History repeats itself for Audio, like ‘digital’ before it.

Recently Warc released one of it’s reports on media channel revenues vs time spent and I have seen a lot of commentary about the big gap between time spent (31%) and percentage of advertiser revenues (9%) in the audio space. As someone who was involved in digital back in 2000 and all the way through its growth it reminds me of how much the digital crowd used to complain about the exact same thing. To compound the digerati were always incredibly frustrated by the fact newspapers used receive disproportionally more revenue than they should.

I think in both cases, although from different directions, the one thing it shows is that the advertising community, both agencies and advertisers tend to move a little more slowly than the audiences out in the world. Speed of change is vital from a number of angles, firstly the industry moves more slowly than audiences, but then within that, some businesses (not all) move even more slowly and eventually start to fall behind. There are organisations in the Radio world for instance that need to continue to change and change fast to keep up with those audiences that represent that 31% and actually take advantage of them. The Publisher world has seen winners and losers and those who are winning all have one thing in common, they grabbed the future with both hands and turned it to their advantage. Companies like Hearst, Future, Telegraph, Guardian each took the chance to capitalise on digital developments and it has paid off for them.

SO back to Audio, and those who are commenting on the gap, what I would say is that although sometimes it is frustrating, I do believe the industry eventually does catch up and Audio will continue to see a great growth over the coming years. I have seen some comments about how radio is cheap / cost effective and other related words, as a means of explaining why advertisers should engage, I would massively look out for and avoid this kind of rhetoric. Many of the digital audio companies like Spotify, DAX etc are by no means cheap and rightly so, they bring the benefits of audio with the data and targeting of digital, they deserve to expect a premium. Audio just needs to keep focusing on its benefits and demonstrating the commercial benefits of spending with their media channel – TV and Radio has had years of demonstrating ROI, digital audio on the other hand needs to work a bit harder in that area, years of learned performance will help advertisers invest more and more and thats when the revenue will start to shift at scale.

Overall I am incredibly optimistic for Audio and I think we will see lots more growth to come, but the traditional publishers in Radio have to adapt fast to take advantage of this and the digital audio companies must demonstrate ROI if they are to shift that revenue vs time imbalance, only time will tell, but I am very optimistic.

Are you defined by your job?

What’s your first reaction? It will probably vary depending on a few factors.

  • How high profile is your work or job,
  • how high profile are you as an individual
  • what else is happening in your life,
  • what other things are you doing outside of work.

Most importantly:

  • Have you ever had to cope with the question

There will be others, but those will definitely be large contributing factors as to how you answer the question. I know there will be people out there who have had to deal with this question, who are still dealing with it and those that have not, so depending on that this article will either be irrelevant or perhaps a sage piece of understanding for a potential future state or you will be sat there living every word.

I have been high profile over the years, by that I don’t mean some big cheese or something conceited, I mean I have always had opinions and been vocal about them, I have always been busy on Twitter and LinkedIn, worked in sectors or companies like Spotify that have been in demand and so have stayed visible. I have enjoyed doing it. I have always taken a lot of pride in the companies I worked for and the people I worked with in those companies. I have enjoyed the wins, been excited seeing my colleagues do well and progress, it’s a buzz.

So what happens when that stops and you no longer have the big job in the big company?

What happens when the invites stop.

What happens when the journalists stop calling because you don’t ‘represent a company’

What happens when all that experience you have built up is no longer useful in the job market.

What happens when 25 years of being high profile does not get you an interview anymore, too old, too expensive.

There will be many people out there who have been or are going through it right now. It’s tough, isolating, pretty soul destroying. Yes there are people worse off and having it harder, but that does not diminish your own challenges.

Well I will tell you what happens, you have to make your own story, you have to stop relying on your company, your profile, your job. I have so much advice for people, I can’t fit it in here but I am going to tell you my experience as succinctly as possible. This has been my roadmap and here’s my advice.

