- Advertisers are going to continue to take more ownership of their programmatic work in some way, hopefully finding a happy balance with agencies, combining best of both worlds
- Quality media will see a resurgence – it will at least be given air to breathe. Quality sites will be seen for what they are, brand safe with quality audiences
- Verification will be standard for Facebook and Google – at last advertisers will be able to see what their viewability scores are on puking rainbows
- Standards are about to shoot up. At Spotify we sell all video with Moat HAVOC standards – Human, Audio, Video, on complete. Our ads deliver 100% SOV, 95+% viewability. See these as becoming standard.
I could have waited a month, six months, a year to write this but the biggest impact of jumping in cold water comes immediately, not after a few minutes, so I thought I would try to sum up my feelings about the change from agency to sales two weeks in.
This is not a blog about better or worse, it’s about difference. I am old enough and wise enough now to know that everyone goes to work every day and takes what they need out of work, you can only hope that you find a role that fulfils you, we spend a lot of time at work and being happy there, whatever the role is important. What I will be finding out I guess is whether I should have been doing sales all along, as many have told me, or whether I had it right first time. I feel like timing and choice of company will also impact that decision and I will come back to that shortly.
1.Clarity of focus
So 20,000 minutes later, the first thing that really strikes me is the clarity of focus. I used to describe that as ‘does it not feel repetitive talking about only one thing?’ But now I am in it, there is something liberating about having a clear focus on what your role in life is, it helps being in a brand as strong as Spotify admittedly, but nevertheless. Agencies have a lot of ground to cover and they have to be experts in many things which is hard and they do a great job of it. When I think of a planning director in an agency, they have to be strategic, understand everything from content to programmatic, keep the client service ticking over and that is not easy. That range of services and opportunities needs to be communicated to clients and so meetings have to cover so much and sometimes without the time to really go deep. When I hear people say ‘I can never get hold of someone’ I suspect it is because they have shifted their time to their clients and not meeting everyone and their dog from the outside. What appears to be a negative, is likely a positive.
On the media owner side, dark side, partner or publisher side you are there for one reason. Everyone knows you are there to talk about your brand and your proposition, the challenge for us is that we have to do a good job of that, since that is all you have to do. As an agency executive I would expect sales people to know their product inside out, ideally know what’s happening in my business and with my clients and deliver a clear and persuasive argument as to why I should spend money with you. The clarity of that purpose is quite liberating. I was in a meeting with a large global client and for me the first thing was that the relationship of our two brands was a no brainer – our audiences complimented each other perfectly. That is something as a publisher, if you have that you should be confident of it, how you then connect the two brands is just a collaboration using all the assets we have available to a brand.
2. Pace of work generates energy
I expected the pace to be different for sure, agency life runs on a different, longer term timetable, different objectives and I expected to find that on the sales side, but there is a stark difference. Of course things are shorter term, but pleasingly mixed with longer term strategies running in parallel. On top of the pace of things though comes the energy which is generated – the communication is fast and frequent, the team support each other and there is a great energy, again connected with clarity of purpose. I think that is something that 20K minutes in, I am enjoying the most. The team has great energy and I love seeing them getting behind each other, both in country and across countries.
The time in CES which I was lucky enough to enjoy with some of my European band members and some of the US as well was a joy in terms of spending time with people who are all excited and pulling for each other. The Spotify space in Vegas was real quality and I felt proud to be part of the company and especially when combined with the great people I met who all welcomed me in. I am going to spend the next week with them in NY as well, which I am thoroughly looking forward to.
Yes. Numbers are everywhere, this is a company built on understanding our business regardless of your level, sounds obvious? Well I think sales people who move to agencies may be surprised how relatively cosseted the equivalent levels in agency are from the business metrics behind what they do. At a certain level of course there is more exposure but there is so much to make sure you are on top of in a shorter term revenue business to make sure that targets are met than you would find in agency. At a large Google conference that I go to every year they split it into buy and sell side. This year it fell right on the change in my role and so I asked if I could swap and join the sales side tracks even though I was invited as buyside. It was interesting to me that on the buyside everything focused on what could we target, how could we use the data more, how can we join up channels etc. On the buyside it was far more commercial. How do we drive revenue for our valuable and scarce quality audience?
