Corona Virus Log. I miss meetings.

Running a team in this climate is very hard right? I am navigating my way through these weeks, one day at a time, and i know that most of you out there feel the same. Since starting at Spotify my focus has been on trying to make sure I have been visible across the region, visiting markets, keeping regular management meetings going, and being out with clients wherever I have visited. I cant do any of that right now.  I have never seen the value more of face to face. I would defend an offsite all day long now.

I have always observed that sales is a business that over indexes on momentum, energy, determination and a strong dose of inter-personal skills. My view has been that one person can change everything in a sales team as a leader, much more so than in an agency, just a different dynamic, a different mentality. So what happens when you take that away. Well for me, I feel like it is really hard to understand and get your arms around whats happening. You cant judge the mood, you don’t read between the lines, the Hangouts with multiple people, stuttering, difficult calls where it is hard to reveal the true emotions of people, I feel like I cant connect. I hope they are coping, I hope we are saying and doing the right things, but it is hard to know.

Ignore the fucking Work from home articles: I have studiously ignored the articles on how to work at home, not because there are not some smart tips, but because every person is living their own challenge. So often in businesses we are forced to come up with guide lines, guard rails, suggestions and or rules, but I feel that right now they are all useless. We all want different things, we are all living a very private life. If we do an all hands, there are people in big houses, with big gardens and country side, through to people sharing a small flat with 4+ others, we are at various stages of lock down and length of shut downs, the rules don’t work. The only rule is let people work it out, let them adjust.

In defence of meetings: I know things will change, we will challenge a lot of what we have done before, the obese list of trade magazine events that we have all inflated will have to decline as we realise that we have lived happily without them as an example. That said I don’t agree with a lot of other stuff. There are some very vociferous attackers of meetings, I have come to miss meetings, I now wish I could sit in a room and discuss a plan with someone without the video glitching or wifi issues – it is SD vs HD. Its like emails, when people say that after they have done their emails, they can get on with their work..I am sorry but many of my emails are work, and many meetings help me achieve a lot and by god I miss them now.

Pros and cons of Lock down: I read a fascinating letter from someone in Italy who was predicting our future and the one thing that really struck me was the apathy, the lethargy, this view that we can do so much with our time, but in reality, life is being sucked out of us, one day at a time. It is being replaced on the positive side by some small wins, personally for me, that is spending more time with my family, as someone who travels relentlessly this is a bonus. I have never been at home with my son, outside of holidays ever, this bit is special. As I said above, we all have to do our own thing, I feel better doing constructive things either work related or home that have a clear start and finish, something I can tick off to drive progress.

In support of hearing from others: In the last few days I have reached out to clients from across the spectrum, I did not have anything to sell, I just wanted to hear from someone else, I wanted to learn what was happening in other industries, learn from others. I am so glad I did, it has been a good day today – thanks to those who spoke with me, I learned stuff and felt like I had moved on. It will be something I continue to do, I hope there are many more people I talk to over coming months – your shit is very interesting to me.

We are busier than ever: I have saved a commute of about an hour each way, thats two hours plus a day saved, and yet..I feel like I am constantly checking my watch, every day we attempt to do so much. Well being, work, home schooling, walking kid/dog, play with kid, work more, be mindful. Its a tread mill, I am now grappling with my agenda to get back on top of meetings and calls, I think we have to shift our days, we have to find a new way – I feel like we are trying to do everything, everyday?

What do I miss?

  • A relaxed chat with someone without straining for sound or vision
  • Being able to draw on a wall and brainstorm
  • Walk into a bar or restaurant and hug some friends
  • Some friendly laughing and joking at work
  • Getting on a flight to anywhere in the world and seeing people you know
  • Varied menus!
  • Seeing my son play with all his mates at football or just messing around
  • Seeing all the kids pour into school, all chattering away

I did not write this for any end goal, more a stream of consciousness. This blog has been going for 10+ years, it is a diary of my last decade plus and somehow it felt right to log a journal of this crazy time we are all living through. A friend of mine once said as we hit a tough part of a long run, ‘just put one foot in front of the other’ that seemed sensible at the time and right now, that is the best we can all do. Big hugs to everyone out there and best of luck with whatever way you choose to put one foot in front of the other.

 

Recipe for a successful conference

Back after a few days at my Sales Academy in Evian and have been reflecting on what makes a great sales conference. My team and I had been working so hard to make a success of this event and I feel like we made amazing progress. Of course nothing it’s perfect but 2019 has been the best yet and I started to think about how and why that was the case.

1. The first thing for me is a purpose. Following our high performing teams training we settled on our purpose as a management team being ‘Setting The Stage for Success’ what did we mean by that? Simply put, our job is to be the roadies for the team. Put everything in place to help them to succeed. This is what we carried through to the Academy as the theme. Too often leaders are the front men, the ones on stage, our view is that our teams should be up there.

