Bertozzi bytesize: 20yrs of agency, 20K minutes of sales – what have I learned?

I could have waited a month, six months, a year to write this but the biggest impact of jumping in cold water comes immediately, not after a few minutes, so I thought I would try to sum up my feelings about the change from agency to sales two weeks in.

This is not a blog about better or worse, it’s about difference. I am old enough and wise enough now to know that everyone goes to work every day and takes what they need out of work, you can only hope that you find a role that fulfils you, we spend a lot of time at work and being happy there, whatever the role is important. What I will be finding out I guess is whether I should have been doing sales all along, as many have told me, or whether I had it right first time. I feel like timing and choice of company will also impact that decision and I will come back to that shortly.

1.Clarity of focus

So 20,000 minutes later, the first thing that really strikes me is the clarity of focus. I used to describe that as ‘does it not feel repetitive talking about only one thing?’ But now I am in it, there is something liberating about having a clear focus on what your role in life is, it helps being in a brand as strong as Spotify admittedly, but nevertheless. Agencies have a lot of ground to cover and they have to be experts in many things which is hard and they do a great job of it. When I think of a planning director in an agency, they have to be strategic, understand everything from content to programmatic, keep the client service ticking over and that is not easy. That range of services and opportunities needs to be communicated to clients and so meetings have to cover so much and sometimes without the time to really go deep.  When I hear people say ‘I can never get hold of someone’ I suspect it is because they have shifted their time to their clients and not meeting everyone and their dog from the outside. What appears to be a negative, is likely a positive.

On the media owner side, dark side, partner or publisher side you are there for one reason. Everyone knows you are there to talk about your brand and your proposition, the challenge for us is that we have to do a good job of that, since that is all you have to do. As an agency executive I would expect sales people to know their product inside out, ideally know what’s happening in my business and with my clients and deliver a clear and persuasive argument as to why I should spend money with you. The clarity of that purpose is quite liberating. I was in a meeting with a large global client and for me the first thing was that the relationship of our two brands was a no brainer – our audiences complimented each other perfectly. That is something as a publisher, if you have that you should be confident of it, how you then connect the two brands is just a collaboration using all the assets we have available to a brand.

2. Pace of work generates energy

I expected the pace to be different for sure, agency life runs on a different, longer term timetable, different objectives and I expected to find that on the sales side, but there is a stark difference. Of course things are shorter term, but pleasingly mixed with longer term strategies running in parallel. On top of the pace of things though comes the energy which is generated – the communication is fast and frequent, the team support each other and there is a great energy, again connected with clarity of purpose. I think that is something that 20K minutes in, I am enjoying the most. The team has great energy and I love seeing them getting behind each other, both in country and across countries.

The time in CES which I was lucky enough to enjoy with some of my European band members and some of the US as well was a joy in terms of spending time with people who are all excited and pulling for each other. The Spotify space in Vegas was real quality and I felt proud to be part of the company and especially when combined with the great people I met who all welcomed me in. I am going to spend the next week with them in NY as well, which I am thoroughly looking forward to.

3. Numbers

Yes. Numbers are everywhere, this is a company built on understanding our business regardless of your level, sounds obvious? Well I think sales people who move to agencies may be surprised how relatively cosseted the equivalent levels in agency are from the business metrics behind what they do. At a certain level of course there is more exposure but there is so much to make sure you are on top of in a shorter term revenue business to make sure that targets are met than you would find in agency. At a large Google conference that I go to every year they split it into buy and sell side. This year it fell right on the change in my role and so I asked if I could swap and join the sales side tracks even though I was invited as buyside. It was interesting to me that on the buyside everything focused on what could we target, how could we use the data more, how can we join up channels etc. On the buyside it was far more commercial. How do we drive revenue for our valuable and scarce quality audience?

So you want to join the dark side? Well I am afraid I think it will depend on who and when you join. I wrote down the kind of company I wanted to join, and Spotify came top and I was lucky enough to get in the door. I feel comfortable in this environment because I can be passionate about a brand that is in the hand of the most sort after audiences for 2+hrs a day. I feel passionate about a brand that people love and that makes my job so much easier. The clarity of purpose suits me, the brand suits me, and the team is great so it works, albeit 20K minutes in! Agencies provide a powerful view of the landscape, you get to see everything, that variety is intoxicating so if you move to media owner side I would suggest go somewhere you care about and has a great offering, that more than makes up for the slightly more focused narrative. That said, I have enjoyed meeting some of the agency contacts I have been mates with for 20 years, that gives a whole new perspective on  things. I look forward to working with all those agency friends, I just happen to be sitting on the other side of the desk.

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When the last planner leaves the building, please turn off the light.