  1. Help others and ask nothing. When things feel a little dark, helping others gives so much positivity to the system. I offered my LinkedIn network my time for advice about any topic. I filled 70+ meetings, it felt great and I hope helped some people. I continue to do it now, two tomorrow in fact.
  2. Stay visible and don’t be afraid to post and comment and write if you feel that way inclined, keep talking, keep meeting. Enjoy having an independent voice.
  3. Find People, companies, charities that do value your experience and will embrace your knowledge, it may be consulting, it maybe pro bono but get that inspiration going again.
  4. Dedicate time to causes you care about, do more of the stuff you could not before. I have enjoyed working with people trying to change advertising for the better and it feels good to do.
  5. Talk to people who have left the industry or are doing exciting things around it. I have been inspired by people who are not fixated with our industry and have done their own thing. It might be setting up a Gin company (Kirstine) or finding new ways to recruit (Kate) or created start ups and travelled the world (Andy) or try to change the world (Seyi / Spencer) or helping others (Shereen) They are not defined by what they used to do, but what they do.
  6. If you can then create something for yourself. Even setting up a company so as to act as a consultant feels empowering. I purposely set up http://www.bertozzi49.com to remind me of the year of my life that my career changed for ever. I have since set up a second business with a friend that is launching in the Autumn in the automotive sector and it’s been a while since I have felt such pride. Not everyone will set a business up, but if you have an idea, go for it. I had been toying with this idea but until I spoke to Andy Hart who said ‘just go and fucking talk to this guy’ I was procrastinating, so I took his advice and here we are.
  7. Even though I am doing a number of amazing things right now, I still dread the ‘what do you do question’ because I don’t have a quick answer and I know I don’t have time to explain that I do lots of things and I can’t just say ‘I am VP Spotify EMEA’. This is the definition stage, this is the what am I worth stage. It’s the toughest one, a few people say to me ‘we are waiting to see your next big job’. It makes me wince. The reason being, that’s not the path anymore. It’s not the definition of me anymore. It might be, but it’s not where I am aiming. It’s taken me 8 months to understand that by doing other things, by taking a break, by not being in the day to day I am someone else. I am now an entrepreneur, I am now a consultant (currently for the amazing Whalar), I am now a Board advisor for a really hot Music NFT platform being launched soon and so on. I am the sum of all I have done and I am working on all the new things I am going to do. Sorry, no simple ‘this is what I do’

So a message to those who are out there struggling right now, it is vital you take your own control, In the time it has taken me to start two businesses, become advisor to two amazing companies, to consult for 4 businesses I have had 3 meaningful job conversations in 8 months…3. It is vital that you create your own next steps and make your own future. You can’t allow the industry to define you. Spend some time thinking about what and who you are, what you have done, not who you work for, how many people work for you, what company it is, come up with a new answer to the ‘what do you do’.

And a message to everyone who currently does not have to answer my original question because you have a great job and the world is great. Remember you will be judged by how you act with someone in times of trouble, not when things are great. Take a second to think about how you could help a colleague, call them, intro them, meet for lunch, whatever. If they are consulting and need an hour of your time, give it to them. Journalists, go talk to those not working for big orgs, they are much more likely to talk freely about the industry, get them on some panels and help keep their names visible. This has been a tough year for many, as an industry we can all support each other.

I would like to say Thanks to all of those people who have been unrelenting in staying in touch, being helpful, encouraging even as things went up and down. I want to wish all those I have spoken to over the last few months, even those I was meant to be helping. Thank you for the time you have given up.

Good luck everyone. There is so much out there to do, lets do it.

Yours Entrepreneur, consultant, advisor, investor, mentor, job hunter and all around pain in the arse!

Consultancy vs Full time work – is it for you?

As someone who has only ever been employed by a company for the last 25 years, I was always fascinated with the concept of consultancy. It seemed to be the thing you did when you got too old to be employed in the industry (about 35). I think I always used to think it must be a slightly unsatisfactory type of work, just getting involved with the feedback and strategy but not the execution. I think overall I was naive about it and didn’t really understand how many types of consultancy there are and how many people are involved and my own involvement so far has opened my eyes to this way of working.