2. Inclusion. This year we really involved a whole range of teams, individual sales teams from every market and division to create ‘Adbreaks’ – 5 minute case studies through out the few days, amazing opp for teams to present best work to a big crowd. We involved speakers from diverse backgrounds, a long list of amazing female talent in the business and both internal and external. All briefed to talk Setting the Stage for Success.

3. Safe space. As the team has grown and collaborated over the years, we have created a very safe culture – led by my wonderful directs with all team members happy to ask questions even to the most senior of Execs who we asked to come over, including our Global CFO and Head of Free Business, as well as the founder of Gimlet. The level of trust in the group has been amazing.

4. Fun.  Not too much, not too little. This year we were in a relatively controlled environment and so bed times were not too late. Lots and lots of fun but not too late and that has a lot of benefits. People were sharper the next day which meant they added more and interacted more. Tiredness leads to stress which can build when you are pulled away from your day job, even for the best content. Hangovers are so 2018.

5.Environment. We chose a venue that was calm, beautiful views and partially isolated and it was wonderful. Our meeting space was light and airy with views over lakes. We had lots of space and we built in time to breathe. Longer breaks, longer lunch, time at end of day to unwind and catch up, all meant people could concentrate and put phones and laptops down. The engagement was amazing.

6. Time to think. Often the goal of these events is based on packing as much in as possible ‘since we have everyone here.’ We have tried this and it does not work. If you want to drive attention during the sessions then making sure people have time to work and relax is vital. So longer breaks, time to unwind at the end of the day before any evening activities are all vital to a good mindset through the week. I was blown away by the attention of the teams this year because we engineered better timings. We also made sure that we ended on a Thursday and not a Friday so there was a working day left.

7. Prepare to be gone. A small additional note to this, prepare for absence well in advance and give air cover. If a business can’t operate with out irate clients for two and half days then we have an issue. Warn clients that you are having a massively beneficial team / learning experience, you won’t be around as normal and anything else should be managed around the event. I would also hope our clients would show consideration, lets face it, everyone does it at some point during the year.

I could not be happier, it takes work, it takes a small army of people to pull it off but the results will show. Don’t start with revenue as the goal, start with behaviours and your people and the rest will follow. I am so proud of the leads we have across EMEA, they bond, they get on, they work independently and as teams. We are in such a good place and the people are everything.

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.

Interview with M&M on Global trends pre Festival of Media

What are the key trends and insights driving global media in 2018?
The key insight is that not everything is as it seems. We have come to question so many things around digital media and we are seeing erosion of trust across the board. No one can ignore this as a trend. The positive trend though is a thorough reevaluation of
where advertisers place media. This is encouraging for those who love this industry versus those who just want to make high margin revenue. It means that premium advertising environments are becoming far more sought after and the belief that context and environment are not important is slowing fading and becoming a distant memory. I hope we see this trend continue and the blind, low CPM retargeting networks fade away.

What is the toughest challenge the industry faces?
We have to get ourselves out of the vicious cycle of pitches begetting lower and lower CPM campaigns. This type of behaviour means agencies squeeze publishers, only looking for low cost inventory, and then find themselves at a higher risk of fraud, which then creates mistrust. We need agencies to charge properly for their services, clients to pay for quality service from whomever is best placed to provide it and then we will see a move away from opacity. We are still confronted by too much of a ‘we have to pay less than last year’ attitude. It is a path that leads nowhere for all involved.

What does success look like for you in 2018?
Spotify is on a very exciting journey. My role was to re-look at the European business and accelerate positive momentum and a strong proposition in market. We are well on our way to doing that, and it has been a lot of fun. 2018 is a year in which the topics of audioand programmatic are converging, so we look forward to working with key advertisers and partners on bringing this innovation into the mainstream. Success stories leveraging data and dynamic audio creative suggest this is just the start of a fabulous year.

The second area I will be focusing on is showing the industry that we have some of the best video advertising inventory in town. We only sell completed video impressions, with 100% viewability. Audio has traditionally been our bread and butter but video is a large part of our business and we want more brands to enjoy its benefits. Our current customers all report strong results so we hope the education we are doing across the industry will be music to people’s ears.

What is the key to winning new business?
I  don’t think that has ever changed, whether on the agency or publisher side. All you need to ask yourself is whether you are helping the advertiser grow their business. New business needs to be built on insights that unlock something fundamental (and often
very simple) that will create a reaction in consumers. Too often in new business one gets carried away with internal structures and technology. Keep it simple and customer-focused and you can win.

What do you find clients want more than ever?