Our industry is small, relatively speaking. There are three, maybe four parts to it. Agencies, Advertisers, Media Owners (in all their shapes and forms) and technology companies.  I have no idea how many people in reality, hundreds of thousands globally let’s say.

Have you seen the make up of those agencies? Generally speaking if you look at the average age of a media agency or creative agency it is pretty low. Let’s say it’s in the early 30s. If you take a look at most of the departments like search or programmatic then that age dips even further. If you don’t work with agencies then let me describe it. Rooms full of young people tapping away, chatting, calling, looking at screens, learning and hopefully enjoying themselves, some pissed off, but normal life.

If you ask them what they do, they will say they work on x client or y client. They will tell you how they are buying something, planning something and trying to deliver something for clients. I can tell you what they are not doing.  They are not planning a way to be ‘stealing, lying or cheating their clients’ they will tell you that they are working for their clients and trying to do a good job.

At the same time I see a lot of attention being aimed at how we bring people into the industry, all facets of it, but certainly at the agencies. We all pour efforts into bringing them on and training them so they are good and better than the competition. We want to bring the smartest and brightest to our industry.

Trouble is that is going to get very hard. It’s going to get very hard for a few reasons. The first is the blanket accusations aimed at agencies. To be clear, if there is anyone at fault, I guarantee you it is not the kids working their socks off, it’s not the 99%+ percent of people in agencies. By the way these are the very same you want us to bring into the business, the ones you want to pull away from other industries and wow the clients. But no one is thinking about that. Everyone is rushing to shout as loud as possible about how corrupt agencies are, how they are not trustworthy. When you say ‘agencies’ who are you aiming that at?

Why would anyone want to work in agencies? Between trade bodies, marketing experts, auditing companies, intermediaries, journalists all bashing the agency land, why would anyone want to work for an agency? Mark Ritson said ‘what the fuck is happening in our industry’ well I will tell you. It is being killed by broad brush stroke, highly audible voices (like Mark) that is going to mean that no one will work for agencies and then I wonder where that leaves us. Death by a thousand cuts.

What I can’t work out is that what they want?

I am genuinely interested in whether some of these interested parties really do want agencies to go away, because at the moment they are certainly sounding like it. There is no balance, there is no moderation, there is no qualification, just straight outright, broad brush strokes of criticism. I am here to defend the armies of keen, young, committed people working late, working weekends for their clients. I would like to hear some balance from some of these parties, I would like to hear them support great work and great people, just a little to balance the ones who are razing the whole place to the ground.

When the last planner leaves the building, please turn the light off.

 

BertozziBytesize: Straight talk is the missing link.

I recently delivered a session at The Festival of Media, called ‘an insiders guide to programmatic’ the design of which was to have a straight forward and open discussion with a room full of advertisers on the topic. It was not meant to be educational in the sense of ‘whats a DSP’ but more a discussion on topics of transparency, operating models, the changing landscape and how the advertiser may need to think differently to how they have been to date.

It was a credit to the Festival organisers that we had nearly 40 advertisers in the room and no other adtech or agency people. Thank God because I was not kind to some of the other players in the ecosystem, although I believe fair. Since the event I have received some feedback that they enjoyed the discussion, at least some of them! The common theme throughout was that they enjoyed the open dialogue and straight talking. Anyone who reads this blog knows thats what I have always tried to do.

In fact I try and do that when I am face to face with clients as well, some make it easier to be straight talking than others. One unnamed advertiser started the meeting with ‘before we start, can I just tell you that I don’t believe a word that comes out of a trading desk!’ Well that sets a tone for sure, one I like because it basically says that the gloves are off and we can talk clearly and simply. It may not come as a surprise to know that I have had a few of those kind of meetings and on the whole I feel like the end result is often better. First of all you get to actually state your case rather than be in the shadows. Secondly it is an opportunity to pick apart the headlines and give the straight answers to straight questions and thats a good thing.

The gloves are off between the advertisers and the agencies right now with all the headlines of FBI and ‘prison time’ and I think that in the end this process that is being led in the US and supported heavily in the UK with the likes of ISBA and their new contracts will allow the right people to talk to the right people and hopefully ask some difficult questions on both sides. The net result being an opportunity for both sides to challenge the current situation.

But I still have not got to the point! As I look around offices all over the world and I see that more and more the work force is retreating behind emails and headphones I fear that the straight talk will also diminish. My first boss Tracey Stern always told me that if I had bad news, I had to ring the client and tell them myself. It taught me to have difficult discussions and hopefully made me think harder about what I was doing. Now everything is transmitted by email. Mistakes, demands, apologies are all carried along the pipes and not delivered through the dog and bone, an experience that is not easy but nevertheless worthy. I think we are all complicit in this, both the sender and receiver has come to prefer it that way and for me that is where the disconnect creeps in and starts to unravel relationships.

