Zenith Media is 30 years old today. There has been a lot of water under the bridge since then, our industry has changed in so many ways but nevertheless, that agency shaped many of my thoughts and approaches and I am grateful for those early years.
I was first encouraged to apply to agencies by my brother who was a sales exec at Autoexpress who said that ‘I would be good on agency side’ and he told me to write to Andy Tilley the MD of Zenith at the time. So I wrote, I faxed, multiple times and eventually got an interview with Tim Greatrex. I got the job.
What was Zenith like back then? What was Media like? Well let’s start with the shed at Paddington, no, not the Paddington you know today, the high rises, the fancy station, the river with its restaurants and cafes, no this was derelict land in the middle of council estates and drab, redundant looking office buildings, a place where people looked unhappy at all times, except when you walked into the one pub, straight opposite the building, The Dudley. The Dudley was a place we spent a lot of time, well most lunches and evenings to be exact, it was ‘our local’ it was home from home and so much fun was had there. People were ejected, fought, laughed, competed, celebrated, commiserated, met the loves of their life or of the night, you name it. The Dudley could solve most ills. The king of the Dudley was of course John Lynch although everyone went from CEO to graduate, each with their side of the pub, even press and TV had subtle areas of dominance.
The office atmosphere as a graduate was exactly what you might have imagined, full of testosterone, a buying floor, TV in particular, it was full of smoke as we smoked all day long and although a male environment, many strong women flourished. I worked for two strong female leaders in Yvonne Scullion and Tracey Stern, I hope that set me up for the rest of my career to appreciate female leaders as the equal of anyone, but there were many more future leaders with Anna Campbell, Cyanne Bonnell, Rachel Forde, Marie Carey, Natalie Cummins amongst many others. It was a time where we learned to be accountable to clients, if something went wrong then we had to ring up our clients and explain, not hide behind email, we had to fight for our media plans, it was a time where your TV schedule was everything and I had sleepless nights if I was not securing what I had personally committed to, somehow the platform buys and AI and Algos of today blunt that or at least give you excuses. No, I had to fight with Mark Finnegan who invariably stole my centre break of coronation street on Friday for his newspaper accounts, to me it was everything.
By today’s standard no doubt it was a non PC environment and would not live up to the standards we ask of people today, but the class of ’96 onwards created a strong bond that to today is still probably some of the closest ties we have in media. I know we all root for each other and our careers and the media world actually revolves around the silent axis of ex Zenith employees. Just like publisher side revolves around Microsoft.
We were taught to work hard, play hard, and we have all learned that that approach needs tempering with the advent of always on technology, but the fundamentals still hold true. Enjoy working, and you won’t mind going the extra mile, have a great team and atmosphere around you and everything seems possible. In those days we could switch off and head home, difficult today, in those days, working from home was unheard of, mainly as we lacked technology to connect us, but the heart and soul of Zenith and what it taught me to expect from work remain about giving a shit about your colleagues and your work.
A testament to Zenith that there are many still there to this day, at least in the group and many returning in recent weeks, perhaps we are all destined to return to the place we loved the most? So many behaviours are now being realised to not be acceptable anymore but it was not all bad, there was a lot to look back on and celebrate and every time I walk in Zenith reception anywhere in the world there is always that reminder. What we all long deep down is to receive a farewell card of the ilk we used to get back then – we wish limping phone repair man well.
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.
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.
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!
- 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!
- Early flights mean having everything down to your keys ready the night before, especially important if you oversleep.
- If you drive yourself you can speed to make up time! Another advantage over taxis.
- Always take lifts in Heathrow, not escalators, all the pros take the lifts, faster
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Don’t talk to anyone. If someone speaks to you very early on a flight, answer, smile, put headphones on.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Use all those air miles for car hire on holiday rather than a small discount on a flight
- 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:
- 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.
- 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
- Passport machines that don’t recognise my passport – at least 50% of the time
- 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.
- People making and taking calls a lot. Just be normal and message / text them!
- Eurostar Wifi – horrendous
- Eurostar seats – come on! Headrests that are not actually headrests, sorry can’t bare it. I need to lean my head!!
