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!