Category Archives: people

Intrapreneurial ambition – succeeding in programmatic

Over the last four to five years I have been employing people into VivaKi and Audience On demand and have been looking for that common thread that links them all together. Is it a passion for programmatic or digital? An innate curiosity and wish to get under the bonnet of the digital ecosystem? Perhaps following the latest trends? In all honesty a combination of those characteristics and more besides. 
 
But then why not all flock to the raft of start ups that are around, bounce around a few and maybe get lucky. There is definitely a type that follow that road but there are many that want that sensation of building something, being part of an exciting growing business but within the confines of a larger organization. These people are intrapreneurs, not salary men, they still take risks. Anyone who moved into digital in 1999/2000 or earlier were all seen as signing up to lose their jobs. The calls from the TV department of will you come and fix my screen still echo to this day. Of course most are now working in digital but took years and years to make the leap. To me this makes them more cautious and not the intrapreneurs of the agency network. They are of course not the most cautious, anyone still in their same job 20 plus years later is either extremely cautious, lazy or very senior! 
 
So where does that leave the people we employ right now in programmatic. The business has evolved at such a pace, it has taken even the most forward thinking people by surprise. I already think it sounds strange when I hear ‘programmatic is growing’ it sounds so disconnected from the fact our whole business is going to be programmatic in a few short years. It also makes those who ridiculed the VivaKi Nerve Center and what we were doing with Audience On Demand look more out of touch as in a few short years they have been exposed as having little or no vision or understanding of digital. 
 
As a large employer of expertise in this area and especially as we hire more senior talent we are dealing with a new scenario. One where it becomes very difficult to answer the question ‘ what does my career path look like?’ My answer to this and one I believe fully is that I don’t have an answer. The reason for that is I believe that when you join our business things will change and keep changing. There will be opportunity all around and perhaps the least of that opportunity is me laying it out on a timeline for the next 48 months.  Instead I explain that I can’t predict exactly how things will develop but that you are in the hottest businesses in town and you are learning and developing skills that will open so many doors, to the extent that I have to admit you will eventually move on.
 
If when I signed up to be the only VivaKi Nerve Center employee and founder of Audience On demand in Europe I had asked for a nice clean career plan from Curt Hecht he would have struck me off there and then. Curt like me did not want someone who needed that, he wanted an Intrapreneur. An individual capable of replicating the same drive and passion but with support from a group and the abilities to navigate it.
 
As has been written about significantly this business of ours, has been turned upside down. Revolution not evolution is the name of the game and continues to be so every day, so anyone who wants to come in and have a nice well lit path to the CEO’s job is going to be unhappy. Whether it is Europe or US – if you work for Audience On Demand you are at the centre of the biggest thing going on in digital and will be set up for a great future – what you do now to make the most of it is important. 
 
It’s worth remembering that even in a Groupe the size of Publicis that the ability to be part of this kind of opportunity – to be intraprenurial- still exists. AOD is a fraction of the Groupe’s revenues and yet we are cited by Maurice in interviews and earnings calls. That makes it exciting. The Googles, Microsofts, Facebooks etc are the most corporate of all machines and their days of making you create something new, unless you are very senior or an engineer are done. Every day we compete with these companies and often they win by throwing money at people but feedback is often the same. It is like entering a science fiction film where you are put in a box and you need to start peddling, without the ability to change anything.
 
When I joined Zenith Media in 1996, the plan was clear, get to be CEO as quickly as possible, there was a path I could follow, others had. Now we have a world that is being rewritten and there is no clear path and opportunities and threats lie all around. Today’s successful candidates have to be open minded, they have to be flexible and adaptable. Get into the right type of business, be passionate, care about what you do and then all good things will come to you. If you want a nice secure line of sight then don’t come to programmatic because this is the fastest, most exciting ride I have been on in my career.
 