- 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.
- 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!
- 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?
- No irons in room. No free WiFi in hotels. That kills me.
- 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!
- Never any healthy options in hotel room fridges, just sweets, chocolates etc
- 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!
Original article by Charlotte Rogers in Marketing Week – here is the original
Today Spotify will embark on one of the most hotly anticipated initial public offerings (IPOs) since Twitter went public in 2013 and Snapchat started selling shares back.
The Swedish streaming service has taken an unconventional approach, opting for a direct listing which circumvents the cost of an IPO by simply enabling existing shares to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
The chance to buy shares in Spotify is likely to prove extremely popular with investors. Globally the streaming service has amassed 71 million premium subscribers, up 46% year on year, and 157 million active users, an increase of 28% since 2016.
The average customer spends 25 hours a month streaming music on Spotify. Spanning 65 markets, Spotify’s audience has, to date, created two billion playlists from a library of more than 35 million songs.
Europe is the company’s largest market with 58 million monthly active users, accounting for 37% of its total audience. Spotify claimed a 42% share of the global streaming market in 2016, boasting a 95% share in Sweden, 59% in the UK and 41% in the US.
The streaming service has a dual subscriptions and advertising business model. Premium subscriptions accounted for 90% of Spotify’s total revenue in 2017, according to documents filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission on 23 March, in preparation for the IPO.
“It’s almost a return of radio-like thinking because brands now have to have their own unique sound.’
Neil Shah, Smirnoff
Last year premium subscriptions delivered €3.7bn (£3.2bn) in revenue, up from €2.7bn (£2.4bn) in 2016, dwarfing the ad supported side of the business, which generated €416m (£365m) in 2017. Its ad business did make a profit of €43m (£38m) for the first time last year, however, after making a loss of €35m (£31m) the previous year.
Spotify has approximately 90 million ad supported users, typically aged between 18 to 34, who are given limited, shuffle-only access to the platform’s full catalogue. Brands serve display, audio and video advertising to these listeners, delivered through impressions.
Despite being a far smaller element of the business, Spotify’s advertising arm has increased revenues by 41% since 2016, prompting the streaming giant to describe it as a “strong and viable” element of the business with “considerable long-term opportunity for growth”
To explore the possibilities of enhancing its ad revenue, Spotify is working on a number of different formats, including podcast partnerships with publishers like Buzzfeed, sponsored playlists and self-serve advertising platforms, as well as trialling skippable audio ads and finding new ways to use programmatic.
In March, Spotify revealed its first ever 3D audiovisual advert, created in collaboration with film company Lionsgate UK to promote the release of horror film Ghost Stories.
Audio from the original trailer was re-purposed to give a 3D audio effect on top of the existing trailer, creating an immersive experience. In the first week of release the 3D ad received click-through rates up 50% from benchmark level, according to Spotify stats.
Last month the streaming giant also rolled out its self-service Ad Studio feature to the UK, which allows brands to create their own adverts within the platform.
The advertiser picks its audience based on age, gender, location, activity and musical taste, selecting whether to opt for mobile, desktop or both. They then set the budget and campaign dates, and use Spotify insights to track the campaign’s success.
Spotify managing director of sales for Europe, Marco Bertozzi, believes Ad Studio will open the possibility for smaller advertisers to get involved on the platform.
“I think at the moment we tend towards working with big clients and agencies,” he explains.
“Ad Studio is going to allow us to open up a whole raft of new, potentially smaller advertisers, who will be able to log in individually and build their own campaigns.”
Spotify is also keen to take on mainstream radio. The streamer believes it can differentiate itself from radio’s “linear model” by offering personalised experiences based on real-time insights into listeners’ behaviour across a variety of devices from smartphones and desktops, to car audio, games consoles and in-home devices.
This all plays into a resurgent interest in audio seen over the past year, as advertisers begin work on defining the sound of their brand, Bertozzi explains.
“With Spotify we have the intimacy that radio has always delivered, but because we can apply the data and insight it’s really important that that creative message matches those moments adequately.
