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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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.