After leaving Spotify I started Bertozzi49, my own company that I started in my 49th year. It was time to explore what this consultancy lark was about. The first thing I would say is there is a difference between someone who has decided to do this for the rest of their career or for a temporary period of time. In my case it is for a temporary period of time, allowing me time to focus on my new business (soon to be announced and not in the media space) and any full time role interviews. I think perhaps that makes it harder as you don’t necessarily invest in marketing yourself hard and your messaging is not as focused but on the other hand, it means you are likely closer to being a practitioner vs a serial consultant and further from the sharp end of business.

I am excited by the projects I have worked on so far, one was a project evaluating sales structure and approach for a ‘grown up’ but they rightly wanted to plan for future scaling, it was short and sweet and focused and fitted into my own view of a ‘second opinion’ approach. Another was much more in depth, over a longer period and was a genuine chance to get close to a company’s business, a big media company at that. The second was tougher for me, as I really wanted to go deeper and further into the business and see our proposals executed but that’s not our job and I think that’s what you have to get used to in many cases. However, the upside of that is that you get to be really brave on your strategy, you are unencumbered by existing baggage, internal politics, personal or corporate targets etc and allows freedom of thought which is a nice change from having to cope with the day to day as well as strategising. I think the worst thing I can do as a consultant is not be straight, honest and challenge the thinking, hopefully the business you are working for is open to that and not paying people to validate their own formed views.

Interview processes are SLOW and so this kind of work is very useful to keep you sharp, thinking about the industry and importantly out in the market place talking to the wonderful network. It is also a chance to learn about an area of the business that you may not take a full time role in, but by understanding it better is adding to your overall expertise and knowledge. When I move back into a full time role, I know these experiences will be invaluable to that company. As I start my own business in the automotive sector, these learnings also help shape how we plan for the future as well.

I would also say that this is where social media comes into its own, my LinkedIn network and Twitter network has been amazing through these last few months and provided me with so many good leads and opportunities so I highly recommend to all those starting out in your career, start building your network now, don’t dismiss social and don’t be that person who says ‘do you ever do any work?’ based on someone’s social activity, more fool you in my view. These platforms could be the bedrock of future business or people helping you with your own business, I dont know where I would be without the support of the network here on Linkedin.

I am excited to announce two more projects in the coming weeks that I will be more visible as I will be representing the companies in the market to some extent, so more to come on that – they are in two incredibly exciting companies and can’t wait to get the news out there and start to get some momentum in the marketplace. Bertozzi49 well and truly firing on all cylinders.

So overall, I think this approach to work can be very fulfilling, you can learn a lot and help many people and businesses. I think if you are still heavily drawn by wanting to do the execution part and seeing all your hard work come to fruition (thats me) then perhaps there is still another salary job left in you, but if you like the strategy part and the variety of consultancy then I would highly recommend it! Whatever you do, good luck!

Digital advertising: Should we return to simpler days?

First Published in New Media Age here

Marco Bertozzi, most recently Vice President, EMEA and Multi-Market Global Sales at Spotify is a true digital veteran and NDA’s new regular columnist. He started his career at Zenith Optimedia, went on to have leadership roles at companies including Vivaki and Starcom and has long been an influential, some might say legendary, industry figure.

This latest Google news has really got the advertising community talking. There are a plethora of articles that paint a very dark picture of where the death of third-party cookies on the Google landscape will take us. There is a lot of money at stake and it’s serious topic for many, but for now, I want to reminisce a little.

I started working in digital in 2000. I worked alongside some wonderful people Martin Kelly, Andy Cocker, Damian Burns, Damian Blackden, many have gone on to amazing careers in advertising. We worked for Zenith Interactive Solutions (you can tell its old with Interactive in the title).

If you worked in digital back then you will know that actually the digital landscape was very close to print advertising. We used to pull together schedules based on target audiences that would reflect what we thought the audience would enjoy. If you wanted to reach a 35+ ABC1 man then roll out the golf websites, automotive websites, maybe some finance one and we tried to squeeze in gardening as it was also one of our clients (Greenfingers.com).

Our KPIs were clicks and click throughs, the schedules ran into double pages, sometimes 40/50 lines deep. At the start there was no third-party tracking. We did not have audience segments, retargeting was rare, even the scourge of the internet, ad networks had not taken off.