“If you just get a jarring radio ad you’re probably missing an opportunity. Think about the creative and how it sounds to someone in that intimate moment. It’s vital you tailor your message.”
This opinion is shared by Cristina Sarraille, senior strategist at media agency We Are Social, who believes brands need to start thinking about how their brand sounds and what position this occupies in the wider cultural landscape.
“We got into this area over the past few years of sound blindness, where everyone was so excited to think about narratives around images and text, ignoring the use of sound in the way we communicate about the brand,” she argues.
“An agency may say, ‘let’s work with Spotify’. But the brand and the agency should step back and say hold on, do we have a sound for our brand? Do we actually understand the music ecosystem of the culture where our brand is supposed to be playing in order for consumers to identify that sound with our brand?”
Data making a difference
Streaming intelligence data gathered on the moods, preferences and listening habits of Spotify’s 157 million active users is being harnessed by brands to build engaging campaigns. Bertozzi claims the company’s number one priority is respecting its listeners’ data.
“This is our only business model. That app and the music that comes out of it is everything for us, so making sure that that relationship is not disrupted is really important. We have 100% logged in users, so we have a direct relationship with them. All media is on our platform, so those relationships are tightly controlled,” Bertozzi explains.
“A lot of advertisers want our data and they want to put it in data warehouses, we just don’t do that. Our message to advertisers is that we’ve got loads of great ways that you can use this streaming intelligence, but it has to be respectful to our users and it has to be on our platform.”
A recent example of a brand utilising streaming intelligence to share an important social message is the collaboration between Spotify and vodka brand Smirnoff.
Based on Spotify data, which revealed none of the top 10 tracks streamed in 2017 were performed be female artists or bands, Smirnoff decided to redress the balance in time for International Women’s Day 2018 with the launch of the ‘Smirnoff Equalizer’.
The tool provides users with a percentage breakdown of the number of male and female artists they have listened to over the past six months, allowing them opt for an “equalised” playlist that balances it out with female artists personalised to their musical tastes.
Neil Shah, Smirnoff global senior brand manager, describes the campaign as a great example of a brand being clear on its purpose and then leveraging it to have a positive impact on society by delivering something interesting to consumers in a personalised way.
The ‘Equalizer’ tool plays into the way Spotify’s business model works by rewarding artists who attract more streams and bigger fan bases with greater exposure.
The campaign’s core KPIs were to raise awareness of the gender bias in music and enable users to take action. Shah’s team measured the number of visits to the Smirnoff Equalizer platform, paid impressions and earned reach. It also analysed whether listeners were generating and sharing their own playlists, as well as reviewing how overall listening statistics were being affected by the campaign.
With the rise of voice search, Alexa and audio-based platforms like Spotify, Shah believes that marketers will increasingly need to think beyond just their brand’s tone of voice.
Going ‘all in on music as a platform’ has enabled Bacardi to drive real results with its paid strategy.
Fabio Ruffet, Bacardi Europe
“It’s almost a return of radio-like thinking because brands now have to have their own unique sound,” he explains.
“With partnerships like Spotify, where the opportunity exists to interact with consumers in a meaningful and personalised way, it’s important that you have something relevant and interesting to say, otherwise essentially you’re going to be a brand that’s interrupting a user’s listening experience, rather than enriching it. I fundamentally believe brands don’t have the right to do that.”
Brands are also finding new routes to connect with listeners on Spotify by linking up with high profile artists.
Making the Spotify environment shoppable is a focus for merchandise specialist Merchbar, which enables artists to bring product listings to their Spotify profile pages. Merchbar recently partnered with beauty company Pat McGrath Labs and US popstar Maggie Lindemann to sell cosmetics from directly from the singer’s Spotify artist page, an industry first.
Merchbar founder and CEO, Edward Aten, explains that Spotify offered the perfect opportunity to take the collaboration between Pat McGrath Labs and Lindemann beyond traditional distribution channels and reach fans in new ways. He believes tie-ups between brands, artists and commercial partners will be the future method to make Spotify shoppable.
