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.

Advertisements

The re-birth of digital advertising

So I thought for a change from talking about Spotify, I would give my humble views on the latest digital furore.
It is a well trodden path – Scandal first, debate and finger pointing and finally actions and solutions often leading to a better future state. We see it in everyday life with so many different topics.  It is always a shame that it gets to that point but at the same time we should grab the opportunity that it presents us.
I know I sound like an old git and have said it before but I have seen so many stages of digital, starting with the concept of selling hits. Ironically we never knew less about what we were selling in 2000 but it was probably in front of humans back then, Ad fraud was not on the radar. We have seen the social media wave, video, programmatic,  and on it goes.
However this latest scandal is not about impressions appearing against unfavourable content, and by all accounts a tiny amount,  it’s about the fact that everyone just got a cold bucket of water thrown over them and screamed at to wake up. The bucket was thrown by The Times as it happens but this topic has been on every stage in programmatic for two plus years. It has been the sell of many companies talking about brand safety for years but the truth is, no one listened. In 2014 I was at a ANA conference with hundreds of buyers and I asked them if they cared about brand safety and unanimously they said they did. I then I asked them if they bought blind performance or blind inventory through any number of RTB networks and most did. I ended with the phrase. ‘Then you don’t care about brand safety’ this is not to have a dig at those companies, by the way, many still operating, but to make the point that the issue has been out there for some time.
My blog is littered with articles I have written on this topic and I was not the only one of course. Trouble was no one listened.  Ask any agency that wanted to deliver more brand safe impressions, the toughest thing was applying quality inventory, whitelists, vetting etc and still hitting cpms demanded by auditors and pitches.
So now the scandal is passing and we have had much debate, now on to the solutions. Here is my take out on the topic. Here are the likely developments for the industry:
  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. Verification will be standard for Facebook and Google – at last advertisers will be able to see what their viewability scores are on puking rainbows
  4. 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.
We are entering a new dawn for digital advertising, the question is whether everyone goes back to sleep or decides to get up and out. Take the opportunity to make our industry a better place.

A list of observations. In a list.

Today I just wrote a list. A list of observations from the sales side of the house from a recent ex agency person. Headline is ‘long time agency executive did not self combust when joining a sales organisation’ Here are some insights for those of you thinking about crossing the divide…
  • I really did not know where anyone’s offices were and Christ you do a lot of travelling around. Google saves hundreds of hours by getting everyone to come to them.
  • You get cancelled a lot. No biggie, shit happens, but you get cancelled a lot
  • What I assumed would be an awesome event to attend is actually just competing with loads of awesome events to attend
  • People cancel late – main thing is to cancel, even that day, but not so late you can’t find a home for the ticket, even if I bring my mum
  • Learning all about restaurants in a 5min circumference from each agency
  • I have competed with many, annoyed some, but overall everyone has been hugely welcoming of my new role.
  • Agencies are working their socks off on pitches. Every.Single.Day.
  • There is some cool shit going on in agencies, fascinating to see and hear it. One even came to tell us about it.
  • I am really enjoying getting to work with all the people I used to work with but are now scattered across the industry – chance to see everyone again
  • Agency chat involves a lot about offices. A lot. More even than Google and Facebook talk about theirs.
  • People talk about Google and Facebook a lot.
  • There are so many people I did not know but glad I am getting to know.

I have not self combusted.

Bertozzi bytesize: 20yrs of agency, 20K minutes of sales – what have I learned?

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.

3. Numbers

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.

Adblocking – I am going to make you an offer you cant refuse

Italian organised crime started with men ‘offering’ to protect the olive groves of Sicily from the roving gangs of people who ‘might’ burn them down at any point. It was a slightly one sided offer in that they had little choice as to whether accept that or not. As I have been reading and listening to publishers I have started to see some parallels with the Adblocking industry, especially as you delve into the commercial relations behind the scene.

As a publisher, under so many different pressures, probably the last thing you were planning for was a slick salesman roll up and make you an offer you could not refuse. Pay us some money and we can make this ‘adblocking thing’ go away or if you don’t give us a cut, we are going to let the adblock software loose on your site. Of course the publishers are not the only ones being shafted. The customer who signed up to the software may be surprised to find that he or she is seeing Ads again because the publisher paid the protection racket.What you need is a saviour of course and so enter stage left the guys that come and offer the publisher an option to block the blockers. Now of course they are not quite out of the Superman annuals as you have to pay them as well but I guess its better than not getting any ad revenues and they are working to some extent in their interests.

download

Overall the whole landscape is very messy, very challenging and right now seems to be a little too much like the Sicilian olive groves of yesteryear.