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!

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.

Internal recruitment needs to be on brand and empathetic.

As I continue to consult, mentor and devote time to myself and family I am also concurrently talking to companies about potential future roles. I wanted to reflect on my experiences of this process so far and how I have observed companies deal with me.

I have been working for nearly 25 years, held senior roles in good companies and who knows exactly what that next role will be, and yet I continue to be surprised by how little consideration and communication is given to candidates of my level and experience during these times. In this instance I am mainly focusing on in house recruitment vs agencies. I think there has been an ever growing trend towards in housing of hiring processes, especially amongst the tech companies but also traditional businesses as well. I think with that trend comes a burden on that team that I am not sure all of them realise and are probably not held accountable to from one day to the next.

If you decide as a business to have your employees engage with external candidates, especially senior ones, then they need to have the same ethos as any of your out facing teams. Those interactions set the tone, they leave lasting impressions and who knows may damage future relations depending on where that candidate lands. Bad news travels fast right? Well those looking for a role, especially those not currently employed will be particularly conscious of that brand experience, and that’s what it is, your recruitment team are representing your brand. 

In these short months that I have been engaged with in house recruiters and indeed actual managers within businesses I have experienced many different versions of that process. I have spoken to a couple of companies that have been in communication through out, followed up, did what they said they would do and that’s all one asks. On the other hand I have been blanked. Now let’s be realistic, you can’t always expect things to move forwards, perhaps they don’t like the cut of your jib or your background is not what they wanted and so things don’t progress, we are all grown ups, what I do expect though is feedback and a decline. Take Conde Nast, contacted by them after an application, interview with recruiter, followed by interview with HR and then blanked. I personally believe that if you have asked a candidate to talk twice, you owe them politeness and respect to update and decline or move forwards. 

Hiring is not personal, you should never take it personally, finding the right candidate or job is about finding the round peg to fit in the round hole and it’s easy to find a little edge that catches and stops that fit, that’s fine, it’s natural. What is personal is how you go about doing that and I am afraid there are many external facing recruitment people who are either not trained or not scrutinised as to how they engage candidates. I think it’s a shame for two simple reasons. The first is you can absolutely set the tone of your organisation through these contacts, you are sending a message and when these candidates end up in other businesses, perhaps potential clients, they will feel positively about your business or not and secondly its is not difficult, it’s simple manners, it’s simple communication that costs the recruiter nothing but gives that job hunter a feeling of knowing where they stand and what’s next. 

Finding a new role is so exciting and I am loving all the possibilities, but it’s important to be true to yourself and expect a certain level of respect. Be thoughtful everyone. Times are tough without treating people with no consideration.

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.

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.

 

How audio is changing lives for the better.

This post was originally posted on http://www.spotifyforbrands.com

At Spotify, we understand the power of audio. Music and podcasts bring joy to millions all over the world, and we see audio taking center stage as a result of our day-to-day screen burnout. And at this year’s CES in Las Vegas, we saw more clearly than ever how audio is changing people’s lives for the better. 

There is nowhere better than CES to see where technology is headed. Spotify was there all week, seeing the many — and sometimes surprising — ways technology is being used in every aspect of our life. This central role of technology is leading towards a big macro trend known as the “quantified self.” This trend is all about how we are using technology to understand ourselves better as humans — and how we are diagnosing, reporting, and creating tools to enhance people’s lives. 

One key trend of the “quantified self” is the number of applications that have audio as central to the solution. Audio is now helping people live a better life, supporting when screens are not relevant or indeed, individuals can’t see the screens because of visual impairment. I wanted to highlight four of the interesting solutions we saw, some incredibly sophisticated and life-changing, some more for fun!

Take OrCam’s MyEye 2 — a wonderful piece of technology for visually impaired or blind individuals that scans full-page texts, money notes, people and more, then reads it back to the visually impaired person through a small device worn on the ear. If there is a product in a shop, the person can scan the barcode and the product details will be read back to them, translating the visual world into speech. 

In a similar vein, there is Addison Care, a virtual caregiver who monitors in the home, making sure the individual’s vital signs are strong, while assessing their movement to look for signs of trouble. The system calls out reminders to take medicine and is mainly voice activated, something that is more intuitive to many older people. It is yet another exciting use of audio and technology that is changing lives for the better.

Not everything is serious and life-changing. We saw a lot about how voice assistants are being incorporated into every device imaginable. One of particular note was built into showerheads, giving you the chance to catch up on the day ahead, the weather, commute and traffic as you shower and of course, call out your favorite Spotify playlist or podcast! As a marketer, thinking how to connect in a world of screenless devices and screenless moments is going to be vital — how could you take advantage of Alexa in the shower if you knew that’s where someone was streaming?

Finally, we saw how voice will play a prominent role in the future of the auto industry. Auto brands announced massive screens for the driverless cars of tomorrow, and more cars announced integrations with voice assistants. Per Axios’ Sara Fischer, “one of the big themes at CES this year has been the race to own the media experience when cars go driverless.” Fischer noted that Lamborghini’s Huracán EVO will be adding Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant this year, while Amazon and Exxon also announced a deal to allow voice-enabled gas purchases. Meanwhile, Anker and JBL both revealed new Google Assistant-equipped devices that can plug into cars new and old. It’s clearer than ever that our voices will be the remote controls of the car — ultimately shaping the future of how we listen.

Thanks to continuous innovation happening with earbuds, connected speakers, cars and more, audio already surrounds our daily lives. Even still, all of these developments at CES showed just how much the role of audio will grow in our daily lives in the future. Of course, as we at Spotify aspire to become the world’s largest audio network, I’ll be keeping my ears open as more new devices, gadgets, and integrations are launched in 2020. And exploring and executing creative ways to bring brands along the journey. Here’s to another year of listening!

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.