Magill believes that he can sustain his business even as programmatic ad buying continues to aggressively expand. Magill sees a future where TV and even outdoor advertising are programmatically sold. Even though it shook his own foundation at first, he sees a silver lining. “There are some drawbacks for certain entrenched segments of society. For capitalistic society as a whole, it’s going to be a net positive. It’s going to be creative destruction again. Some people are going to have to find new ways to work, but that is what happens in progress,” says Magill.
As we move forward and parts of the marketing world expand while others contract, the people that find a balance between technological and human elements will survive. Like Magill, who offers interesting and entertaining content to sell himself and his product to those that he reaches with technology. It is a hybrid business model. He creates what technology can’t, content with personality, and uses technology where he falls short, reaching and gathering an audience. This symbiotic relationship between marketer and technology is one that has kept marketers, like Magill, in and ahead of the game for decades.