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.

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My Shiny new object podcast & Interview with The Drum

A first for me on this blog is a link to a podcast I featured on with Tom Ollerton a few months back.  Here the Drum has a summary of the interview, first published Here

The podcast itself can be found here on Spotify

Spotify’s European sales chief, Marco Bertozzi talks about the latest marketing technology on the Shiny New Object podcast with Tom Ollerton, AI consultant and the former innovation director at We Are Social.

“No-one is going to remember my career” states Marco Bertozzi , VP of Europe Sales at Spotify.

Despite this seemingly self-effacing statement about his career, Bertozzi bubbles with positivity and is powering a mini-movement that celebrates the wonderful parts of our industry in the form of the #LoveAds campaign.

Despite his hippie ideals about adland, Bertozzi is one of the most successful sales guys out there – but getting there wasn’t easy. He confides with the audience that he once sent his pitch team to the client’s office for a pitch whilst simultaneously asking the client to come to the agency for the same pitch. This kind of gaffe would send me into a spiral of self-loathing but Marco seems to draw strength from his miss-steps. He happily chirps that “I’m really good at not worrying about things I can’t do anything about.” He tells us that in the evenings and at the weekend there’s not much he can really do to change anything, so why worry?

However, life isn’t all about work for Marco and he was keen to talk about his love of running – though he warns of doing “junk miles.” where a person repeats their regular exercise and don’t push them self. If this behaviour becomes the norm then it tends to hold back their development.

When asked about how he finds time to run sales at Spotify and keep fit – he insists you have to go to the gym during the working week – forcing people to go at lunchtime is an “archaic model.”

Marco’s shiny new object is “Marketing in a Screenless World” – and he’s on a mission to draw marketers attention away from visual marketing. He claims that “The marketing world is obsessed with video” and tells us of the seismic changes in the industry that Voice Tech and Audio will bring.

I agree with Marco that “People are looking for opportunities not to look at their screens” – with connected speakers, podcasts and audiobooks quietly changing the media landscape. But what is the opportunity for brands in this screenless world? In a word – intimacy. When a consumer is listening to audio on headphones cut through is guaranteed with no distractions. Spotify’s ad suite is taking advantage of this – giving brands the opportunity to make dynamic audio ads that are responsive to the audience in real-time. Snickers used this to powerful effect by spotting when a listener’s music habits took an unusual turn – and served up an ad that called this behaviour out.

If you get the chance to meet Marco then I urge that you do. Or of course, you can just listen to this podcast on Spotify.

BertozziBytesize: Is nostalgia for vinyl & books a leading indicator of screen burn out?

Record sales are at an all time high, up 30% , they have not been this high since Nirvana’s Nevermind. Books are back – up 6%. We still love to send cards instead of emails when it really matters. Podcasts are growing exponentially, music listening is off the ‘charts’. We often hear about people wanting to ‘touch’ things like the feel of the book, or we relax on a Sunday when we have a newspaper and a coffee. It is a theme right now, a return to the ‘old school’.

I was thinking about this and I feel that we continue to apply rationalisations from 2005-7 to today. I think some of the above is true. Yes you can feel more relaxed with a book or newspaper. The art of putting a record on a player is captivating. It’s the same as rolling a cigarette or lighting a fire, it is a ritual. Settling back and reading a book is relaxing for sure. I am not sure it is for the same reasons today as for a few years ago.

It is because we instinctively know we need a break from screens. 

I don’t like us right now. I don’t like what we have become, what we have become. I hate myself for the amount I stare at screens. My heart sinks when I look around and see everyone buried in their phones, whether it is on a train, in a queue, walking. I notice that people can make it through a dinner party until about 10ish before phones creep out – ‘oh let me show you this video’ ‘let me show you a photo’ ‘let me send you a link’ you see it everywhere, all of the time. It is an addiction. I sit on a couch and check my phone, all the time, I used to watch TV.  We don’t look around when we walk, perhaps the most depressing thing of all. When we go in the car, my son looks out of the window, no screens, he sees stuff and comments. We could all learn from that.

I could go on forever on this topic. I logged out of Facebook for this reason. I am warming up to do the same with others. I feel a slight dread coming because of phone usage. So when people start to buy vinyl, when the book becomes cool again, it’s not because they like the feel of paper or vinyl. It is because they need a break. They want to use their eyes, use their brain without interruption, without a vibration, a drop down, a flash or a beeb. They don’t want to stare into the blue screen for 14 hours a day anymore. Scrolling through pages of irrelevance is starting to knore away at our souls.

The book is back, the coffee and the magazine, the lazy Sunday with the newspapers and music in the background, all of these are key indicators not of some old school desire to touch and feel, but rather that we need a break. Just as with climate change, the signs are there but there are less obvious massive changes, so it is with our behaviour. The signs are there, people need a break, digital detox, logging out of social media, I wonder whether these are the leading indicators amid a world where we shut down and realise how we need to look at our friends and family first and screens second.

 

BertozziBytesize: I LOVE CES.

There, I said it.

I am a proud CES attendee since 2010. Every year between late December and early January my mind flitters to thoughts of Vegas and CES. Depending on how depressing the weather has been or how much fun we have had determines whether I dwell for a longer or shorter period of time!

Part of this comes from the fact that I still thank my lucky stars for the fact I can travel to Las Vegas, stay in amazing hotels, see so much and do so much as part of my job. I have a persistent gratefulness for the opportunity, same goes for Cannes and all the other events I attend. We are a fortunate group.

On top of that though, is still the feeling of excitement that I got the first year I attended as part of the VivaKi Nerve Center, part of the Curt Hecht, Sean Kegelman, Kurt Unkel crew. I had just left a very depressing role in a depressing company and had the chance, in fact was positively encouraged to come to Vegas, embrace CES and learn everything I could. That first year was an amazing year and we had a great time, That feeling has never left me.