I appreciate the world has changed and we are all working in a different way but I firmly believe that if we did the following things, relationships would be better on both sides:

  1. Always call your client and talk to them about life and work
  2. If there is a problem or a mistake, deliver it in person or on the phone
  3. If there is good news, pick up the phone and tell them
  4. If you are unhappy then say so – on the phone
  5. If the client is unhappy then say so – on the phone

The rest can go on email! As in all things there are personalities that prefer some things over others, but I firmly believe that some of that is habit rather than preference. So yes it is over simplistic and we are all guilty but we need to do more talking and less emailing and encourage our teams to build relationships through dialogue as well as delivery.

 

 

 

 

Annual interview with Beet.tv in Cannes – entering good times in programmatic

Every year at Cannes before the Rubicon Panel we discuss with Andy at Beet.tv where things stand in the programmatic industry and this year we discussed a brighter future. 2014 was the lost year to the topic of transparency but I sense we are over that now and have moved on to programmatic strategy and all the possibilities.

This year also marks a big step for us as we see the completion of the move of campaign planners and buyers into the agencies out of VivaKi and I hope will be the start of a new age in the agencies.

Programmatic in Cannes

CampaignLive US article on Advertisers missing the prize of programmatic

My piece in CampaignLive publication in the US – to see click here

How did it come to this? You can’t mention programmatic without talk about transparency, trading desks and advertisers taking it “in-house.” A part of me that would likely get fired says “Go on, then” because it will mean that advertisers spend considerable time understanding the space, in order to appreciate what is required to do this well. They will also be doing the right thing with their media — I don’t mean taking it in-house, but rather the likely improvement in execution and management of their media using the latest technology.

While in-house has been a hot topic this year, all we have right now is a lot of noise. Companies stirring up the ecosystem trying to make hay while the sun shines and consultants with minimal experience in this complex space suddenly getting the light of day. It is a real shame. I spend so much time talking fees and transparency with advertisers and so little on strategy that I truly believe they are missing the chance to make the most of this incredible opportunity.

Advertisers setting up their own programmatic operations is as sensible as Google deciding to set up an agency business and go direct to clients. “They do that,” I hear you cry! Not really. They chase revenue, and if they see that being taken by competitors they step in. Google also has tens of thousands of free sales people — they are called agencies. Clever businesses stick to what they do best. Even brands that have been working away at this for some years are still struggling to keep up.

I recently read that taking it in house was expensive upfront but you get payback over years. I have never read such incredibly ill-informed, ill-thought rhetoric in all my life. It infers that programmatic expertise in agencies after the first couple of years runs on nothing. The reality is people need paying; tech companies need paying; innovation needs to evolve. Nothing goes away after initial set up; it only grows. It is this kind of crazy talk that is distracting advertisers.

Let’s start with talent. Programmatic now commands some of the highest salaries and brightest brains. This creates multiple challenges for employers — motivation, retention and a lack of insights from outside the immediate business. Technology evaluation skill sets, data analytics and audience insights knowledge, data warehousing, contract negotiations, legal, creative, partner management – these all are essential for a successful programmatic business. Spare a thought for the team doing it in-house — two, perhaps three people. They will not be immune from the same standards agencies have. Brand safety is still brand safety. The CEO will be no less unhappy when the Wall Street Journal reports a fraud blow up and an in-house team has been managing it. The same effort needs to be applied in or out of the house and that costs money.

Why would an advertiser want to take that on? Because they are unhappy with transparency? Because tech fees are high and they want to find ways of saving? It is a false economy. “Buy cheap, buy twice” is a phrase I am a firm believer in.

The companies who have managed to do this well are few and often pure-play digital, online businesses with very specific KPIs that are easily tracked and measured and with a culture of digital innovation. Netflix is one example. Moneysupermarket in the U.K., another. Almost all, including the most famously quoted however, are relying on third parties to do the work. That is not taking it in-house, it’s just not using an agency. And they are right not to, but if a little less time was spent on the angst of transparency and fees (easily solved by talking with your agency operation) and more time on the strategy, then the fees will make sense. More time also needs to be spent talking about the amazing case studies of clients that have embraced this space and are turning their media investment around – there are many.

Advertisers who empower their agencies in the programmatic space and invest the time to really partner with them will dramatically change how they do business and the results they achieve.

As a final note on this, While hundreds of millions of advertiser dollars are spent on blind, low-CPM, long-tail ad networks that are taking 60 percent margin, I find it very difficult to believe that an advertiser is achieving the most they can from programmatic or indeed asking the right questions about their media investment, whether that is taking it in-house or not.

Marco Bertozzi is VivaKi’s President, North America Client Services and Audience on Demand EMEA.

Read more at http://www.campaignlive.com/article/programmatic-taking-in-house/1317802#Rwl3QzVofffQABqe.99