So you want to join the dark side? Well I am afraid I think it will depend on who and when you join. I wrote down the kind of company I wanted to join, and Spotify came top and I was lucky enough to get in the door. I feel comfortable in this environment because I can be passionate about a brand that is in the hand of the most sort after audiences for 2+hrs a day. I feel passionate about a brand that people love and that makes my job so much easier. The clarity of purpose suits me, the brand suits me, and the team is great so it works, albeit 20K minutes in! Agencies provide a powerful view of the landscape, you get to see everything, that variety is intoxicating so if you move to media owner side I would suggest go somewhere you care about and has a great offering, that more than makes up for the slightly more focused narrative. That said, I have enjoyed meeting some of the agency contacts I have been mates with for 20 years, that gives a whole new perspective on things. I look forward to working with all those agency friends, I just happen to be sitting on the other side of the desk.
After another two month stint in the US, I am flying home to take up my role in London. In 2014 I had the good fortune to work for six months in New York and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, this time it was Chicago in my new CRO role for Performics. I have found myself analysing the country more than I did in NY, I guess the second time around was more critical than the first and I seemed to soak up more of normal life this time.
A few things have struck me this time, small often, some big but just areas of difference between US and UK, work and otherwise.
- They love DOGS. Holy shit, they love them, every shape, size, colour. I thought the UK was a nation of animal lovers but its on another scale here, every apartment block has them pouring out in droves.
- US offices are so much quieter than UK. There are arguments pro and con but on balance the life that exists in UK offices outweighs the sometimes oppressive silence of US offices. I would be tearing down the cubicles as fast as I could.
- I am left dumbfounded by the level of waste of food and lack of recycling. Restaurant portions seem to me gluttonous to the point of not really understanding who eats it. It perhaps creates a sharing culture as people don’t order dishes each, but mainly I just see waste.
- How much more friendly and relaxed Chicago is to NY. A totally different experience, people are so friendly and helpful and makes for such a nice pace of life vs NY.
- You have to work here to get the scale. Europeans who moan about the US, need to understand more about the US before passing judgment. The numbers, the opportunities, are immense.
- Love – taxis taking cards as a matter of course, yet at the other end the card payment processes seem really behind with limited Chip and Pin, let alone contactless.
- Eating and drinking in the US is interesting. Service is great generally, some restaurants wont let you sit until your other dining partner arrives which frustrates me. The dropping of the ‘check’ on the table when you have barely finished is both irritating and fantastic, one pushing you out, on the other hand, you don’t have that frustrated process of catching waiter’s eye to get the check.
- Stop spilling iced water all over the table. Please.
- I still find that there is too much hierarchy in US businesses, I would prefer to see much less focus on titles and seniority and more on great and accountable relationships with the teams.
- So kid friendly. playgrounds around every corner, children’s menus, museums etc, Chicago but also NY have been fantastic for kids and I love the place for that.
I hope to get the chance to come back here again, America is a great country and from a work perspective it is a must and would recommend to anyone. I have enjoyed a wonderful time here with the Performics team, a great team and look forward to what the future holds!
Thanks windy city, its been a blast!
I recently delivered a session at The Festival of Media, called ‘an insiders guide to programmatic’ the design of which was to have a straight forward and open discussion with a room full of advertisers on the topic. It was not meant to be educational in the sense of ‘whats a DSP’ but more a discussion on topics of transparency, operating models, the changing landscape and how the advertiser may need to think differently to how they have been to date.
It was a credit to the Festival organisers that we had nearly 40 advertisers in the room and no other adtech or agency people. Thank God because I was not kind to some of the other players in the ecosystem, although I believe fair. Since the event I have received some feedback that they enjoyed the discussion, at least some of them! The common theme throughout was that they enjoyed the open dialogue and straight talking. Anyone who reads this blog knows thats what I have always tried to do.
In fact I try and do that when I am face to face with clients as well, some make it easier to be straight talking than others. One unnamed advertiser started the meeting with ‘before we start, can I just tell you that I don’t believe a word that comes out of a trading desk!’ Well that sets a tone for sure, one I like because it basically says that the gloves are off and we can talk clearly and simply. It may not come as a surprise to know that I have had a few of those kind of meetings and on the whole I feel like the end result is often better. First of all you get to actually state your case rather than be in the shadows. Secondly it is an opportunity to pick apart the headlines and give the straight answers to straight questions and thats a good thing.
The gloves are off between the advertisers and the agencies right now with all the headlines of FBI and ‘prison time’ and I think that in the end this process that is being led in the US and supported heavily in the UK with the likes of ISBA and their new contracts will allow the right people to talk to the right people and hopefully ask some difficult questions on both sides. The net result being an opportunity for both sides to challenge the current situation.
