7 Questions with Tom Newman and Mike Kelly, Founders of Kelly Newman Advisors

Tom Newman

Tom Newman

Mike Kelly

Mike Kelly

What’s your take on the current digital advertising landscape?

Tom: Those of us who have been in the industry for a long time had predicted strong growth for digital advertising, and it has even exceeded our expectations. When we started KNA in 2016, it seemed like so much of the digital growth was behind us—it had been a seriously wild decade. But the total U.S. spend was around $60 billion for digital at that time. Today, that number is close to a staggering $200 billion. Digital advertising now accounts for 6 out of 10 [advertising] dollars globally, and it is expected to reach 8 out of 10 dollars by 2025.

Mike: It is now a very big, fast-moving, and competitive industry where every company is looking for an edge. The companies with the best talent—the smartest and most knowledgeable—will grow faster. U of Digital provides a new type of live learning and digital environment that is constantly evolving along with the industry. The old training models simply don’t move fast enough.

What are you excited about in the ecosystem?

Mike: For the first time in a decade, Facebook and Google represent less than 50% of advertising online. And after 20 years of anticipation, all television advertising will be digital. This gives consumers and marketers more of a choice.

Tom: This trend also creates a real problem. With more platforms comes more complexity. We are seeing a shortage of high-quality and trained talent in key areas.

What advice would you give to investors in digital advertising in 2023?

Mike: Companies, brands, and organizations all want to have a direct relationship with their customers. That is the No. 1 priority we are hearing. Marketing technology, sales technology, CRMs, data technology—these work together to allow that to happen. That is a big opportunity for investors.

Tom: Invest in technology and automation. They help companies reach a large and fragmented customer base without having thousands of people in customer service or marketing.

Given the complexities of the industry, how do you stay up to date on trends?

Mike: We have a network of amazing colleagues, CEOs, and investors across hundreds of companies. So, we’re fortunate that we’re able to be part of many discussions on trends and learn from our network. We also have associates and researchers when we want to dive deeply into an area.

Tom: I am a bit of a podcast and newsletter junkie too. There have never been more ways to get an education from the best. We all have our favorites, but U of Digital’s newsletter is at the top. It gives us a good overview of what is happening right now and directs us to the source of the information.

What are the missed opportunities in digital marketing today?

Mike: One of the big stories for 2023 is how brands and businesses can link their physical and digital experiences and marketing. The question is how technology can impact the effectiveness of all channels.

Tom: AI is probably not being missed, but we think it is a transformational set of technologies. A few years from now, AI will be part of all digital marketing, just like how the cloud, mobile, and social are now.

What do you love most about what you do?

Mike: I like always learning. In this industry, things move so quickly and you have so much learning to do every day. Many of the overall patterns repeat, but the technologies, the new companies, the pace of innovation, all that stays really exciting. I also like working with the amazing founders and CEOs that we are lucky enough to be associated with.

Tom: The bad news is that just when you’re feeling comfortable, things change again. It definitely keeps you on your toes.

What would you be doing if you weren’t in this industry?

Mike: I am a bit of a news junkie, and if I wasn’t in this industry, I would be a news editor or a reporter. True journalism is essential for the success of our society.

Tom: I would be a college professor. I love learning. When I was younger, I didn’t want to sit in old libraries. Now I think I would love it.

Tom Newman

Tom Newman

Mike Kelly

Mike Kelly

New York City-based Kelly Newman Advisors (KNA) is an advisory and co-investment firm at the intersection of technology, media, and marketing. The firm was founded by Mike Kelly and Tom Newman in 2016 to help companies drive transformation and achieve growth.

Mike and Tom are newly minted advisors to U of Digital. And we have to say how incredibly proud we are that they have selected us as partners, investing their expertise, insight, and industry knowledge in our company. They were kind enough to sit down with us and share some thoughts on the current state of digital marketing and what’s next in the industry. Below are edited excerpts from our conversation.

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