For the younger readers there was also no Google, YouTube, Facebook, Snap, Twitter, or TikTok and algorithms were still a NASA-based concept. No, back then we did one very simple thing, we worked out what our target audiences liked and consumed and we put ads in front of them. When we wanted scale we had a Yahoo home page takeover, that was as crazy as it got!

Trouble was, print was not cool, and there were so many sites that we found it all a little inefficient and so we started down the road of tracking, adserving and ad networks to make things a little easier. The rest as they say is history, digital advertising was born and we have been on a 20-year journey of excitement about data and adtech to get us to become the dominant advertising channel and deliver a brave new world.

Or have we?

When you look back, when you really ask yourself now whether things were better or worse, it is hard to say. Yes, that sounds like some old bloke reminiscing and I am, perhaps stretching things, but is everyone happy with what we have?

Can we all hand on heart say that the terrible targeting around the web, the uncomfortable arrival in your feeds of things you had spoken about days before, the repetitive ads for the same product for weeks, one perhaps you had already bought, can we really say things are better?

Still today you are hard pushed to find loads of data proving that audience segments really outperform their cost, indeed the most common discussion is that data segments don’t pay back for performance. I think there is a reason for that, they are just not that good. They are built out of shonky data with little transparency and the tough situation we face now is that a few giant companies have the good data, they are the biggest and they dominate.

But maybe we were on to something back in the day. When Damian Burns walked in each morning with his massive coffee, when Simon Halstead took a bite into his bacon sandwich and Andy Cocker took out his calculator to negotiate his next deal, we all had one goal.

How to reach audiences so that advertisers could place ads in front of them based on context and content.

We wanted to show products and services to the right people and publishers were where we went. Even the portals were all about channels – Auto, Finance etc.

Perhaps we have an opportunity to reset and start to think about how we support publishers and quality content and start to spend where audiences are because they are properly engaging with content, not because they just liked their cousin’s photo.

Advertisers need to prioritise quality over quantity so let’s use the death of the cookie as a chance to return to a simpler mission, one less driven by adtech making money and more for publishers to make money.

We are all in our heads too much.

First published here.

Marco Bertozzi, most recently Vice President, EMEA and Multi-Market Global Sales at Spotify is a true digital veteran and NDA’s new regular columnist. He started his career at Zenith Optimedia, went on to have leadership roles at companies including Vivaki and Starcom and has long been an influential, some might say legendary, industry figure.

Over the last few weeks I have been speaking to a lot of people. I wanted to use the time I have to try and give back a little and so offered my time to my network for advice on anything.

I have filled five days and counting so far, learnt how to used Calendly to organise all the requests and met a lot of really great people. I have written before about the importance of your network but this time it has involved 50+ calls with complete strangers bar one or two.

This was the unseen, unknown network who got the confidence to reach out to another complete stranger offering time to talk.

The topics so far have been very varied. We have talked about launching and growing businesses, people stuck at a crossroads, some struggling to find work, changes of careers, and changes of direction within their companies.

It’s only been two days but already it’s been fascinating. As I reflected on these conversations I realised there was one thing, that I haven’t heard spoken about so much, that it was clear we are all suffering from.

We are spending too much time in our own heads.

Work from home has had many impacts on us, like stress, boredom, loneliness, loss of joy and many other side effects but one less spoken about is the lack of inputs into our minds and a dramatic reduction in stimuli. Stimuli that could be a variety of things.

It could be validation, reassurance that you are doing well – who doesn’t like a ‘wow looks like you are doing great’ or ‘you guys are doing great!’ comment. In normal days, inspiration can came from anything and anywhere, whatever the stimulus is, it is welcome, it distracts, it motivates, and of course can sometimes be a negative as well but keeps you thinking externally.

The reality now is we lack all that, we are just in our heads.

Those times when you press leave or end on the video call and just sit and breathe out. Left with our own thoughts, wondering how we did, whether that was the right thing to say or not. More than that though, if we are at a juncture, starting a business, getting a job, being rejected daily, we just go around in circles in our heads.

I heard on my calls a number of times comments like, I am stuck, lost, don’t know what to do.