When I hear or read people saying ‘ Oh no, I am not going to CES, that would be the last thing on earth I would choose to do’ I always think the same – Oh come on! followed by the thought that they were not invited or you are not doing CES right. CES is a massive opportunity to learn. Over the years I have written about my experiences – this one in 2013 on TV Measurement or in 2014 I wrote about the fact that data capture and usage was getting out of hand with my post about ‘Just because you can, does not mean you should. Also in 2014 I wrote about the in car tech that was flooding the conference. It was the first time that car manufacturers started to appear in droves. That post called ‘The one piece of tech you cant fit in your pocket.’ Featured in M&M. In 2015 I wrote for the Drum about how advertising feels like it is becoming out paced by technology and hardware driving consumer choices, like the fridge that orders for you and therefore could choose the contents for you. It turns out that Alexa and Dash buttons have taken that role!

You get the idea, this show is FULL of fascinating trends, companies, hardware and you can soak it all up, you can learn from it and you can bring it back to base. If you dont attend these shows everything you hear is 18th hand, you hear it from some guy, who was sent it by another person, which was released by their marketing team. You see and hear things you would never expect to and you become a more knowledgeable person for it. People often ask me one of my biggest lessons I have learned from someone and I always reference Curt Hecht who once said to me, if you dont go to these events but work in a company like the Vivaki Nerve Center which is meant to be future facing, then you are no different to the local digital guy from London who heard it all from their Google, Facebook, Twitter rep. Advertisers want to meet people who have just met Apple at their HQ or spent time with a product manager in Palo Alto. He wanted us to go off and learn, I loved that, because at the time the prevailing sentiment was that going to these things was just a jolly and a waste of time. They can be, if you dont do anything with them.

This year is my second with Spotify. The first year was my first week at the company! You can imagine that was a little crazy, this year I am so excited to be part of this amazing crew and we have a great set up in the C-Space that is designed to help people like me of the past to come and learn something about culture, how we fit into culture, how we use data and understand people through music. We will talk about how voice enabled devices and connected hardware are impacting our lives and where Spotify will fit in that, it is fascinating what’s going on right now and CES has never been more relevant and informative as hardware powered by data and AI is changing our day to day, I hope those who come to the C-Space will walk away having learned a little more.

As someone who works for a specific company, I dont get to see all the interesting behind  the scenes stuff I used to on the agency side, I see and learn different things now about advertiser businesses, agency businesses, our own hardware partners etc, so for those who genuinely do have a choice as to whether or not to come and chose not to, dont  make the same mistake again. CES is the most relevant conference for our industry and understanding culture, you just have to know where to look. If you want to come see Spotify, let me know, it is a pretty cool story!

Coming to your senses: the Spotify Video story, presented at Dmexco

The Spotify journey from Audio to multi sensory platform that encompasses video and audio has been a really interesting one. It continues at pace and has been infused with our unique data proposition as well.

At Demexco we took the main stage and presented it to 600+ people, here it is in all its glory. Some of the videos have been covered, so hold your breathe through a couple of those! CLICK ON THE PHOTO TO LINK TO VIDEO.

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Programmatic advancement? : Just look to Amsterdam

A few years back, around 2012/13 we discussed how we could grow Audience On Demand more quickly in the region. How could we support all those smaller markets that could not sustain headcount dedicated to programmatic and yet wanted to be part of the picture. Back then we set up the ‘Amsterdam Hub’ for AOD and the very talented Anke Kuik came in to run it for me. We quickly built a buzzy and vibrant business servicing 10+ markets and successfully growing the programmatic footprint of AOD.

As was widely reported, VivaKi eventually decentralised all these teams and so the hub was no more.  Soon after that, I worked on global programmatic strategy across top clients and had the chance to see, hear and contribute to their progress. In almost all cases the advertisers were going back to basics and evaluating their tech, strategies, data plan and more, they wanted to set some common guidelines to many markets. As a result of many of these pieces of work we saw the re-emergence of the hub. Amsterdam is a particular favourite but I think it is fair to say you can find them all over, in London, Paris, US and so on, point being, the Hub is back.

However the big difference with the new hubs, either at a client or agency level are they are there to support ALL markets, big or small. They are there to support tech, data and media buying across a whole range of markets and with that you see a huge shift in how media is being traded, more so than ever before. The true potential of these hubs is becoming a reality, something that has been promised now for some years but is really taking shape and with that shifting the way we all do business. On my side having been a founder of a hub and now on the other side and working with them, it creates a fascinating dynamic as you have to work on many different levels. You need local expertise talking to local countries. You need local people talking to central hubs, you need International teams talking to the hubs. Wow, thats a lot of talking. It is all work and needs lots of coverage of teams, especially where hubs are at an advertiser level.

The thing is, these all take work to start with, but the benefits very quickly become apparent, as the rhythm settles in and people get used to the system, create a list of key partners, know where to go for certain inventory, on the sell side you start to see the benefits, especially where you have such strong, brand safe inventory as Spotify. Suddenly the much vaunted efficiencies of programmatic become apparent and we all start to benefit. Once the heavy lifting is done on the agency side or clients side and all their markets are adjusted to this new way of working then they can spend less time on execution and more on increasing sophistication of offering. Creating trusted market places of inventory, consolidating inventory decisions, partner selection, data strategy can all become the primary focus areas rather than the previously disjointed, inefficient work that happened five years back.

With every passing year this model is really starting to come together and I thoroughly enjoy seeing it, in some ways, even more from the Spotify side. I think we are going to see rapid acceleration (as if it can get faster) in programmatic. The clients and agencies are doing a great job of organising around this new world and I am excited to see how it progresses in the next five years!