Media, white or grey?


This is the point at which I confess that I once increased an IO on the back of some fancy lunch..sorry not going to do that because I know I have not, but in fact that is too simple an example. There is no black and white, just grey.

The recent Digiday post about a planner in the US writing to multiple publishers asking for them to buy food and drinks for a leaving do, click here for that, sparked some conversation on this topic which came from both sides of the fence. The long and short of it was that the request was outrageous and what a cheek this guy had. In this instance they were right in my mind to be offended, what went wrong with this particular request was it lacked respect, lacked a reason and was delivered to  a group ie anyone will do.

That said, where did this all start? Did it start with the agency asking for free things or was it always the approach of the sales person, lets not just focus on media, this happens in every industry to some extent or another. In every industry the opportunity to build relations has started with hospitality. Now what this story does not tell you is how many of the recipients had previously showered this team with gifts and so lead them to believe this was all possible. And if they did? And if they helped their business, can they now have issue with the request being thrown back at them. Grey throughout.

Generally speaking hospitality is a legitimate way of doing business because we are a people business and the more time we spend together the more we understand each other and then more likely the business gets their message across. People buy people at the end of the day. BUT and a big but, it should not lead to obligation and where friendship becomes darker and things are twisted to personal financial gain. The level of that hospitality also needs examination – I believe the person who offers should always be present ie don’t just get me tickets but take me. I also believe that situations where couples and families are being hosted on ski trips etc pushes the boundary.

I saw an email once, intercepted by an agency person (who was on the exchange accidentally and not involved) between a re-targeting company and a direct client that basically said ‘thanks for the contact introduction, your camera is in the post’ That kind of thing should not be allowed to go on, or a now defunct agency whose Head of media gave the search business for an account to his friend’s independent search agency and by all accounts was paid well for it. This is the dark side of the business and hopefully a smaller and smaller part of it.

The final side of this is when a publisher or tech company is asked to sponsor an event which can come in many ways but its is a clear value exchange and they are ‘paying’ to be part of that event, again that could be food, drink, prizes etc etc but the relationship is clear.

This episode in particular was unfortunate and ill thought through and that person needs to be clear on what is acceptable and what is not but to publishers and media companies this is a cost of business and with all business there are people who do it well or badly. Written entirely differently the media owner could legitimately decide that it was a good opportunity to be in front of 90 media buyers and that is a business decision for them.

Big Sales orgs are spending $30million+ a year on marketing and so they have accounted for the 90 bacon butties, what they had not accounted for was the way the guy asked for them.

Anyone meet me in Pret and grab me a cheese and ham sub?

A week at The VivaKi Nerve Center

A week at The Vivaki Nerve Center


An early meeting with the WW CEO of ZenithOptimedia to discuss how the market is shaping up and what can be expected of 2012. As the conference season starts I am being pulled in a number of directions to make sure everyone who needs the latest info has it!

Later that morning a call with the boss, Curt Hecht, it’s a about planning stage and we discuss what we need to get done for 2012 and how we will work with the agencies. A lot of progress in 2011 for VivaKi and The VivaKi Nerve Center and so it makes for some great conversations for next year. More than ever we will be a very European organisation which is achievement in itself. a series of meetings with the major EMEA markets all to be planned.

A session on contracts, which seems to take up a lot of time at the moment, but we are making real progress with a number of contracts signed that will help power The Pool, Partnerships and AOD.

End the day back at the WW CEO’s office to finalise some notes for the conference and its my turn to start to prepare for the Exchangewire ATS event where I am on a panel with Nigel Gilbert from Orange, Gurman from MediaIQ, Breadon from AOL, Martin from infectious and hosted by Zuzanna at Microsoft. Will be a good day I am sure.

In the evening, I went to the Appnexus / Microsoft drinks and met with the founder of Appnexus, the new head of Microsoft, Andy Hart and a number of others. Bumped into Jakob of GroupM, always a pleasure and we had a little catch up and then I had to leave for dinner with Quantcast and Exchangewire down at BerryBros.

As usual you learn something on these nights and having spoken to a number of people from other groups, its clear to me that VivaKi are the most integrated and aligned group in this space, working hand and glove with the agencies. I hope over time this pays dividends for us all.

Tuesday – ATS Day

Arriving at the event really makes you see how far things have moved on in the last year. Ciaran’s first one was a big event but this really surpassed itself with 400+ guests. Unfortunately as the day went on it became clear that again it lacked publishers and advertisers. The more I think about this though, the more I think, why should they be there?

Morning sessions were OK but lacked direction, more moderation, different questioners and less keynotes would have improved the morning session. Keynotes fund these events but I feel having Mediamath and Rubicon and Appnexus all doing a turn is perhaps excessive.

Microsoft did a great session, slick presentation and I think surprised everyone, he even presented an Apple Ad, which was the talk of the Twittersphere..

The afternoon panel I was on was billed to be controversial, I knew it would not be, for two reasons. The first is we have said this before and the second is that people in the audience don’t want to stand out and make issues. The bigger these events become the more polite they will become. I had a couple of key themes I wanted to get across around the whole Ad Trading Desks.