I firmly believe the vacuum of external stimuli has been filled with us arguing and debating with ourselves. Another dog walk alone, a chance to go over old ground again, in more ways than one.

So, after the first few days of talking, I realised for both me and the person on the other end of the call, what we were really getting out of our chat was a chance to talk to someone different, someone who had no connection to their work or business, someone who would listen without judgement and give some new stimulus. It may be reassurance, direction, feedback or sometimes a push to get out of the position of being stuck or lost.

The future of work is around the corner and I am hopeful some of what we love will return, but before then, why don’t you go looking for that stimulus.

If you are stuck or lost, get hold of someone you don’t know and just have a chat. I hope when you press Leave at the end of that next Zoom call you don’t let your brain just churn about how you did, but rather smile at the opportunities ahead.

Sales in a Pandemic. Did not see that coming!

Four years ago, I moved from agency to sales and at the time and since, a number of agency colleagues asked me about how the cross over was and asked what I had discovered. There is so much to learn in making the move and I have learned a lot along the way and more than just sales. I have solidified my leadership journey further and grown as a human. One thing four years ago I had not considered was how sales would be in a Pandemic where I have not visited the office in close to nine months and seen members of the team in person only once. That was not in the instruction manual.

By this time last year I would have visited every sales team in every country at least three times for varying lengths of time, I would have had client meetings in every country, presented at a number of conferences, attended CES, Cannes and Dmexco at a minimum. I would have eaten my body weight in pasta, Tapas and shit airport sandwiches. I would have taken at least 30 return flights. I would be exhausted but I would be full to the brim of people interaction. If you run a sales team from UK to Dubai, this is what you have to, this is sales.

Instead, I have been in my room, across the corridor staring at my screen, for nine months.

Sales leadership is something that Is heavily influenced by the human interaction. The people interactions are huge, people feed off each other in a very immediate way and momentum comes from those relationships. I have seen teams go up or down very rapidly based on those engagements. Morale is very fluid and so in the last nine months we have all had to adapt dramatically. I want to pause and give a huge shout out to all those sales leaders out there, a selection I have had a chance to talk with and know they are feeling it too!

The Pandemic has been like being in a car, seeing the corner coming but not having a steering wheel to turn, at least in a recession the steering wheel was turning to the team, brainstorming, taking refuge in humour and finding camaraderie of facing something together, maybe a drink, maybe a meal, a fitness class, a pool night, things to break up the relentlessness. This time it has been different and every single one of us in our industry has had to adapt and fast.

I can talk personally that going to countries and walking in the office gives you a chance to chat, speak to different people, learn about people on the fly. You can talk to them directly, you can get the feeedback, questions asked are important to me and in-person time tends to help draw that out. The Hangout/Zoom/Teams set up means that is very hard in a larger group and you get the sense you are broadcasting the whole time, thats my biggest sentiment, you are on broadcast, one way dialogue. It does get better in smaller groups of course but there is still an element of that, especially with people having to keep up with dialogues not in their first language. I think the biggest casualty of Zoomday is we tend to cut out the personal chat, or to a bare minimum and thats where we lose the connections, and spare a thought for all the new people who started in a lock down, we have had many and I have made a point of speaking to them all (ongoing!) and I am amazed at how positive they are and pleased our teams are rallying around them BUT excited for when they get back into the buzz!

So when I look back on this year, what have we changed, how did we do it and how in all this craziness did we win Sales Team of The Year?

