It's like I'm speaking a different language
Opinion: An Englishman in New York
It feels like Brits and Americans are speaking an entirely different language in these mature ad industry markets.
The first line in the song “Englishman in New York” is “I don’t drink coffee, I take tea, my dear”.
I’m writing this column from a Starbucks where the options to make an English breakfast tea are near endless. I was asked, “so it’s like a tea latte?” — by that they meant, ‘with hot steamed milk’ — it has taken me five times being asked that question to work that out. In the UK, there is a much more defined method to have a tea (cold milk and one sugar, if you’re wondering).
Going to Starbucks and asking for a tea gives me anxiety; anything could come out. This difference in language also relates to my column this month. The predominant language (79% in US and 98% in UK) is English, yet at many different times it feels like we’re speaking an entirely different language in these mature ad industry markets.
Four things specifically spring to mind.
The US is not “behind” Europe in terms of digital advertising privacy implementation, but it is certainly taking it’s time in defining an approach.
One of my biggest learnings moving here has been that if you think that America is one country in the sense of how we define England, Wales, Scotland or Ireland as a country then you’d be wrong. States are like countries in and of themselves, and I’m still getting my head around state laws and federal (national) laws.
Because of this, you get a lot of people speaking to privacy in very different ways, and that’s a nightmare for advertisers and publishers here as legislation grows. The divergence of opinion and rules makes it challenging to consolidate into a more unified approach. Seeing the signal through the noise is where advertisers and publishers can win, here or in Europe.
CTV (and all that sits under and around it) is of course growing in many European markets as hardware and content owners look to monetise their emerging audiences in varying ways, but the largest ad market for CTV is the US.
In the UK we have standards such as Barb for TV measurement (that now includes CTV). Here, Nielsen is the de facto solution used, but it is widely discredited for its lack of CTV measurement and emerging players such as Samba, iSpot and TVision are becoming the “currency”.
Again, this lack of unification presents a headache for demand and supply to monetise effectively. I find that particularly difficult to get my head around, being someone from the UK.
Ugh. I’m not entirely sure where to start with this one. I feel like in the UK — and this may be super-biased by experience — we are all familiar with “value-based” practices that do not add value for advertisers or publishers.
In 2016, John Mandel, the ex-MediaCom CEO, spoke out about the poor practices in the US and this took everyone by surprise and even led to the agency groups complaining to the ANA. I remember thinking in my previous agency days that some of the practices I had known about in the UK simply couldn’t apply in the US due for legal reasons. This is now known as being incorrect.
The ANA are doing good work here and the much anticipated programmatic transparency study will help move things move forward, but there seems to be more of a blind eye to poor practices here versus the UK, whereas in the UK it’s a more open conversation.
I recently spoke in a forthcoming episode of The Media Leader Podcast alongside Amy Williams, co-founder and CEO of Good Loop, and she said that the “transaction of doing business is more defined in the US”. She went on to explain that there’s less small talk and more direct action to get things up and running here. I completely agree. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing, but things just get going here at a quicker pace.
Perhaps that’s it. Perhaps language is the wrong term to be using; perhaps it’s cultural differences. I have to constantly remind myself not to compare the US to the UK as the markets are so different and the context (economy and culture in particular) is so important to remember.
What’s good in the UK might not be good in the US, and vice versa. It’s certainly fun finding out the differences, though.
Wayne Blodwell is founder of TPA Digital, an online advertising consultancy. ‘An Englishman in New York’ is a monthly column reflecting on time setting up a business in the US and what media Brits should know when deciding to find success stateside.
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