There is still an eternal hunt for the new thing, the first thing etc, but actually if you just come up with great ideas those usually win out. As I mentioned there is a trend for better environments and contexts taking us back to the basics of advertising. Note
that 2017 was a very strong year for traditional channels like radio, outdoor etc. At Spotify we continue to innovate, which is what makes the company an exciting place to be. And where we develop innovations our partners get to be the first to try things
out, which makes selling a whole lot easier.

How does the industry develop measurement standards for digital that are universal?
Sucha big question.. The only possible answer is relentless collaboration involving both the biggest and smallest players and this is going to be even more true with the GDPR implementation. My view is to worry less about common measurement and keep focused on common standards. Some of the basic requirements are very low in terms of viewability etc. I believe we should raise the bar significantly as a starting point. ‘Three seconds partially-in-view’ inventory should not be the benchmark.

How important is inclusivity to your business?
Inclusivity is enormously important to Spotify. As you might expect from a Swedish business, inclusion is at the core of the Spotify culture and values, and we are putting a great deal of focus on D&I initiatives. Indeed, just this week we held our annual, global, Diversity and Inclusion Summit at Spotify’s Stockholm headquarters, which was an opportunity for members of staff from all over the world to discuss ideas and opportunities to drive change and innovation where needed at Spotify and to make us even more of a leader in this space.

How do media owners and tech companies capitalize on the changing media landscape?
Combine good environment, trustworthy inventory and clever use of technology and data. Technology has a bad rep at the moment, but it is not technology that is the problem, rather how it is used. Used correctly you can achieve great things.

Audio is seeing a resurgence and we are very happy about that, but that’s not about traditional ‘radio’. Across connected cars, homes, voice assistants, speakers, TVs, fridges, you need an audio strategy that is future proof. However, we believe the real opportunity is in combining audio formats with video to generate the greatest impact. The media landscape is definitely changing and Spotify is in a great place to be at the heart of it.

Marco will be speaking at Festival of Media Global next month and Spotify is one of the key partners of the event.

Advertising industry is mirroring global politics. Retreating into localization.

Eight years ago, I was hired by Curt Hecht. The Global CEO of VivaKi Nerve Center and probably the biggest influence on my career. It is hard to work out what he influenced the most or which bit of his teaching had the biggest impact but he did. He definitely had some things in common with me, he was opinionated, he said what he thought, he challenged a lot. I loved that.

He was the first boss who encouraged me as EMEA MD of VivaKi Nerve Center to go out and learn. He wanted me to go to Cannes, CES, Dmexco, 4AAA you name it. He argued that without the impact of meeting new people, seeing new things and engaging in global content, I was the same as everyone else in London.

He said ‘ Do you think clients want to hear from someone who just came back from Cupertino and chatted data with Apple, or someone who heard from the new UK Apple agency lead, who heard from the Europe lead who got sent a memo from the US? This hit me like a train, it was the antithesis of everything I had been told. I had been force fed a diet of going on conferences being a jolly. If you went to Cannes, it was a rolled eyes and yeah whatever..

So this takes me into two other areas that keep coming into my consciousness. Since I made my move to Spotify and have been hosting (up for debate, depending on who you talk to) at Cannes, CES and Dmexco we have experienced the big draw back from agencies and clients to these events. It has been interesting to see from both internal and external perspectives. Externally we are obviously keen to meet with external partners at these events and selfishly feel like we would actually benefit from it, and in my experience that small one to one experience would be good for all. Now, less and less people are going to events.

As I think about that and what Curt Hecht said to me, it makes me think that perhaps we are going down a path of localization. If you speak to some teams in Germany, they have decided that Dmexco has become an International event and they should pull back a little. Spotify for now has not done that, others have. On the flip side, International teams have said that Dmexco is too German. Cannes is now 100% an International event that less and less local market people go to, so what are we left with?

We are in danger of an industry that does not embrace, value or support International collaboration which I find a little depressing. Every local market has its own micro community of people and influences. London focuses on London. If you work as I have done in regional jobs, even when it included London teams, it is not the same as the person who owns a London only team. The closeness of the Paris media scene, or Madrid media scene is important and as a company that has been hiring in all those markets, we see first hand the power of that local marketplace and relationships there in. BUT..let us not all withdraw from learning from each other.

Many companies are embracing country CEOs vs regional management, local market teams dont go to International festivals of media and marketing, try finding a UK CEO at Festival of Media in Rome, boundaries are being drawn up around what is valuable or not, and who should benefit from it. To me this is the decline of the industry. We should embrace global influence and it feels that right now we are retreating. Dare I say it, along with global politics and everything we rally against.

This industry more than any needs to look outwards and embrace globalization, not retreat. Let us celebrate different people, we should encourage learning at events and not become too focused on what the person down the street thinks, but the person who comes from a totally different world.