My piece in Mediaweek

This was a piece done in Mediaweek which I have transferred onto my blog so as to keep records of what people have been saying..

Mediaweek 01.04.2010 Marco Bertozzi hits a nerve at VivaKi. Article here

Marco Bertozzi, back in the media world after a two-and-a-half-year absence, tells Media Week about his new role as EMEA managing director of VivaKi’s Nerve Centre and what will happen when the lunatics take over the asylum

Marco Bertozzi, managing director EMEA, VivaKi Nerve Centre
Marco Bertozzi doesn’t like being away from his pregnant wife Angelina, global brand manager at Unilever, so he got up at 3.30am to fly to a meeting in Madrid and back within a day. But there are no signs of tiredness when he meets Media Week the following day; the only glitch is the fact he hasn’t been warned he will have his picture taken. “I would have worn a suit,” he grumbles.

But then, as Media Week points out, he would look like a City boy, and that isn’t his style. A City boy wouldn’t order a pint of lager just the wrong side of midday, as Bertozzi does as he sits down to talk about his new role at VivaKi, nor would he have staked his career on an intuition that the internet would one day dominate the media landscape, at a time when everyone thought he was “mad and would fail”.

Bertozzi [pronounced Ber-tott-zee] is back in the media world after “ticking some useful career boxes” during a two-and-a-half-year spell at recruitment firm TMP, enticed back to the agency group he first joined in 1996 thanks to an encounter with ZenithOptimedia’s global chief digital officer Fred Joseph, who offered him the role of managing director EMEA of VivaKi’s Nerve Centre division.

The move to “a new job in an old home” felt right, Bertozzi says, because he wanted to pick up the digital thread again, working with leading online publishers – VivaKi has partnerships with Microsoft and Google – and the latest technologies. The basic function of the Nerve Centre is to act as “the Intel chip” inside VivaKi, a future-facing unit that helps the Publicis agencies add value to their clients’ businesses.

The Nerve Centre is more established in the United States, and Bertozzi’s job is to ramp up its presence and investment in the UK, working with digital and management heads across all the Publicis Groupe agencies: Starcom, MediaVest, ZenithOptimedia, Digitas, Denuo and new addition Razorfish. But it is not an agency-within-an-agency; Bertozzi is the Nerve Centre’s only full-time member of staff in the UK, reporting to Curt Hecht, the US-based global president of the Nerve Centre.

Bertozzi explains: “The Nerve Centre is not about creating its own fiefdom; it is about thought leadership. The exciting part of the job for me is working with all the different agencies and people within the group, being in the middle of everything. When people know you they don’t tiptoe around and you get to the root of the issues they are facing far quicker.”

After a “whirlwind” four weeks in the role, Bertozzi has identified two areas to focus on: the US-led Audience on Demand service, which engages with ad exchanges to buy the right type of audience impression in real-time, and VivaKi’s research initiative called The Pool, which works with media owners and clients on “high-end, market-changing research”, such as online video and mobile. Bertozzi says: “The point is to create research that will end up changing the market in response to the answers of that research.”

Early adopter
Bertozzi got into digital as an “instinctive move” back in 1999, when digital was so far off the radar that colleagues emailed Zenith Interactive Solutions, the division founded by Damian Blackden, now EMEA president of digital at OMG, to ask if they could fix their computers. He recalls: “Anyone who got involved in [digital] back then had no knowledge it would be the big thing of the future. TV was the power-base of the agency and I was being promoted, but I couldn’t see myself staying in television.”

Now, of course, Google’s ad revenue has outstripped ITV, and the challenge is to keep up with how technology evolves. Bertozzi started his own blog last autumn, Bertozzi’s Bytesize, purely to understand the digital ecosystem: its viral effect, how people communicate and where the traffic is coming from. He says: “The audience is fragmenting and there are more and more ways of communicating with consumers. The way we plan and buy media, particularly digital media, has to change, because it is so fragmented and there are so many sites.”

The solution, Bertozzi says, is to solve the “big battleground” around data and how it relates to ad exchanges and targeting. He says: “The right audience delivers the best sales. So the future is about technology that allows you to target people in a more sophisticated way, taking into account previous behaviours and overlaying other data sources. I like to think there isn’t a digital buyer in town who isn’t excited by ad exchanges and that side of the business.”

Meanwhile, mobile has had so many false dawns it remains “strangely unresolved”, says Bertozzi, although he believes it will gain momentum over the next year. And social media is coming out of its box to evolve beyond direct response ads on Facebook to a “more refined” art involving blogging, seeding, generating pools of fans and responding to customer issues. “The purer end of social media – when you properly restructure a client’s communications plan around all the social media channels – is still a challenge and that will continue.”

Coming back to the industry following a tough two years, Bertozzi has observed how the recession has “woken people up” to the fact that everything is business critical. “In tough times like recession, people definitely grow up,” he says. In keeping with the new mood of seriousness, Bertozzi is no longer tempted by lavish industry jollies, preferring to drink in low-key haunts with agency colleagues he has known for years, such as the pre-Christmas reunion of Zenith alumni at the Dudley Arms near Paddington.

So, as someone whose career has grown alongside the internet, going from off-the-radar to the central nerve within 10 years, does he now consider himself the elder statesman of digital? Bertozzi, who turned 38 in January, laughs. “No. But there is some pride in the fact that I got involved in digital before the market had confidence in it, as opposed to all the people who joined when they could see it was not going to go away.”

Later, Bertozzi speaks of the day when “the lunatics run the asylum” – when those people who have grown up with digital take the top media agency roles. Bertozzi, with his 12-year pedigree at Zenith, has the credentials to be an agency chief executive, and if his career continues on the same trajectory, the big promotion could come sooner than he thinks. Publicis bosses would be mad not to consider him

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