I will end by saying the true entrepreneurs amongst you, or even just those who want to keep taking risks and jumping to find a sale or IPO – keep doing it. I know many very average people who have made money by doing it.  There is no right / wrong answer in this amazing business of ours.
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The least well known, best attended event: Webit 2013

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Probably 6-9 months ago when November seemed a life time away I received my first communication from Webit. Come the day I walk on stage, myself and fellow speakers had received according to the hosts around 36,000 emails in the arranging of this event. Based on my own experiences and those of others, it felt like at least 36,000 as well. As time went by I started to talk to more people who appeared to be attending this mysterious event in Istanbul and so I decided to have a go.

Welcome to Webit, 8000 people from 103 countries all converging on the astounding Istanbul. Link to event here

The 36,000 emails was a precursor to a peculiar event, just as Istanbul sits between Western world and Eastern world so the event seemed to attempt to straddle both but with an emphasis on the Middle East. I think to call it an International event is slightly over stating, I would suggest that 80% of attendees were local or from the Middle Eastern region with a smattering of people from the rest of the globe.  The genius of these conferences is that a smattering of logos gives it the appearance of something that perhaps it will be one day but not yet. Vevo, Yume, VivaKi, Omnicom (Nikki Mendoca flew in for a morning to grace us), Facebook etc all make it look a big deal and yet many presentations were far from International.

As an event I believe it over stretched itself although I am not sure the organiser thought so, there was no hint of embarrassement that they had spammed people with communication in the run up, so much so that basically everyone I met had given up caring and waited until the last minute to work out where to go next. There is less hierarchy in an arilines exec club status than at this event with three or four different tiers of ticket and then corresponding content. As an example the Telco area and presentations was only available to Platinum, consequently there were no people in the sessions! Different rooms, different tiers and thousands of emails led to a pleasantly chaotic environment. 

I think the focus on start ups and innovation is probably very valuable to the area and I think the mentality of networking very strong and so this side of the event was more powerful than other more sedate affairs. The outside areas and exhibition area, actually quite small, was more like a souk atmosphere with human interaction front and centre. I certainly have never had so many spam contacts, apologies, new business opportunities sent to me and continue to be so. A small point but I feel like I have signed up to the biggest direct mail database by attending the conference, as my inbox seems to be now filled with new biz opportunities. My favourite being:

‘We partner with firms to enable you to expedite time-to-market and improve Return-on-investment by providing cost effective solutions’

I think the area that the organiser most needs to focus on is the matching of titles and content, the Big Data session as an example had at least two presentations that niether mentioned the words Big Data or in fact had anything but a tenuous link with it. Some might say that is the norm, but watching a number of the sessions, it felt to me like too much time spent on creating an overcomplicated infrastructure and not enough on the content, both original content and how it is coordinated. The Panels at times had 8 people on them, this format needs some work, too many people not saying enough, less is more definitely springs to mind!

Evening entertainment was very good, especially for the speakers and panelists and the men, a wonderful evening boat ride and dinner followed by cool party on night one and then night two a meal followed by probably the least likely entertainment – a mass naked Hammam..umm. This combined with some liberal belly dancing left a few of the International ladies wondering whether this conference could be a little more balanced in its approach to men and women and indeed I doubt anyone really cared about how many women there were on stage – the answer. very few.

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All that said it was an amazing location, infectious atmosphere led by Plamen and I am sure it will continue to grow and grow. I feel like it needs to take a lead from other large events in how it is set up and run to streamline everything and have less of the workings on show and more of the content. If you want to really ramp up business in the area I also believe it would be a great starting place. For VivaKi expanding and increasing the Audeince On Demand services there it worked well on the back of the AOD Publisher Day we had before it and I am sure many other International teams will see similar opportunity.

The event also created two side lines, the first is that myself and Brian from Digiday have coined the phrase ‘they did a Webit’ and that Brian has big plans for bringing programmatic to the Bazaars of Istanbul, he is particularly worried about the longevity of the exclusive superglue stall man in this new era of RTB!

Persistent Identity – holy grail available to some..

