I was interviewed by Simon Gosling who runs the Home of the future at Unruly and we covered the topic of audio in the home through connected speakers and how it is impacting everything from music listened to, audio books and radio. Connected speakers have now freed us to do so much more at home and growth is pretty spectacular!
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.
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!
The Spotify journey from Audio to multi sensory platform that encompasses video and audio has been a really interesting one. It continues at pace and has been infused with our unique data proposition as well.
At Demexco we took the main stage and presented it to 600+ people, here it is in all its glory. Some of the videos have been covered, so hold your breathe through a couple of those! CLICK ON THE PHOTO TO LINK TO VIDEO.
On the 19th September at 7pm, over 400 people walked in to the Electric Ballroom in Camden and demonstrated that we work in a very special, amazing industry. The reason was a devastating fire at Grenfell tower. The inspiration for the event came from one person, David Grainger. A month later and some frantic but effective campaigning and the team had raised 70K+, filled 70 tables and created a moment in time not to be forgotten.
The night itself was magical, friends and colleagues from across the industry, agencies both media and creative, publishers, tech firms all misled into this electric evening of music, emotions and love. Advertising is sometimes accused of being lightweight, pointless, not a serious industry but I was so proud of what we achieved in such a short period of time.
More importantly I feel like it was a release to be able to talk and write about something positive and uplifting in relation to the industry. So often the headlines are negative and I have written before that they will be the death of the industry as talent stops wanting to be part of it. This night however we saw the great side to our business, the side that shows we can react fast, that we care and that we are capable of doing good. We should not lose sight of that because behind the headlines lie thousands of good people working their socks off for their clients, trying to enjoy being in our business.
I cant extrapolate this one night to cover everything in our business but what I can say is that the headline writers, the intermediaries that deliver blows to media with glee, the consultants that pile on as they see an opportunity to make money for their short lived businesses need to stop and think about the good of the industry and all the great, passionate, caring, hard working people that populate it and not just a handful of seniors that really the headlines are about.
AdLondonCalling was a night to celebrate, to remember and we should use it as a reason to revel in a great industry and ask those out to tear it apart to think every once in a while about whether they are being too broad in their attacks. I love this business, I have loved agency side and now publisher side, we have a lot to be proud of, thanks Dave for getting this going, lets see how many other positives we can write about..
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!
Meet Marco Bertozzi
We talk a lot about data at Spotify and how it shows a lot about how you listen to music. We have a tool that I love, which allows us to add our account and get a pen portrait on our listening habits. Now outside of this we go to great lengths to add colour to this data but I could not resist checking myself out on this relatively simple analysis about my music listening. I was desperate to see if Spotify thought I was as uncool as most people say! Turns out, it’s not so bad. Perhaps the 152 plays of Waves was a bit much and the fact I generally like Pop, Deep House and House is not appropriate for a 45yr old, but hey – keeping it real..
‘Spotify says: Marco is in his forties and has recently been listening to music in United Kingdom, where he lives. During his 6 years on Spotify, he’s streamed 15,877 tracks, which is far more than the average user. Of those streams, 4,205 were unique songs; that’s also way more songs than average. Marco changes up when he listens based on the day of the week. He listens quite differently on weekdays and weekends. Marco doesn’t listen to Spotify on desktop, instead preferring to listen on his mobile device. Marco is a lean-back listener. He doesn’t engage much with the app when listening, often having Spotify in the background; he plays songs all the way through, often letting songs from radio stations play without interruption, and he rarely skips songs. Marco has recently been jamming to Rag’n’Bone Man and John Williams, though Sia and Calvin Harris are his favourites of all time. In the last few weeks, he’s had The Chainsmokers’s “Don’t Let Me Down” on repeat. And he has listened to “Waves – Robin Schulz Radio Edit” by Mr. Probz 152 times on Spotify – more than any other song. When you compare Marco with all active Spotify users, his listening is very diverse. He listens evenly across many genres, and these genres tend to be very different: Pop, House, and Deep house. He does, however, have a strong preference for listening at specific times of day to music of specific moods. For example, Marco chooses certain times of day that need more instrumental music. Marco tends to prefer listening to his favourite music, but lately, he has been listening to more new music than he normally does. Marco listens to some nostalgic music, but not particularly often. When in the mood, he listens to songs by Howard Jones, George Michael, and John Williams.’
Learn anything? Well you learned a lot about my moods, what platforms I am listening on, type of music and how it forms part of my day. This is just a snippet of how we can work with advertisers and power their moments marketing. Understanding People Through Music will give us all insights that cant be replicated anywhere. Spotify as the worlds largest music streaming service is in a unique position to help brands do this, its an exciting proposition!
NB: Some of the above tastes are swayed by my pandering to my son’s likes! Family account coming soon!