Recorded @ConnectedPodcast with Sue Unerman/Mediacom

A week or so ago I ‘sat down’ with Sue Unerman and ASD from MediaCom to discuss what’s happening with me, Spotify and the wider industry. Being connected has never been more important! Thanks to Connected Podcast for the opportunity.

To listen on Spotify click here

 

Recipe for a successful conference

Back after a few days at my Sales Academy in Evian and have been reflecting on what makes a great sales conference. My team and I had been working so hard to make a success of this event and I feel like we made amazing progress. Of course nothing it’s perfect but 2019 has been the best yet and I started to think about how and why that was the case.

1. The first thing for me is a purpose. Following our high performing teams training we settled on our purpose as a management team being ‘Setting The Stage for Success’ what did we mean by that? Simply put, our job is to be the roadies for the team. Put everything in place to help them to succeed. This is what we carried through to the Academy as the theme. Too often leaders are the front men, the ones on stage, our view is that our teams should be up there.

2. Inclusion. This year we really involved a whole range of teams, individual sales teams from every market and division to create ‘Adbreaks’ – 5 minute case studies through out the few days, amazing opp for teams to present best work to a big crowd. We involved speakers from diverse backgrounds, a long list of amazing female talent in the business and both internal and external. All briefed to talk Setting the Stage for Success.

3. Safe space. As the team has grown and collaborated over the years, we have created a very safe culture – led by my wonderful directs with all team members happy to ask questions even to the most senior of Execs who we asked to come over, including our Global CFO and Head of Free Business, as well as the founder of Gimlet. The level of trust in the group has been amazing.

4. Fun.  Not too much, not too little. This year we were in a relatively controlled environment and so bed times were not too late. Lots and lots of fun but not too late and that has a lot of benefits. People were sharper the next day which meant they added more and interacted more. Tiredness leads to stress which can build when you are pulled away from your day job, even for the best content. Hangovers are so 2018.

5.Environment. We chose a venue that was calm, beautiful views and partially isolated and it was wonderful. Our meeting space was light and airy with views over lakes. We had lots of space and we built in time to breathe. Longer breaks, longer lunch, time at end of day to unwind and catch up, all meant people could concentrate and put phones and laptops down. The engagement was amazing.

6. Time to think. Often the goal of these events is based on packing as much in as possible ‘since we have everyone here.’ We have tried this and it does not work. If you want to drive attention during the sessions then making sure people have time to work and relax is vital. So longer breaks, time to unwind at the end of the day before any evening activities are all vital to a good mindset through the week. I was blown away by the attention of the teams this year because we engineered better timings. We also made sure that we ended on a Thursday and not a Friday so there was a working day left.

7. Prepare to be gone. A small additional note to this, prepare for absence well in advance and give air cover. If a business can’t operate with out irate clients for two and half days then we have an issue. Warn clients that you are having a massively beneficial team / learning experience, you won’t be around as normal and anything else should be managed around the event. I would also hope our clients would show consideration, lets face it, everyone does it at some point during the year.

I could not be happier, it takes work, it takes a small army of people to pull it off but the results will show. Don’t start with revenue as the goal, start with behaviours and your people and the rest will follow. I am so proud of the leads we have across EMEA, they bond, they get on, they work independently and as teams. We are in such a good place and the people are everything.

Interview with M&M on Global trends pre Festival of Media

What are the key trends and insights driving global media in 2018?
The key insight is that not everything is as it seems. We have come to question so many things around digital media and we are seeing erosion of trust across the board. No one can ignore this as a trend. The positive trend though is a thorough reevaluation of
where advertisers place media. This is encouraging for those who love this industry versus those who just want to make high margin revenue. It means that premium advertising environments are becoming far more sought after and the belief that context and environment are not important is slowing fading and becoming a distant memory. I hope we see this trend continue and the blind, low CPM retargeting networks fade away.

What is the toughest challenge the industry faces?
We have to get ourselves out of the vicious cycle of pitches begetting lower and lower CPM campaigns. This type of behaviour means agencies squeeze publishers, only looking for low cost inventory, and then find themselves at a higher risk of fraud, which then creates mistrust. We need agencies to charge properly for their services, clients to pay for quality service from whomever is best placed to provide it and then we will see a move away from opacity. We are still confronted by too much of a ‘we have to pay less than last year’ attitude. It is a path that leads nowhere for all involved.

What does success look like for you in 2018?
Spotify is on a very exciting journey. My role was to re-look at the European business and accelerate positive momentum and a strong proposition in market. We are well on our way to doing that, and it has been a lot of fun. 2018 is a year in which the topics of audioand programmatic are converging, so we look forward to working with key advertisers and partners on bringing this innovation into the mainstream. Success stories leveraging data and dynamic audio creative suggest this is just the start of a fabulous year.

The second area I will be focusing on is showing the industry that we have some of the best video advertising inventory in town. We only sell completed video impressions, with 100% viewability. Audio has traditionally been our bread and butter but video is a large part of our business and we want more brands to enjoy its benefits. Our current customers all report strong results so we hope the education we are doing across the industry will be music to people’s ears.

What is the key to winning new business?
I  don’t think that has ever changed, whether on the agency or publisher side. All you need to ask yourself is whether you are helping the advertiser grow their business. New business needs to be built on insights that unlock something fundamental (and often
very simple) that will create a reaction in consumers. Too often in new business one gets carried away with internal structures and technology. Keep it simple and customer-focused and you can win.

What do you find clients want more than ever?

There is still an eternal hunt for the new thing, the first thing etc, but actually if you just come up with great ideas those usually win out. As I mentioned there is a trend for better environments and contexts taking us back to the basics of advertising. Note
that 2017 was a very strong year for traditional channels like radio, outdoor etc. At Spotify we continue to innovate, which is what makes the company an exciting place to be. And where we develop innovations our partners get to be the first to try things
out, which makes selling a whole lot easier.

How does the industry develop measurement standards for digital that are universal?
Sucha big question.. The only possible answer is relentless collaboration involving both the biggest and smallest players and this is going to be even more true with the GDPR implementation. My view is to worry less about common measurement and keep focused on common standards. Some of the basic requirements are very low in terms of viewability etc. I believe we should raise the bar significantly as a starting point. ‘Three seconds partially-in-view’ inventory should not be the benchmark.

How important is inclusivity to your business?
Inclusivity is enormously important to Spotify. As you might expect from a Swedish business, inclusion is at the core of the Spotify culture and values, and we are putting a great deal of focus on D&I initiatives. Indeed, just this week we held our annual, global, Diversity and Inclusion Summit at Spotify’s Stockholm headquarters, which was an opportunity for members of staff from all over the world to discuss ideas and opportunities to drive change and innovation where needed at Spotify and to make us even more of a leader in this space.

How do media owners and tech companies capitalize on the changing media landscape?
Combine good environment, trustworthy inventory and clever use of technology and data. Technology has a bad rep at the moment, but it is not technology that is the problem, rather how it is used. Used correctly you can achieve great things.

Audio is seeing a resurgence and we are very happy about that, but that’s not about traditional ‘radio’. Across connected cars, homes, voice assistants, speakers, TVs, fridges, you need an audio strategy that is future proof. However, we believe the real opportunity is in combining audio formats with video to generate the greatest impact. The media landscape is definitely changing and Spotify is in a great place to be at the heart of it.

Marco will be speaking at Festival of Media Global next month and Spotify is one of the key partners of the event.

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.

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.