  1. Agility: This comes top if the list for me. We all put so much store in strategy, we must have a plan and stick to it, this year was about how do we adapt that plan or indeed throw it out. Everything from how we interact, commission plans, market insights, obviously type of engagement, turn around times, business rules around bookings etc. The pace of adapting was amazing to see. My biggest goal was sharing of ideas/work/ideas across the region, the amount the teams have been inspiring each other has been incredible.
  2. Brand: In sales, what you sell is crucial of course and Spotify Advertising stepped up in the last nine months. A drum beat of insights, updates, analysis (not to mention some big acquisitions and announcements) allowed the team to be active in market, visible and relevant. Turning Pandemic insights into something marketable. Marketing that would have taken weeks was signed off and pushed out fast. Big shout out to our marketing teams.
  3. Offline to Online: Linked to above, the business had to get off its drug of live events, a focus in sales we take for granted, no Cannes, no Dmexco, no Festival of Media, and all the local events, our businesses are tuned to that. The transition to online was amazing to watch – LoveAudio events online were run across the region and drew huge crowds, it was a pleasure to see all those pulled together. A topic for another day, but a lot of pros to these online events.
  4. Team: Yes we would all agree that we are burned out with video calls. However, it was still important to bring people together and build team spirit. I literally cant think of a single thing we would do in person as a team that did not make it onto hangouts! Yoga, fitness, cooking, quizzes, training, drinking, eating, nail bars, hairdressing, concerts, interviews. You get the idea. All of these supplemented with chat groups that never stopped with humour and chat rolling every day – and of course Rak’s music playlists being pumped out every day.
  5. Empathy: Something that I know has been on all my leads minds, how to make sure they can look after their teams and how each member of the team has been looking out for each other. This has been huge and taken a big extra step in how we think about each other. When you are together every day those conversations happen more easily and frequently, so through these incredibly stressful times, taking extra time to think about your colleagues and reach out has been crucial. A big shout to the teams that lead amazing ERGs like Heart and Soul supporting everyone. Has this made us all more empathetic than before, thinking more laterally about the team, I hope so.
  6. Sales skills: I will say that as a sales team we have got better at sales. I am talking about Spotify but I am willing to bet it is beyond us. Sales changed this year. We had to listen to advertiser needs more than ever, we had to be agile in our solutions, we had to adapt what we had to support the brands looking to spend and indeed those who didnt. We had to dig deep into what sectors were benefitting and those that needed time. It has been so tough this year, but I genuinely think we grew as a team and we come out better than we went in as regards sales skills. I have learned a lot personally and when I moved to sales this was not one I had prepped for, but what a learning curve.
  7. Our clients: I think as an industry we came together like never before. The feeling of unity in such difficult times led to some meaningful questions, genuine conversations about life and business. We were all collectively grappling with what was in front of us and helping each other wherever possible. There was an openness to learn from each other, I felt as a sales person that clients wanted to hear what we had to say and apply it to their own challenges. Too often media brands are put in a box and only opened up when there is a very relevant connection. This last nine months has been more about learning collectively and thinking differently. Thank you to all those advertisers and agencies I have worked with this year!
  8. Onboarding: We have had to be really thorough around the process of onboarding and make sure people have a real chance to learn about the business. I think this is a good thing that will stand us in great stead for the future hiring, lock down or not.

There is so much more I could cover, to repeat something above in summary, I just feel like as a person, a team, a business and as an industry we have grown in the last nine months and perhaps some of the new behaviours started in lock down will carry on beyond, when things are more normal. A personal thanks to my whole EMEA sales team who have been amazing these last few months.

So finally, what would I like to see continue in a form of normality, lets call it PV (Post Vaccine)? So from PV1 here are some things I would love to see continue:

  1. Not all client meetings have to be in person – default is ‘does this meeting have to be in person?’
  2. An openness to listen and learn and not pre judge what Media Brands have to say
  3. Purposeful meetings, shorter and more full with challenges and ideas
  4. Events being professionally run to embrace on and offline elements so they are more inclusive
  5. A camaraderie at an Industry level – thinking collectively and in a way we solve things together.
  6. Flexible working, more trust, everyone has proved they can work from home, lets find that balance

So we are coming to the end of this 2020, all 67 months of it (quote from #wrapped2020) and it could not have been harder, but has allowed me to grow, I hope the team as a whole has grown and learned, but there is no substitute, as a human being, to be around other human beings. Noone will persuade me otherwise.

Well done you all. Here is to 2021.

BertozziBytesize : Communicate/Adage MENA – Audio goes everywhere.

Marco Bertozzi, Vice President, EMEA Sales & Multi-market Global Sales at Spotify, tells  Communicate what users were listening to while social distancing was in effect around the globe and in the region.  

Original post HERE

What were the significant consumption trends by users on Spotify during the lockdown period? 

