For Elyse Hoelzer, Advertising Means Understanding the Consumer's Journey

"It's not 'Mad Men,'" says Elyse Hoelzer, former advertising executive at Mediacom, OMD, BBDO, Universal McCann, and Omnicom Media Group. Prof. Hoelzer, an adjunct professor in the Executive Master of Science for Strategic Communication, says that advertising and communications are about "understanding the consumer's journey."

As an example, she refers to one of her most recent clients. As the global account director for Estée Lauder companies at Omnicom Media Group, she managed media planning and buying and communications planning approaches for all the Estée Lauder brands globally. But although consumers worldwide know Estée Lauder, how did Prof. Hoelzer distinguish that brand from similar luxury skincare and cosmetics offerings? She started with this consumer insight: Luxury beauty consumers require an individualized approach.

"In the U.S., if you go into a higher end department store like Saks Fifth Avenue or Bergdorf or Bloomingdale's, luxury cosmetics are sold at counters, and there are beauty advisers there. So what makes that consumer unique is that we have to figure out how to get her to go to the counter and go to the beauty advisor. The media's job is to hand the consumer off to the beauty advisor, and the beauty advisor will then help her navigate the products. It's a much more customized approach," says Prof. Hoelzer.

Plus, the luxury beauty consumer expects more than the drugstore beauty consumer. "[Luxury customers] want to know a lot about the product and feel good about its credentials. They want to know that there's research involved. They want to know what the ingredients are. For media planners, it's understanding those nuances and thinking, 'In what way do we have to speak to her differently than someone who doesn't want to think that much about her skincare routine?'" she says. "Those are the nuances that we learn about and that we have to use to inform the communications planning that we do."

She says she had been fascinated with marketing ever since her days as a marketing major at Hofstra. And by planning communications for high profile clients including Sony, Warner Brothers, and Proctor & Gamble, she discovered that marketing ultimately incorporated a wide range of topics that she loved to explore: "It's sociology, psychology, cultural issues, demographic issues, economic issues – a holistic sense of the world around you."

So what's next for Prof. Hoelzer? She looks forward to teaching Channel Architecture, a course in media planning. "I love how Columbia is doing this," she says, referring to the Capstone projects that students must complete. "Students are focusing on real-life business issues. They see that these concepts apply to the real world."