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JoAnn Sciarrino

Knight Chair in Digital Advertising and Marketing
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC


JoAnn Sciarrino was named Knight Chair in Digital Advertising and Marketing at the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication in July 2012.  Sciarrino, an advertising and marketing executive with more than 25 years of experience, works with the industry to test, deploy and refine digital advertising and marketing business models – and share results and ideas widely within the professional and academic communities.

Recent Activities 

Brand Attachment indirect influence on brand (financial) performance to improve accuracy of Advertising ROI: direct effects of media + indirect effects of Brand Attachment.  IMPACT: Leading brands are now experimenting with this new ROI calculation to determine most efficient advertising messages and channels, which is leading to level or slight increases in advertising spend for some traditional media such as print.

Digital Advertising and Marketing (491) new course at UNC J-School.  IMPACT:  The course helped more than half of my students from spring 2013 land jobs in digital media (Past and current students are even blogging and Tweeting about the value of the course:;

(Collaboration with Penny Abernathy, Knight Chair in Digital Media Economics) New media revenue model for community newspapers.  IMPACT:  TBD; Paper and research expected completion October 2013. 

Question-and-Answer with Knight Chair

 Name one experiment or idea (a tool, an approach, a book) in journalism, journalism education or media innovation that is “out there” -- pushing the frontier. Why do you think that project is interesting? Add detail if you plan to incorporate it in your teaching ?


Goel , Sharad, Watts, Duncan, Goldstein, Daniel, “The Structure of Online Diffusion Networks,” ACM 978-1-4503-1415-2/12/06, EC’12, June 4–8, 2012, Valencia, Spain; and Goel, Sharad, Anderson, Ashton, Hofman, Jake, and Watts, Duncan, “The Structural Virality of Online Diffusion,” Working Paper, STOR, 2013.

Five years ago, the prevailing belief in Advertising, and Digital Advertising in particular, was that if a brand could get its content diffused by an individual with millions of followers (e.g., Ashton Kutcher, Justin Bieber, etc.) it would have a higher probability of going viral.  Moreover, brands believed that “viral diffusion” of content was relatively common.  Goel, Watts,, challenged this hypothesis, and found that the vast majority of diffusion events are far from viral, with small cascades that terminate within one degree of the first share/post, and the bulk of (total) structural virality is within one degree of a few individuals. 

This learning dramatically changed the context of Digital Advertising because it underscores the importance of integrated campaigns with:  paid, earned and owned media.  I am incorporating it into my teaching through the illustration and direct application of online diffusion with two cases:  Resident Evil V (new game launch campaign) and Dove Campaign for Real Beauty.  I am also teaching my students how to estimate predicted online diffusion after original content post to determine need for incremental (paid) advertising support.  

 Social media is not just a distribution or promotional platform. Tweets like, “Read the story I just wrote!” are a minority of successful Twitter communications. How do you teach your students to use social media to engage?

I teach my students to use social media to engage through:  frameworks, tools and cases.  Specifically: 

Frameworks:  In advertising, I teach the “paid, earned and owned” framework as part of an integrated communications eco-system.  Students learn which of five broad communication strategies to employ, based on: (1) the communication problem; and (2) the Technographics profile of the audience (Forrester).  Once they understand how to use the framework to critically reason through the challenge, they learn that just Tweeting random content or putting up a Facebook page will not meet objectives.

Tools:  In addition to basic digital advertising literacy skills, I teach my students the most common practitioner digital advertising occupational tools to understand the integrated communications eco-system as well as influence and measure advertising campaign performance including:  Topsy, Social Radar, Google Analytics, Hashtags (we have class hashtag to facilitate discussions and participation points are awarded by quality) Social Network Analysis (Gephi and UCInet) and Facebook Insights. 

Cases:  Digital Advertising and Marketing (491) employs a case-based approach to teach digital natives how to solve digital advertising and marketing challenges.  The course material is presented in modules where students learn theory, then see theory in action from a practical (real-world) example and then apply that learning to a case assignment.  Students have the opportunity to work on cases for 20 brands, as well as participate in a small group project over the entire course to use what they’ve learned to solve a real client digital advertising and marketing brand challenge.