1. We are not an Ad Network
2. We will cut back on Ad Network spend
3. We will be aiming to centralise all retargeting and we think it’s the right thing to do
4. We work with a number of DSPs just not in the UK and we know what is what

I made all of these statements as well as suggesting Ad Nets use client data across their campaigns and received no resistance so, if it was not controversial, it was not because of me! Feedback has been that it was too about positioning of each others company etc but you go where the questions take you.

All in all though, a good day, got to catch up with some great people from around the business and generally enjoyed it all.


We march on with an exciting morning meeting with a large European company that is soon to become Vivak’s first VNC Partner in EMEA. We have of course high profile relations with Microsoft and Google as well as other US companies, but this is the first at scale. We worked through the opportunities, what we need to do together and how we can help each other, a great start to Wednesday and we look forward to releasing that news soon.

Later that day, I 100% focused on The Pool. We have been delayed on this but we are ready to go again, very exciting, there is other info on The Pool elsewhere on my blog Later this year I am presenting at the IAB conference on Spain the results of the Spanish Lane and some of the work that’s been going on in the US, I am really excited about the results that have come from this work.

We have three great publisher partners and already two major clients so things are looking great in that regard, there will be more to come on that subject shortly.

The day ends meeting a team of senior Google Product managers who are trying to work with us to provide insight to power Audience On Demand. It’s these meetings that the Google partnership is founded on, not media spend and discounts. It was a really interesting session and we learned alot about what is coming up. Invite will be a very powerful proposition.


A quieter day on the meetings and valuable time to catch up. I did meet up with the CEO of Vindico and team who have big ambitions in the UK. We work with them on The Pool and they are a great outfit. Its time we need to get over the control issue around video adserving, we have been through this once with display and its time we moved on when it comes to video. We are used to substandard, early 2000 type tracking and reporting which is not acceptable.


A chance to discuss everything we have been doing and seeing this week. A morning appointment with a client with a brief to talk them through all the things The Vivaki Nerve Center are working on, went brilliantly and we will be doing some great work I hope. They showed the kind of interest in innovation that makes it all worth while.

A run for the train from glamorous Slough with just enough time to read the placard under the stuffed dog at the station and down to Microsoft to present to their regional scale display teams and talk about the importance of agency trading desks. Quite a turn out and some great questions from the group, I hope we can act on some of the discussions and continue to grow our global partnership.

I end the week with some time to keep up momentum with The Pool, discuss with thepaulsilver the final touches of an exciting launch next week and what I am going to do when he is on holiday!

Integrated, digital at the centre, agencies have changed, how do media owners respond?

Just before the recession kicked off every article was about digital, within the agency world it was the key battle ground, who had more of it, was it integrated, who was pretending etc etc. The recession seemed to put pay to that for a while, everyone concentrating on survival. What the recession will have done in many agencies is allow them to make a lot of change very quickly, people are a lot more receptive to structural change when their jobs are at risk. The end result of that will be that agencies have perhaps now taken a bigger step forward in a shorter period of time than at any previous period of the past.

Most agency groups now have pulled together or bought up a vast array of digital properties and now the task is to link them all together and make them something that clients can genuinely buy into, thats the biggest task of all and there are definitely some struggles out there.

Likewise the media owners are having to adjust at the same pace, they have also battled with separate sales teams, on and offline, agency relationship managers, sponsorships and many other properties but to make them work the teams have to work together and present a coherent face to the marketplace.  Guardian teams have been well known to be struggling in this regard and have done for some time and perhaps this is now being reflected in the IPA Media Owner survey. The Telegraph made a very high profile office move and merged teams far more quickly and effectively and they seem to be benefitting from that move.  The thing that stands out for me at the more successful media properties is that they all have two common themes; the right people in the key jobs and a desire to completely reinvent. AOL was down on its knees but therefore had little to lose and have completely re-engineered themselves and came to market with clarity and ambition. Telegraph was a similar story in terms of their ambition to completely evolve.

There is a lesson in that and some agencies could also look at those examples and shake things up, there are many agencies that have the same people, in the same roles and in the same format. Look to the brave and reinvent your offer and be brave enough to change. Change is addictive, tough to start with but once you do it, you can make a real difference.


Microsoft Imagine..not sure I really dreamed

Spent the day at the Microsoft Imagine day, these events are always filled with one over riding thought. Will I see something new and challenging? Today for me was dominated by one thing..concerts in a banner, a campaign for Axion, The Banner campaigns

I will not try and explain it, just take a look, it is the best thing I have seen since 2000. I loved this, it was new, it used imagination, it used what some of the other presenters talked about, dreamtelligence, that was from the MD of future labs. That said he did use too much geek buzz words, basically took any two words and combined them!

The rest of the day presented technology, some great ideas but I am still left with this feeling of scratching the surface, not in terms of capabilities, but how is this going to help an advertiser? How are Microsoft going to link up PC, Windows 7, mobile, touch screen in a manageable, executional way for the average client? I know they are working on it but I still want to see it, in practice without being touched up..

Good to be there but I still want to see more…