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I am Just back from meetings in Seattle and San Fran with the Big 4. Big 4 you ask? Well in todays world of data connectivity, mobile innovation and growth as well as digital commerce the big 4 has changed. Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon are now gunpowder and bullet. The others more and more the barrel.

The message that is coming out loud and clear is that these players in their own varied ways are out to maximise the insights they have on their users and customers through a single themed approach of ‘Persistent Identity.’ I heard it a few times over the time I was out there, I have seen it mentioned in the odd article. But when you get to spend three days with all these market leading companies it becomes loud and clear that the data they hold on consumers is the key to their future and the single most valuable asset.

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Persistent Identity is a fancy way of saying ‘we know who you are, we know where you are and we know what device you are on, the holy grail of data. The kind of data and insights advertisers are crying out for. What strikes me about this data is how much more powerful it is than third party data sold by any number of companies, data which is slightly worn out, like an old apple at the bottom of a bag, still edible but just not as fresh and juicy as when it was picked.

The ability to recognise you, add insights to your iD, serve ads depending on which device you are on, understand you through your behaviour by device, friends, clicks and links is so powerful, so powerful in fact you can see the likes of Facebook being the defacto judge of what is good or accurate data instead of the traditional players. That has already started of course but I think will gather momentum. Watch out panel data.

When you take a step back and realise what data they have you can understand why they are reticent to share it or risk it being stolen, putting up walls of protection around it. Amazon with their marketplace, Facebook only allowing access through API, Twitter pulling info from Google, these are the actions of companies with hidden treasure. These businesses dont need all the old methods of tracking whether it is panels of adserved cookies, they know their people, signed in, registered people at scale.

Persistent identiity is powerful and logical, the only problem is that you have to stack up on these solutions. Like having a car and pulling up at the fuel station and putting 3 or 4 different petrols in to be able to get the car going. I want to recognise everyone through the ability of joining up these players – I would love to spot a FB user who has been updating a status about an iPod, browsing on Amazon and nail them with a promoted Tweet or video Ad to close the deal. I know it is too much to ask to have all these companies reveal their secret source but targeting would be fun..

Either way, data businesses will need to work hard and fast to justify their models in the face of the biggest digital players in the world starting to pull up their sleeves and flex their guns, because be under no illusion they are big guns.

Call centre ineptitude from RAC and AA negates good advertising

For many years I have sat opposite brand managers asking us to deliver more sales, conversions and the ‘right kind of customer’. This was often in the face of poor offers in market from those same Brand managers. The privilege of being the client, when asked how competitive a product is for say insurance or mortgages, the answer being, very uncompetitive, but don’t let that stop you. This is daily life for many agency performance planners in the business and is what makes performance remuneration so tricky.

But lets say the offer is good, lets say the creative is great, acquisition is still difficult and customers are hard won. So I want to understand why businesses allow thousands of call centre people to allow potential customers walk with no attempt to keep them or common sense.

I want to talk about my experience with break down cover. Three players in this space. RAC, AA and Green Flag. It is a battle royal and I have worked with two of those three so know how difficult it is to keep up acquisition at a good cost.

So this weekend my son got in my car and turned on the radio and left it like that for 24hours so that the battery became dead, dead, dead. So dead I could not even get under the bonnet to charge the battery(electric switch). So I call the RAC who I have been a customer with for around 7 years. It turns out that my cover did not auto renew because my debit card had changed at the same time I moved home and my address was not updated. This actually is a side issue but they had my number – no text or message to alert me?

Instead the lovely lady on the phone tells me I can renew but I have a surcharge based on my ‘usage’ last year ie called them twice AND a £70 extra charge for sending someone out at the same time. So I said ‘thank you RAC, its been good but you are now losing a customer.’ Again a side issue but there was no attempt to keep me, no discussion, no sweetener, just a ‘OK thanks.’ What a shame. How much media to now replace me?

