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.

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A decade of traveling – tips and tantrums

Decade of travel.

So yes, I have been on the road for nearly a decade and it’s been quite a ride. There are so many pros and cons with travel, there is an opportunity to see and learn but at the same time it can be a treadmill of 5am starts and long days, seeing only the inside of office buildings and the odd restaurant. I have always believed that if you take a leadership role at a global or regional level then you cant do that job unless you go see your teams, get to know your teams one at a time. You cannot moan about it, you cant let people know you are exhausted, you have to be on your game, every time.

Well why don’t we start by summing up the last few years according to British Airways. 

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I am often asked about travel, it’s synonymous with me, often an opening question when I see people. I find that interesting because the majority of it is not in my conscious, what I mean by that, is I don’t think about it all the time, it just is what I do. If I fly to Germany and back in a day that’s just like a commute to the office so to me it’s just another day, but to those following you it seems like a thing. I think that’s my overriding impression between business travellers and non – it’s a topic to discuss to an extent but changes from a question of interest with someone who does not do a lot of travel, to a more factual discussion on schedule. 

One thing that you do when traveling a lot for work is both form habits and observe others, as well as become very ingrained in your ways of wanting to operate, just ask Ashley my assistant! So I thought I would highlight some tips, maybe some observations and a bit of myth busting and then some differences between regular and non regular travellers. Please add yours in the comments!

In no particular order!

  1. Depending on where you live, drive to airport and park in short term, it costs less than taxis and they do loads of deals, it is convenient and close!
  2. Early flights mean having everything down to your keys ready the night before, especially important if you oversleep.
  3. If you drive yourself you can speed to make up time! Another advantage over taxis.
  4. Always take lifts in Heathrow, not escalators, all the pros take the lifts, faster
  5. Seat etiquette – big topic! Short haul, window, no exit rows – reason? You can lean against window for sleep. Who gets up in a 2hr flight? Well not me but some annoying person will choose to clamber over you if you do sit aisle. Never exit as the bag with your work life has to go up in locker! Long haul economy is aisle so you can get up and down easily, if business it’s window on BA but if you are on some of the old shit American flights with seats side by side then back to aisle. On long haul business on BA try and go upstairs on 747, quieter, better experience all around. 
  6. Tumi washbag which unzips at the centre and has clear plastic insides which in most cases you can do instead of plastic bags etc! I have one happy follower in Alex Altman on that tip.
  7. Long haul day flights, sleep enough to keep you up when you land to go out but not so much you can’t sleep in the evening. 
  8. Don’t talk to anyone. If someone speaks to you very early on a flight, answer, smile, put headphones on. 
  9. If you are BA business – don’t be shy to put the screen up, the person next to you will be happy you did it too! 
  10. Whatever happens don’t end up in the middle two seats on BA business, like getting into a double bed with a stranger in a suit.
  11. Don’t check bags! Holy jeez, if you are travelling with colleagues and you checked, you are truly the devil. I find it is mostly the young, trendy and non seasoned that check bags as they don’t have the simple business travel outfits and pack like they are on holiday. Some serious offenders out there.
  12. Don’t drink alcohol on flights – otherwise it’s like going to the pub every day. It also makes you feel like shit. Maybe one before a long haul.
  13. Use all those air miles for car hire on holiday rather than a small discount on a flight
  14. Walk straight into first class lounge in JFK if you travel business but are not Gold, they never check!

Jet lag? What jet lag?

I think the biggest thing that comes up is jet lag and it definitely gets harder every year but this is the fundamental difference between travellers and non travellers. Jet lag is 50% physical and 50% mental and in fact for infrequent travellers I think it is part of the fun of instagramming that you are wide awake in the middle of the night and talking about it a lot. You will notice regular travellers never talk about it because it is just part of the game and you have to ignore it or you would never get anything done. I am a big fan of doing exercise when you land and add that extra layer of tiredness which then helps you sleep, clears the head etc. Also use the fact you woke up earlier and get out for a run when going West. Jet lag at work Just needs some extra coffee and a busy schedule to get through. 

I am ruthless about going in and out for travel, no sightseeing, extra days, weekend stays, when you have a family you don’t have that luxury and if you are on the road a lot then you have to do that, at least if you want to hold down any relationship. So no travelling is not always great. 75% of trips start at 5am, flight, taxi to office, and then either team dinner, or taxi back and home.  No wondering around the ancient ruins, a day of pool time. If you then throw in delays, cancellations and extra nights stays, it gets boring fast. That said, I love it. I love it because it’s still a chance to see and feel a little bit of culture and learn something new. I learn about country behaviours and culture even in a meeting room. So a bit like jet lag I don’t moan about the bad bits and focus on the good stuff!

Working on the road is a bitch

Working on the road is something that you get used to, but again people who don’t travel, put their out of office on and go incognito for the length of their trip. Whereas those who travel a lot are constantly on, desperately trying to keep up with relentless inbound emails and at all times of day. I am always trying not to do lots of scrappy work and occasionally finding time to sit down and actually write something or at least think about it. It is the hardest thing to get right, avoid getting behind but not doing everything in a half manner. Emails definitely get shorter but better that than silence for days. There is nothing better than a full week at your desk..There are moments though when the silence on the plane, the quiet moments in a hotel can help, try and find time to think.

Things that always disappoint and annoy:

  1. When pilot says that we are early into Heathrow and isn’t that wonderful except that everyone knows that Heathrow does not do early so by the time they found a free slot, managed to get the steps over, found a bus, circled London, you are very rarely early.
  2. Buses. Shoot me now. The buses are the great leveller, First, business whatever, jump on that bus! I hate buses from flights it’s these small things that kill you when travelling
  3. Passport machines that don’t recognise my passport – at least 50% of the time 
  4. People who JUMP up when seat belt sign goes off!! Sit down and wait one second!! It’s not like we are calling a free for all to grab each others bags, the Hunger games of the airplane cabin, each grabbing for the best looking business bag! Just relax.
  5. People making and taking calls a lot. Just be normal and message / text them!
  6. Eurostar Wifi – horrendous
  7. Eurostar seats – come on! Headrests that are not actually headrests, sorry can’t bare it. I need to lean my head!!
  8. All my devices dying all of the time – so bad is it, I bought a suitcase with a charger as a last resource back up, but it’s so annoying because it always happens at once and always when you have to make a call.
  9. Airlines that hand out headphones and then want them collected back in, not sure why that annoys me but Just does. It’s the assumption they may get stolen, which in business should not be an assumption in my view!
  10. NUMBER 1. Irritant. US colleagues who don’t put their International dial code on numbers. HELLO??? When you are pulling a suitcase, carrying a bag, phone, maybe a coffee and you have a call, you just want to click on number and have it call – what you don’t want to do is copy and paste into contacts or dial pad, edit, add +1 because you happen to live in ‘rest of world’ work with us guys?
  11. No irons in room. No free WiFi in hotels. That kills me.
  12. Room inadequacies is massive! I want one switch, by the bed that switches EVERYTHING off, closes everything, you name it. I am amazed that almost all hotels think it amusing to have you hunt around trying to work out every light and every switch to every light and best of all not put them near the bed. Please, let me switch everything off in one go!! I have found about two places that do it!
  13. Never any healthy options in hotel room fridges, just sweets, chocolates etc
  14. Business flights with no power sockets – yes that’s you BA and your old planes!! How about buying just a couple maybe?

Well that’s my sum up to date, I would particularly love to hear any of your tips – tell me how to make life better! I am all ears!

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!

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!