Last fall, we launched a new feature in this newsletter, “Getting to Know a Fox.” The idea was (and is) to periodically use this as a channel for you to get to know us a little bit better. We’ll focus on one Fox Associates team member at a time, learning about their background, their business philosophies, their personal interests, and what brought them to this company.
In November, for our first installment, we started, appropriately, with our CEO and founder, Marlys Fox, the industry icon and pioneer who launched this company in 1968. With this February issue, we’re pleased to chat with Executive Vice President and COO Steve Schwanz, who’s the longest-serving employee other than Marlys Fox herself. Steve is also one of several team members who’ve been with Fox Associates for an extended period of time, providing the firm with unusual experience and stability.
Here’s Steve’s take on a variety of business and biographical details. We’re pleased to share it with the Fox Associates family.
Fox Tales: Tell us about how you started out in media and media sales.
Steve Schwanz: My father was a publisher of special-interest magazines for many years. My first job in media was selling bulk-copy subscriptions to snowmobile dealers so the magazine could make its circulation guarantee. From this, I learned the inner workings of the publishing business, and also gained valuable experience in cold-calling customers. That led to a summer internship with an impressive publisher’s representative the following summer, Fox Associates. At the end of the internship, I was told I had a position waiting for me after graduation from the University of Wisconsin. And the rest, as they say, is history!
Fox Tales: What’s your fundamental philosophy on sales, business partnerships, customer service, essential deliverables?
Schwanz: Fox Associates has immense experience representing and selling across multiple platforms. We specialize in creating solutions-driven bundled programs for marketers—helping to ensure that, while serving the needs of the advertiser, no money is left on the table.
We provide an invaluable service to our publishers. We are in a unique position in that we have two types of clients—the publishers we represent and generate revenue for, as well as the advertisers and prospects we successfully sell to. We pride ourselves on being consultative in providing solutions and not simply “peddling” advertising. This serves us well in establishing and building relationships. Every client is important.
Over the years, we have had to adapt to changing market conditions, and we continue to be successful as a result. Meeting with and selling clients face to face is one of our strengths, and I, for one, do hope that there will be a return to this on a regular basis (even with a hybrid work environment).
We have one client that labeled us as an “idea factory” which I feel says a great deal in describing our wiliness to bring new ideas and industry trends to the attention of our publishers regularly. Many of these ideas have become new revenue streams to supplement and build upon their existing base of business.
We communicate extensively on all sales activity, which I know first-hand that our publishers value. Our Client Services Group provides extensive reporting on sales for all assets, while also collaborating with its counterparts at the publisher to ensure that no business slips through the cracks.
If there is an issue with a particular advertiser or campaign, rest assured that the Fox Associates team will ensure that it is addressed and dealt with promptly and professionally—until resolved.
If there is one trend that probably concerns me most, it’s the increasing commoditization of the media publishers sell. This started with programmatic sales, with no consideration of the editorial content, perspective or proposition that we, as publishers’ representatives, are selling.
On a positive note, I feel that many advertiser clients working remotely or in a hybrid environment are far more responsive than when they were at their desk in the office every day. There’s a noticeable increase in feedback and responsiveness as part of the selling process.
Fox Tales: Give us your take on the future of advertising. What’s strong, what’s receding, where will things be in five years?
Schwanz: Change has always been part of our business. And Fox Associates has always been at the forefront of anticipating trends and investing resources and assets to fully take advantage of market shifts. That’s been key to our business since the beginning.
No one could have anticipated the impact of the Pandemic almost three years ago. Our management team, led by President/CEO Marlys Fox, Senior Vice President/National Sales Director, Bill Bell, and me took immediate action to protect our publishers’ interests and their bottom-line revenue. Our sales team did a fantastic job of pivoting from an in-person sales approach, and took full advantage of video selling to not only maintain sales, but increase them.
We are continuing to closely monitor the dramatic changes in the magazine business. Digital advertising has replaced print as a primary focus for many of our clients. We have leveraged digital with print to maintain and grow business across the board. Digital advertising is also being supplemented with new opportunities, including podcasts, sponsorships, webinars and events. Sponsored content (including video) has also become an important component in our selling arsenal.
Fox Tales: Steve, tell us where you’re from, and where you live now. Tell us what you like about both.
Schwanz: I grew up in Milwaukee and have lived in Chicago for most of my adult life. I’ve also lived on the West Coast, and have traveled to every corner of the United States as part of my selling responsibilities here at Fox. I’ve found that every area has its unique appeal, and I appreciate the inherent value of each. For me, the Midwest is home and I don’t see ever moving from here. There’s a sincere openness and friendliness you find with the people living here. My family is here. I love the change of seasons—especially fall.
Fox Tales: What do you like to do in your time off from work? Travel? Golf?
Schwanz: I enjoy golfing and have been fortunate to have played at Pebble Beach on a number of occasions. I also enjoy bike riding (when I don’t fall off—but that’s a different story!) and am looking forward to trying new trails and adventures near Madison, Wisconsin, come spring. My wife and I both enjoy hiking and found a new favorite when we hiked the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs this past November.
Fox Tales: Anything I might have missed?
Schwanz: I’m a season ticket holder and stockholder of the 13-time world-champion Green Bay Packers.