Audio plays a very important role in people’s lives, because of its flexibility in being able to follow users wherever they go. When people’s daily lifestyle was [disrupted] by the impact of Covid-19, many had to stay at home, to help prevent the spread. As the listening followed user’s into their homes, it also branched on to a variety of new platforms. So the two [components] that we really focused on were – what kind of content people were listening to and how they were listening to it?

What people were listening to People were looking for comfort during these challenging times. At Spotify, we’re able to measure behavior based on users’ [search queries] and playlists. We were able to see the users’ behavior reflected on the playlists that they were listening to. One of the most prominent trends around the globe was the increase in nostalgia. We saw a 54% increase in listeners making nostalgic-themed playlists, as well as an uptick in the share of listening to music from the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. Within the UAE and KSA, there was a spike in ’90s music as well as gaming playlists.

During the initial stages of the lockdown, “Covid” and “Corona” were some of the fastest-growing search terms for podcasts around the globe. As time passed by, these search trends dropped in favor of fun and educational topics.

We’ve also seen an increase in the sharing of playlists as well as the listening of collaborative playlists between users. To give a bit of context, people are able to share Spotify playlists through a link with their friends and family via email, Whatsapp, etc. However, in a collaborative playlist, people can connect over shared music and have virtual jam sessions together. These trends were bringing people closer to one another and became a point of focus, especially for users with a family.

For family members, there was a noticeable shift from personal listening on earphones to group listening via a connected speaker. Even the content transitioned to family-oriented themes, such as kids and comedy podcasts, to keep everyone entertained. These themes were popular for group listening while news and information themed podcasts were less front and center.

During April – May, as people continued to spend most of their time indoors, they were creating playlists to keep themselves entertained, while attending to household chores. There was a 40% increase in the creation of cleaning-themed playlists, and a 65% increase in the streaming of those playlists. These playlists were popular among users in the UAE and KSA.

How they were listening At Spotify, we have always talked about a ubiquity strategy, which means being able to be with the listener wherever you want.  Think about all the different places you can listen to audio today – Mobile, tablets, desktop, connected speakers, cars, connected televisions, gaming consoles and heck there are some lucky people who even got it in their fridge. There’s no limit to the possibilities. And on top of that, it provides visibility for audio, especially from an advertising perspective.

Regardless of the circumstances, advertisers are able to follow the user wherever they go. We spoke about this [aspect] even during normal times, where advertisers were able to reach customers while they go for a run, commute to work, etc. But during the lockdown, we saw a rise in listening through other platforms such as connected speakers.

However, gaming was the platform that stood out above all others and the MENA region ranked on top in this category. Gamers are able to stream Spotify through their console while playing, and during the lockdown, we began to see a surge. Our research found a 41% increase in streaming of Spotify’s curated video game playlists across the entire platform. Digging in a little deeper, we found that the top three countries that listen to Spotify-curated video game playlists globally are in the MENA region – Tunisia, Oman, and Saudi Arabia.

As many people were working from home, desktop listening on Spotify experienced a surge as well. According to our data, between April 17th – May 17th, WFH themed playlists increased by 1400% compared to the first ten days in March.

 How were marketers leveraging the trends and communicating with consumers? Our communication with advertisers has always been around creating messages, that are contextual and relevant to what the user is doing on the platform. The lockdown period amplified that very same notion. Initially, there was a rush for advertisers to try and be empathetic with consumers about what was going on. They were quite good at responding in that manner. Slowly, a shift began towards more utility messaging, where brands have decided to not only come out and recognize the situation but also provide services that would be beneficial to the consumer.

What tips did you provide to advertisers to make sure they don’t appear like trying to profiteer from the situation? We mainly advised advertisers to use context while reaching out to users on the platform and keep the format in mind. Spotify’s streaming intelligence can identify when the screen is in view and when the audio is the star of the show. For example, an ad with a direct call-to-action is a great fit for when the screen is in view while listening on desktop, tablet, or smartphone. For screen-less moments like cooking or working out, use the power of audio to tell a story and create a memorable impression for the listener.

