The Power of Curiosity: Q&A with Samantha Dascher, Jun Group’s SVP of Publisher Strategy

We sat down with Samantha Dascher, Jun Group's SVP of Publisher Strategy, to discuss her career path, motivations, and advice for people new to the ad tech industry.
Hey Sam, I’m pumped to jump in. I find that most people in our industry don’t start off their careers with the goal of landing in ad tech. Can you tell me about your background and what led you here? 

I ended up in ad tech by accident. When I went to college, I thought I was going to be a theater major. My goal wasn’t necessarily to be an actress, but growing up I had always fantasized about being the next Katie Couric and hosting the Today Show which is hilarious because I’m not a morning person. I even contemplated going to Emerson, a school that specializes in the study of Broadcast Journalism, but I really fell in love with Skidmore College which was definitely the right place for me. 

My freshman year, I took intro to theater and intro to management and business. I hated my theater class and absolutely fell in love with the management and business program, so I declared it as my major. A lot of the Major included courses like micro and macro economics, accounting and finance, but what really inspired me was studying entrepreneurship, international business, marketing, and advertising. This led me to what I’ll call our “known universe,” and pointed me in the direction of ad agencies. 

During my senior year which was during the recession, I interviewed with quite a few ad agencies when most entry level jobs were being cut. One day, my father was talking to our doorman about my stress over not securing a job prior to graduating and our doorman connected me with a someone in the building who worked in the ad industry. He ended up sending out my resume to his colleagues and friends, which ultimately led to my first role at Undertone in sales planning. This was my introduction to ad tech, a world I didn’t even know existed. 

What were your early days in the industry like? How did you handle the transition from studying business to working in ad tech? 

It was like learning an entire language from scratch. I was hearing terms like CPC, CPM, and VCR, wondering why everything is a three letter acronym. I asked a lot of questions and eventually it started to click. Several months in, I was able to listen to a conversation and follow and understand everything that was said, which was really exciting. I soon discovered that sales planning wasn’t the right fit for me. I wanted to be the one talking with partners rather than facilitating the internal work. 

Fast forward to today and you’re Jun Group’s SVP of Publisher Strategy. Can you explain what you do on a daily basis and your key objectives? 

The publisher strategy team focuses on building relationships with new publishers and maintaining and growing existing relationships to help them with their on site audience needs. Of course, “audience needs” can mean a lot of different things depending on the publisher, whether they’re a digital-first brand, a TV goliath, overseeing a network of many sites, or an individual owned and operated property. My day is divided between supporting existing partners, addressing campaign needs, and having as many conversations as I can with prospective or existing partners to learn about their challenges and keep a pulse on what’s impacting the digital publishing industry.

What projects are you working on right now that you’re most excited about? 

I helped launch our podcast amplification product. Helping publishers with their podcast goals was something I had already been doing, and about two and a half years ago we realized it was much bigger than that. Lately, it’s been incredible to work with partners in the audio space of all shapes and sizes. This is a bit of a new frontier that I’m working to get up to speed in, make a lot of friends in, and continue to determine how we can add value to the space.

After 10+ years in digital media, what continues to motivate you?

I still have subscriptions to magazines. I think journalism is really important and I’m very passionate about supporting that space. Today, there are a lot of external forces putting publishers’ ability to monetize, grow, and remain profitable at risk. Helping to figure out ways to support the industry is definitely a motivator for me because I’m a fan and consumer of these products in real life. I think about how the internet is free, how we’re able to read and watch things without having to pay for them because they’re ad-supported, and it’s motivating to be able to help publishers function and grow their businesses further.

Do you have any advice for people new to the ad industry or interested in an advertising career? 

Ask a tremendous amount of questions. Write down things that you hear and don’t understand, and ask what they mean. Don’t think you’re being annoying because you haven’t yet grasped something — you need to be your own biggest advocate. Personally, I love when people ask to sit in on meetings or throw a few minutes on my calendar to walk through something. I want to answer their questions if I can. 

I also think if you’re someone who’s just starting out you should schedule time with people in different roles. For me, I ended up in a space I didn’t know existed, and you won’t know until it’s exposed to you. So if you think you might want to be in a front office role, like sales, business development, client services, or strategy, meet with people in technology or product and learn what their job is. If nothing else, these conversations often inspire creativity and ideation. Even now, there’s so much in this industry that I’m still learning about. What I love about ad tech is you’re constantly exposed to new things and can keep learning.

Finally, I can’t stress the importance of organizational behavior enough. Having and instilling good habits to keep yourself organized, on top of your work, and figuring out a system that works for you is so crucial to success. If you do that early in your career, it serves you as you get busier and stretched thinner as your workload grows. 

To wrap things up, what do you like to do in your free time outside of work? 

I love to travel and try new things. I’m a big “yes” person. I like to say yes to activities and events, whether that’s going to a concert, going for a walk, or stepping outside my comfort zone to a new adventure or activity I’ve never tried. 

My true non-professional passion or hobby is probably my nail art. I don’t do it myself, but my Instagram is filled with pictures of incredible nails. It brings me happiness, joy, and it’s my creative outlet — I’m more of an analytical person. At all times I have little pieces of art on my nails, and if you ask me about it, it makes me very happy.

Follow Samantha Dascher, SVP of Publisher Strategy, on LinkedIn.

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