“Artists are the most influential group of people in the world, so whether it is through their own merchandise or branded collaborations there is tremendous possibility,” he claims.
“The best part is that as the channels and opportunities keep growing, it’s a huge win for everyone involved – something that’s super rare in the music industry. At the end of the day, you have to start with something that is truly authentic to the artist and resonates deeply with their fans.”
Last year when rum brand Bacardi wanted to change the way emerging Caribbean artists were being represented in the music industry it teamed up with DJ collective Major Lazer on the ‘Music Liberates Music’ project.
The campaign centred on ‘The Sound of Rum’, a Spotify playlist of songs from up-and-coming Caribbean artists, supported by a track from project ambassadors Major Lazer. Every time fans streamed Major Lazer’s track ‘Front of the Line’ and listened to ‘The Sound of Rum’ playlist Bacardi donated studio time to the emerging artists.
Major Lazer’s song ended up being streamed 4.6 million times, contributing to 127 hours of studio time for the Caribbean acts. According Fabio Ruffet, creative excellence director for Bacardi Europe, this activity also boosted brand affinity, made listeners more likely to view Bacardi as a “relevant brand” and reinforced the brand’s credibility in being associated with this category of music.
Ruffet believes that going “all in on music as a platform” has enabled Bacardi to drive real results with its paid strategy.
“We have been able to target the right audience at the same time as leveraging our key artist relationship with Major Lazer in an innovative way and giving up-and-coming Caribbean artists a chance to share their music with the world. We had multiple media touchpoints from casual fans all the way down to hardcore EDM [electronic dance music] lovers.”
Data from Bacardi’s ‘Sound of Rum’ playlist reveals that Fridays and Saturdays were the peak days for streaming, with Afrobeat, Dancehall and Crunk standing out as the most popular genres.
Bacardi used similar insight when devising its branded moments campaign on Spotify in 2016. When the brand saw its audience was listening to its party playlists, Bacardi rewarded listeners with 30 minutes of uninterrupted music in exchange for watching a short video. The brand also served mobile overlay ads providing drinks recipes for them to try.
Ruffet advises brands looking to carve out a space on Spotify to leverage data to unlock consumer insights and never forget to get the basics right first.
“Be open to new opportunities, but start with the basics – standard products are proven to drive business results, so it’s important to leverage them to their best,” he suggests.
“Customise. Creative should fit people, platform and a moment in time. And listen to your partner, they know the platform, so can save you from making simple mistakes.”
Well today was all about Speakrs4schools. For those are not aware, it is an organisation set up by Robert Peston to help kids in state schools be inspired by people coming into their schools and talking about their journey and advice on how to approach the daunting prospect of a) having the ambition to go for their dreams and b) getting into work.
The organisation has had speakers talk in front of 500K students and they want more! Robert Peston was pretty clear – ‘I don’t want to go to Eton or Harrow, why do they need my help, it is State schools that have to help kids broaden their horizons’ that was where it started. He was regularly asked to speak in high end schools but noticed a lack of request from state. Years later he has a 1000 speakers on the books and big backing.
Let me talk about my personal experience, I have probably done around 6 talks so far, and each one is a joy. Watching often shy students slowly get up the courage to ask questions, begin to see signs of some reacting to talks. I have already had students email me to say they have started a blog or got a job etc – it’s so exciting. I hope I have encouraged a few to join LinkedIn and Twitter over the years and start to network. It’s the best part of my career. Give back – it feels good.
Speakrs4schools is now moving into the work experience space with S4Snextgen. Robert Peston hammered home the point that these kids don’t have the networks, they don’t have the privilege that many Interns have, ‘most Interns are populated by nepotism’ so true!! How many sons and daughters of senior staff people have got their kids in work experience? Many many…This is a great next step for companies in our industry to look into and try to support, I know I will be.
Today saw me travel from Campion School in Northants to No10 in one day and it was an inspiring day! Already some students have LinkedIn! I know a lot of senior people out there in lots of different companies – I encourage you to look into this amazing organisation.
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!