So I go online to AA and start to book with them, all going well until I click the button ‘are you in a breakdown situation?’ The AA then add £130 pounds to the booking. Angry but in need of support I call the AA to proudly tell them I am leaving the RAC after all these years and I am ready to book for a year upfront for two people, £150 of cover and could they see clear to not adding the charge. No chance. In fact the guy sounded like he enjoyed saying no. And here lies the issue. Their rules suggest that I become a bad customer if I claim the minute I join, but what about if I stay for 7 years, and I would, that’s a minimum 1000 pounds they lost and the opportunity to cross sell, to try and gain £130. It is crazy.

The banks will negotiate overdraft fees, the insurance companies offer discounts but clearly that has not reached the breakdown companies. Worst still is the complete and obvious lack of flexibility, training and initiative that the bosses provide for call centre workers.

Well RAC and AA. I managed to get the bonnet open, and charged the car and now I am going to book with Green Flag and all for £70. Don’t come asking your planner to increase sales when your call centres and commercial practises are so flawed.

Linkedin etiquette – Why link but not shake?

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In the last two days I have had discussions about how to use Linkedin. When I say use I mean the etiquette of connections, why you connect and how you should behave once you have. You always assume everyone is in it for the same reason, but that is not necessarily true as I have found out.

Let me start by summarising my contacts:

Category A: People I know very well either personally or via work, or have worked with over the years pretty closely. Linkedin for me in those cases is a good contact directory as inevitably you lose people’s details over time.

Category B: People I have known, perhaps through work for a short period of time, but none the less they are people I could stop and have a chat with.

Category C: People I have met in a meeting, maybe just the once, but we met. I notice the US visitors have Linkedin before they have left the office many times!

Category D: People I have not met but have heard of along the way and so at least know someone they no and or their company, many times you know what they want before they ask it.

Category E: Randoms.

Of the 1141 contacts I have, I would say about 20-30% are in this camp. It is this category that recently caused some offence with a sensitive sales guy called Lee oh and Joanna and a couple of others. Lee felt that he should comment on his incredulity about the fact that people accept invitations on Linkedin and then don’t respond to emails he sends to that contact. Well a debate started along two lines.

The first was whether you should agree to a connection if you had no real ambition to do business with that person, the second was it was rude not to reply to someone who had written to you. I think the third will soon become how you see Linkedin vs say Facebook and Twitter, but for today I am going to leave that one.

Here was my view that I expressed to their disappointment. I accept Linkedin invitations to almost anyone because I have nothing to hide or keep private like say on Facebook, so as far as I can see, more the merrier, in fact more fool them as they will have to suffer my Twitter updates! In fact the most useful thing about Linkedin is the ability to track people down you don’t know and find out more. It could be an interview, a meeting, a new business pitch, whatever, if they are in your network you can see their details. Therefore the bigger the network, the more likelihood of being about to track them down. Apparently that is seen as being a little negative and cynical, I was surprised to discover this as I assumed everyone did it! Any thoughts?

As for the second debate about contact etiquette the general theme was that you should respond to every in bound email. Well on this I thought that yes in theory you should respond to every email out of politeness but then again, if it is a mass email with limited targeting and thought then absolutely no chance. There are other categories of in bound though that wont get a response. They normally start with ‘I just had a meeting with someone senior in your organisation (add in whoever) who I have know for years (read old school network and good old days club)  and thought we should meet for a coffee. Well you know what, for better or worse I don’t reply to the name dropping approach. Cant stand it. The other blank is anyone who starts with ‘I would like to take you for lunch this Friday type thing’ No. I don’t know you and just because I accepted your Linkedin invite does not mean we can start dating. Too pushy.

So you see there are many reasons for not replying, often the least of them is just straight too busy. It happens to all of us all of the time, people don’t return calls, don’t turn up for meetings and all that, so Lee in my opinion was being a little sensitive and had us all believing that he sends his 1000 copy and paste emails and then waits with bated breath for a reply. You wrote three lines and copied and pasted a couple of times and then pressed a button. Forgive me if I don’t send a carrier pigeon laden with chocolates explaining that I am unable to enter into business with you.  You can always remove me – I will never know!