But I still have not got to the point! As I look around offices all over the world and I see that more and more the work force is retreating behind emails and headphones I fear that the straight talk will also diminish. My first boss Tracey Stern always told me that if I had bad news, I had to ring the client and tell them myself. It taught me to have difficult discussions and hopefully made me think harder about what I was doing. Now everything is transmitted by email. Mistakes, demands, apologies are all carried along the pipes and not delivered through the dog and bone, an experience that is not easy but nevertheless worthy. I think we are all complicit in this, both the sender and receiver has come to prefer it that way and for me that is where the disconnect creeps in and starts to unravel relationships.
I appreciate the world has changed and we are all working in a different way but I firmly believe that if we did the following things, relationships would be better on both sides:
- Always call your client and talk to them about life and work
- If there is a problem or a mistake, deliver it in person or on the phone
- If there is good news, pick up the phone and tell them
- If you are unhappy then say so – on the phone
- If the client is unhappy then say so – on the phone
The rest can go on email! As in all things there are personalities that prefer some things over others, but I firmly believe that some of that is habit rather than preference. So yes it is over simplistic and we are all guilty but we need to do more talking and less emailing and encourage our teams to build relationships through dialogue as well as delivery.
Ad-blocking, is now in its next chapter. The converted network in the form of Three is going to banish ads en masse. We have lived through a number of chapters in this story, we are reading fast because it is such a page-turner and on a panel a week or so ago I was asked a number of good questions.
The first was why had we taken so long to wake up to the issue when ad-blockers had been around for some time. The second was “what are we actually going to do about it?” and finally a question about what advertisers think. The questions raised some good points because right now the whole industry is standing around admiring the problem with little visible action.
Let’s start with the advertisers, why are they not up in arms on this topic? Well the answer is that it has not affected them, as far as they can see. They ask for media and they get media, often at a lower price than last year so everything is rosy. The mobile network Three’s partnership with the ad-blocker Shine might start a trend that means the only feasible answer is restricting inventory and increasing pricing. Advertisers will then find the cost of their digital ads goes up. When you see that six months after bringing in new rules on its exchange Appnexus has reduced traffic by 90 per cent, you start to see the potential impact if you clean up ad fraud and restrict eyeballs.
I believe we did not notice the problem until other businesses started to make money out of the problem. Not unlike the earliest protection racket that started up around the olive groves of Sicily, once it was clear that there was money to be paid the topic was widely distributed by the aforementioned racketeers, sorry ad-blocking companies. Since then, ad-blocking has seeped into the common consciousness appearing in articles, films and more. In fact as Caspar Schlickum of Xaxis said, we basically brought it upon ourselves by talking about it so much.
We are now admiring the problem from every angle like a fine work of art. Yet this is an industry issue like no other we have had before. This is an issue to end the industry and we need to create a collective approach to the problem. We have to do something on the scale of the alcohol industry. “Please drink responsibly” needs to change to “please advertise responsibly”. We need to get behind a body of people capable of creating change.
Advertising needs its own version of the ‘drink responsibly’ industry effort
The question is who is going to put their hand up? The Internet Advertising Bureau, IPA, and Advertising Association have to come together to start the ball rolling. Some of that should be official sounding work and some more basic. The easiest example is to all collectively agree to not build certain ads.
The IAB with its “lean” approach is starting with that, but we should all get behind it. There was a time in 2002/3 when pop-ups were banished to whence they came. They were not cool, the sole preserve of gambling and porn companies. In the last few years they have made a return in a big way, but disguised as something more sophisticated. We have to cut them out. None of this is pretty and we have to get on the front foot.
And as a parting remark, I would say it is not helpful that other parts of the business are rubbing their hands together on this topic. Whether it be people working in other media channels like TV who think that people actually like TV ads, when actually they have no choice really, give them an app to dodge TV ads and they will, or creative agencies blaming programmatic. We all have a part to play and it threatens all of us.
One thing we could all do is not allow ad-blocking companies into conferences as the IAB did in the US because the lights that beam on the stage, the food they happily eat in the break, the drinks they consume in the bar afterwards and everything in between is paid for by advertising. For that reason alone they should not be invited.
Read more at http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/ad-blocking-end-industry-why-no-one-stepping-change-that/1384789#7uGwk0Qmp1bklfyh.99