Since it was a sensitive period, we advised advertisers to be considerate of the cultural moment. The streaming generation is especially critical right now, as brands are rushing in to weigh in on the current moment. Being culturally relevant doesn’t just mean addressing the cultural zeitgeist. It’s about tailoring the message to [address] personal as well as cultural moments, that we can identify through audio. We cautioned brands to be careful around using explicit references to COVID-19 including words and phrases such as, “it’s going viral” or “in these uncertain times.”

People were leaning towards audio while social distancing to help fill very specific needs such as, to stay informed, grounded, and occasionally entertained. Brands can play a role in filling those needs by focusing on brand-building messages that capture emotion and nuance. They can bring these messages/stories to life on audio across multiple formats like video, audio, and display. But regardless, they have to be mindful about not adding to the overwhelming news cycle with yet another piece of brand commentary on Covid-19.

My Presentation at Dmexco about Spotify Culture Next Global Trends Report

Just back from Dmexco and a pretty hectic few days as usual. Spotify was in demand this year and we were lucky enough to hit the stage a few times through the two days. I was asked to present our Culture Next Gen Z global trends on the Debate stage which you can see below.

Exciting trends amongst this audience and Spotify sits right in the heart of what they care about, music and podcasting are huge for them and so our work with Culture Coop combined with our first party streaming intelligence has really helped create some clear insights.

My Digital Hero with New Digital Age

The ebullient Marco Bertozzi, Vice President, Europe at Spotify, has been one of the driving forces in digital for almost twenty years, with claims to fame including setting up Publicis Groupe’s programmatic operation Audience On Demand in Europe in 2010.

Who is your digital hero?

The late, great Curt Hecht. He was the original CEO of VivaKi Nerve Centre, the digital innovation hub at Publicis Media, and he founded Audience on Demand.

What did he do to win hero status in your eyes?

Curt was the first leader to instil in me the importance of getting out of the office and attending events, talking to companies and learning from the people around you. At a time when CES or Cannes were considered by many to be nothing other than ‘jollies’ he used to argue that if all you did was get your information third hand from a Google rep, then you were not interesting to clients.

A client is going to be far more interested to hear that you just came back from Cupertino yourself, than hearing what someone else told you they heard there. At the time that was hugely refreshing and in a world that is becoming slightly too local, I feel it was an important lesson in looking outwards, not inwards.

How has their heroism helped drive digital?

I would argue that Curt was The Godfather of the Trading Desk.

When VivaKi Nerve Center announced in 2008 that we were launching a platform to allow buyers access to all the top inventory partners at the time – Google, AOL etc, he was a mile ahead of the curve.

His work spawned not just the biggest trading desk in the world, it started the whole programmatic ecosystem and all the amazing data and targeting opportunities we now have access to.

On top of that, he never took no for an answer and would routinely come to countries in Europe and berate the CEOs for being so slow in adopting RTB and Audience on Demand. He had no qualms about doing this, even when they were Global CEOs, he just knew where he was heading and wanted to bring others along with him.

What are the biggest challenges in digital we need another hero to solve?

Digital needs to simplify. It needs to declutter, we need to go back to basics.

Our expectations of digital media are so low. Someone watching an ad for 2 seconds – or worse, a person watching an ad for two seconds and partially in view – is just not acceptable anymore. Advertisers need to demand more and pay more for higher quality.

I would like to see premium publishers banish the clickbait and move to premium solutions with real viewability, significant share of voice and quality parameters in place. That’s why I’m now proud to work at Spotify, where we offer that kind of quality solution for clients, as well as a great deal for fans.

We now need an advertiser or two to stand up and raise the bar so high that it starts a revolution instead of this race to the bottom in terms of quality and price like we’re now seeing.

What is your most heroic personal achievement so far in digital?

I started Audience on Demand in Europe in 2010. Back then it was just me and a laptop and it became a multi-million-Euro, multi-market operation at a time when the world was still in love with ad networks.

At the time I had some help and support, but also many detractors, most of whom reversed their opinions over the course of 5-6 years. That was really satisfying to eventually see, but it was frustrating it took so long.

The management team of Audience on Demand during those years, 2010-2014, they know who they are, were a great group and we achieved so much together.