Communication on Linkedin is the same as everywhere. Make it personalised, well thought out, relevant and well written. Even better find another way to contact me that shows you have put the slightest extra effort into the process if you are really serious. And just for clarity I am still talking Cat E types, the rest I am fine with.

What does everyone else think? Am I being too black and white? Make sure everyone of you replies or I will cry like a baby and post how upset I am that you follow my blog and don’t comment!

My 2012. Perpetual motion.

Perpetual motion in more ways than one. Change is the only certainty in life and we certainly experienced it this year. Travel wise it was the year of going to the US, Palo Alto, Chicago, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles. But let’s not forget the best that Europe has to offer with Madrid, Moscow, Milan, Cannes and Monte Carlo, Paris x 10, Amsterdam, Prague and on it goes. It is something I love to do and simply the best way of getting to know the network but can also take its toll.

I got a new boss this year and said goodbye to my first VivaKi boss in the form of Curt Hecht who left to join The Weather Channel. Curt was an entirely new kind of leader to those I have had in the past. He inspired me to look at our media world differently, he was himself in perpetual motion and seemed to never run out of energy for this business of ours. He pushed me, supported me and at times put a few European noses out of joint on his visits, importantly he taught me that travel, events, meeting bright people is worth something, it makes you more worldly, and helps you form a different view to those who listen to only those around them. Curt will and I know already is doing a great job. Enter stage left Kurt Unkel. Old Curt, new Kurt as they were for many months!

Thanks in part to all this change I was invited to Paris, Publicis Groupe HQ to meet Maurice Levy for a brief one to one. It was the very pinnacle of my career, if you would have told me as a TV buyer in 96 that I would get to meet Maurice I would have laughed – in fact I would probably have not known who he was! It’s funny how some of my external colleagues in the likes of Google meet him all the time (relatively) and yet it is so hard as a part of his organisation, but anyway, it was a privilege.

New Kurt as my boss can’t receive too many positive comments here for fear of brown nosing abuse, but suffice to say that he is a good guy, smart and looking forward to working with him in 2013. It’s been a crazy work year so much growth and development, part of a team of people now overseeing the new VivaKi proposition I am expecting no let up in 2013. But 2012 has seen us grow to 11 markets live with Audience On Demand in EMEA, the latest being Russia in December. We have worked tirelessly to create this EMEA wide expertise so that our advertisers can have a genuine centre of excellence wherever they are, it has been down to a lot of hard work from the VNC leaders across Europe – particularly Bea, Lothar, JB, Sara, Danny, Geoff as well as Becky for getting me around!

I reduced the sitting on Exchangewire panels of 2011 in 2012 and did some interesting and varied panels and presentations. I presented a digital overview at the IAA earlier in the year. A session at the FT around B2B comms and the future developments. A fantastic panel at Monaco Media Forum with Brian from Digiday – you can see that here. and have actually written more solid content for media publications. My first one of those was a sum up of CES and the impact of connected TVs..it’s long but if you want it – click here.

As usual I got into the odd scrape, although a lot less. My blog on the Dataxu purchase of Mexad called ‘Mathmen just turned back into Madmen’ went down well with some and less well with others. Siding with the Google view of ‘a frictionless Web‘ also brought a few a google haters out but as we showed in December with the World first search retargeting campaign, it was a great development.

Google Zeitgeist, Client Advisory Board in California, Monaco Media Forum, Cannes, CES – all great locations and events and yes you can and do have a lot of fun but at the same time, I have learned so much from so many bright people through these events, it is a very fortunate and a not to be taken for granted opportunity. The pace of change right now is break neck and these events help us stay in touch or at least try to.

