The Fishbowl: Charlie Brookes, Octave
The Media Leader’s interview series asks the industry’s top salespeople revealing questions, drawn from our fishbowl. The questions are drawn at random and contain some tricky posers set by the commercial chiefs themselves.
This week, Charlie Brookes, director of revenue at Octave.
Charlie Brookes started his career working in commercial roles across publishing brands including The Times, Financial Times and Emap.
He has held commercial leadership positions at Bauer Media since 2008 and started at its digital audio joint venture with News UK, Octave, in 2020 as director of revenue.
Why are you passionate about media?
Constant reinvention rewards innovation and keeps media fresh. As someone who would prefer not to be reminded how long he’s been working in the space, I’m amazed at how varied my days continue to be.
Working with innovative-thinking individuals in a fast-paced, agile digital business like Octave is exactly what media should be about. The digital audio market is still nascent when stood next to other forms of media, so being able to combine our previous digital experiences and apply those learnings to the sector is really motivating.
What key thing has changed in conversations with clients this year compared with last year?
Aside from consulting a crystal ball on the UK’s economic fortunes, it seems to be the cookie (and its drawn out “death”) that dominates our conversations currently.
Octave was formed to offer first-party data targeting opportunity in the audio space, so it’s not surprising that conversations about it have increased recently.
The Octave team have really led the innovation to produce first-party-data-enabled audio solutions across smart speakers, mobile and desktop which, coupled the evolution of AI, voice and dynamic creatives, all make for some really unique media discussions.
Peer question: Who are your role models?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with some real titans of the media space over my 30 years, so I’m not going to risk putting any noses out of joint by naming any individuals — they know who they are!
My role models outside the media space are endurance athletes who show tenacity and adaptivity to achieve their goals and I’m a bit of a fanboy, so have a few.
In the interests of brevity, I’ll pick Damian Hall as a great example, coming second in the Winter Spine Race recently. Originally a journalist who now runs incredible distances, he works tirelessly to improve the planet and is universally regarded as an all-round nice guy. He also has great taste in music — by which I mean he likes the same music I listen to, obviously!
Question from Davina Barker, sales director, Digital Cinema Media
Peer question: What’s a recent brand partnership or activation that stood out for you and why?
It’s hard not to be impressed with the Cadbury work in the lead-up to Christmas. They continue to breathe life into what they do, making use of digital innovation and dreaming up creative hooks that resonate with customers.
Bringing back chocolate coins and offering the Secret Santa postal service epitomise that. They used a huge variety of traditional and digital media to engage the UK population, utilising different media and playing to their unique strengths. For example, local activations amplified broader brand work, clearly demonstrating how well-planned and executed the campaign was.
Question from Georgina Iceton, vice-president of partnership activation, AEG Global Partnerships
What’s your best advice for someone who wants a job in media sales?
Stay interested (good start if you’re reading this trade press!), get involved (training, media bodies, events), build your network and volunteer for projects (they can take you in some amazing directions). Innovative and entrepreneurial thought is still the driving force of our media industry.
What is one of your greatest achievements?
I’ve been lucky enough in my career to launch new magazines and a variety of website propositions, but the creation and launch of Octave right in the middle of the pandemic lockdown has to be a standout moment.
Alongside a group of smart folks, we brought two massive media organisations (Bauer Media and News UK) together in the digital audio space to create a first-party-data-led digital audio business and create something that was greater than the sum of its parts.
What podcast do you regularly listen to and why?
Obviously in my line of work I get to hear lots of podcasts (Octave has over 2,000 in its stable), so it’s like picking your favourite child, but I’m going to highlight Pod Save the UK, which launched last year. Nish Kumar and Coco Khan are fantastic and I’ve always been a sucker for a more satirical slant on the news.
I’m also a keen runner so Adharanand Finn’s The Way of the Runner (his books are also well worth a read) is excellent. He gets great guests and his podcast covers all aspects of running — not just the competitive end — which is super relevant to a mid-pack runner like me.
If you could take a year off from work, what would you do?
I’d hit the mountains — running, climbing or just walking in the mountains is where I love to be. The UK and Europe have some amazing spots, but I’d have to head to Nepal and see the big mountains up close.
Peer question: If you could live in somebody else’s shoes for one day, whose would you choose?
I’d love to experience how mountaineer Kílian Jornet can move so quickly (he holds all sorts of speed records, including getting up and down Everest in 26 hours, which is incredible).
Or get an insight into the mind of a smart comedian like Bill Bailey, who seems to have a near-endless list of talents that he deploys with comic brilliance. I’m always impressed and interested in how people get to the top of their chosen tree.
Question from Ryan Rummery, commercial Dax director, Global
Peer question: What, if anything, is your business planning on doing differently this year?
The digital audio space is fast-moving and full of innovation across the board. Octave is looking at carbon footprint reporting against other forms of media buying, evolving our programmatic offering for more demand, extending our reach into other mediums such as display and video, and continuing to lead the digital audio market in transparency and setting industry standards.
The core of our business is the first-party data offering, so we are constantly pushing ourselves to evolve by extending into platforms such as smart speaker, video and in-car. We’re also adding to the traditional forms of data targeting by looking at “in moment” and lifestyle-based actions of listeners.
*Question from Richard Bon, UK managing director and Europe commercial lead, Clear Channel
Read more Fishbowl interviews here and see what media’s top salespeople say about working in the industry and what concerns their clients. To suggest an interviewee, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.