Just as you think you are in a groove enter VivaKi 2.0. New structures, new propositions, all change again, but it is exciting and nerve racking at the same time, 2013 starts very quickly when we are back and I have a feeling won’t stop until that last working day of 2013. The team I work with and for is an incredible bunch, so bloody bright and enthusiastic. If anyone can create and steer change it is them and that gives you a lot of confidence. The guys I sit with right now in London have all worked their skins off and done a great job, it is these guys that make it happen and I look forward to a new year with them all.

Perpetual motion, managed by my awesome PA Becky has been mainly work focused but just to add a bit more into the mix we moved to Beaconsfield from Balham in May, another life change for us, one we have enjoyed thoroughly, not least it allowed me to buy that Yamaha T-Max 500 scooter I had been coveting! I grew up in the country and so I return (sort of). Sad to say one advantage is being near Heathrow!

The last icing on the cake came with being asked into Campaign A-list in December and judging Media Week Awards both for the first time (late developer!) but one question I was asked was ‘how have the last 12 months been for you?’ My answer was that they have been the best of my entire career. I am so pleased that after 16 years of work I have been given the opportunity to say that and I will be working doubly hard next year to make sure I can say it again this time next year.

Thanks to everyone in my team, to friends and colleagues and to all those companies we work with, I wish everyone a very Happy New Year.

It’s late. Good night and HNY.

Will Millennials ever know Serendipity?

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Apart from loving the word, I wanted to write about Serendipity as I sometimes wonder whether it is going to be a rare thing for coming generations. For those that are not sure the definition of Serendipity is basically about coming across something pleasant by accident. Now I started thinking about this from what I read online and updates etc and it struck me that unless you work hard at it, serendipity is not what it used to be.

I work in a business where we deliver exact ads to exact cookies which is another shot in the eye for Serendipity when compared with TV advertising that still trades on the fact you buy one audience but could pick up many other ‘free’ audiences. Online advertising is just one part of the equation though, it is also about my Twitter feed, Linkedin and so on.

If you think about it the World Wide Web is closing in on us everyday we use it. We have Google showing us Ads related to searches and sites we visit and then content that is determined by our own behaviours and our friends social behaviour. I have 500 people I follow that I have hand picked based on their subject matter expertise whether that is personal or professional or indeed they are just friends. By definition I am presented with content of the same genre, often lots of the same content over and over. Of course you can add random people but most people forget to do that. To help make your readership less varied Twitter then suggest people like you so you keep adding more of the same.

Facebook is of course again a hand picked bunch but for some reason I see the same people adding updates. I keep being told that this is based on my interaction with them, I know for sure that is not the case so there must be some other science at work, either way I want more variety and it is killing my Facebook experience and interest. On top of that I am being shown highly targeted Ads based on interest and friends. It all adds up to a pretty repetitive and unsurprising experience.

Linkedin are usually people from the same genre and updates cross over with Twitter, Ads are targeted and so again I am seeing the same stuff. If I go shopping on Amazon they are predicting my tastes and showing me content that they think I will want whether it is books, films or electricals. This leaves very little revelation in my experience. That extends into most shopping as targeting becomes more sophisticated where very personalised content will be shown just for me across many sites. Of course we are then flocking to sites like Zite that learns fast or asks what content you like until you end up with a painfully myopic view. To be honest the examples go on and on with iTunes and other music systems proposing other songs and albums, but always based on something that you already like.

Right now we are primarily talking about ads and people but when we get into search that becomes more and more tailored we may never see an alternative view. If Google learns that I am a conservative and look at that content, that is what I will see, I will never be given alternative content. Same for any belief or interest. The technology we use is driving our experience to be more and more focused on understanding the user and making sure what they see is relevant. That might be good for Ads but I feel like we need a serendipity button.

We need to mix this up, challenge ourselves and give ourselves an opportunity to see something new and exciting before we target ourself into the most narrcow cast existence with no little surprises around the corner. Let us all press the Serendipity button. Aleks Krotoski has allowed us to do this, the image for the blog above is her Serendipity engine which actually creates it through a physical representation. It takes some getting your head around but it is fascinating – click here for more.