The Fishbowl: Elton Ollerhead, ASOS Media Group

The Fishbowl: Elton Ollerhead, ASOS Media Group

The Media Leader’s interview series asks the media industry’s top salespeople revealing questions, drawn from our fishbowl. The questions will be drawn at random and contain some tricky posers set by the commercial chiefs themselves.

This week is Elton Ollerhead, director of ASOS Media Group.

Elton Ollerhead joined ASOS.com as director of ASOS Media Group last year and prior to that had been head of ad sales for consumer electronics and fashion at Amazon Ads UK for more than six years.

He has previous sales and leadership experience in South Africa and the UK at companies including Mediamark, Dunnhumby, Sky, Tiscali, TSMS, McMillan-Scott Publishing, Primedia Broadcasting.

Earlier this year he spoke on a panel at Adwanted Events’ Future of Brands on how retail media is moving beyond activation.

What is one non-work related goal that you would like to achieve in the next five years?

I want to get back into competing in triathlon age group championships again in the sprint distance, and on the other end of the scale I’d like to do my second full Iron Man triathlon to follow up my first in 2007.

**Peer question** When you started your career what was your biggest weakness, and how did you overcome it to progress in your career?

I find it takes time to learn your trade and make a great contribution to business — and working in a variety of media owners and retailers in the advertising sales industry I wondered if it was only a stepping stone to better things for a long time. But I quickly grew to love the media and advertising industry and decided that it was where I wanted to stay.

That initial unease can hinder your focus early on. From a personal development perspective I had to focus on attention to detail, the numbers/financials and also public speaking. All three of these are important for a successful career in business development and digital advertising sales — and as time has passed getting to know ad tech and organisational design have been critical in enabling me to build media businesses.

I have found the old cliché of ‘doing what you fear most’ and putting yourself out of your comfort zone very helpful in accelerating personal learning and development. Often you know what you have to do but fear can hold you back — best just to get on with it, no matter how uncomfortable. ‘Just do it’ as Nike used to say!

Doing this has been the most rewarding — as practise makes perfect, and sometimes you even surprise yourself with great results.

** Question from Rachel Sutton, head of brand partnerships, Ocean Outdoor.

What key thing has changed in conversations with clients this year compared to last year?

The change for ASOS Media Group is that our clients want to take up our new ad tech with Criteo to implement the first party customer targeting in display ads and also invest more in search advertising with our new sponsored ads proposition. Also, clients seem to be talking less about the metaverse this year.

Describe your leadership style.

I believe in inclusive leadership bringing together leaders to help build the plan that then needs to be delivered — it is important that leaders in teams are involved in coming up with the plan, and challenging themselves to be ambitious in delivering their plan – as opposed being instructed to deliver something they do not feel they have had a part in constructing or feel is unobtainable.

Empowering people and teams and giving people ambitious tasks to deliver that will help both their personal development, as well as achieving company goals is a great way to develop people whilst hitting company objectives. I also like to bring teams together to deliver big goals that they all contribute to — specifically, breaking down siloes across org structure or reporting lines and emphasising natural work teams and the importance of team work to achieve joint goals.

Lastly, leadership by example is important — I always try to demonstrate hard work and be visible out in the industry — listening to clients and customers is the best way to hear how a company needs to improve and evolve it’s offering.

**Peer question** How do you think about building culture and mentorship as a leader with more companies embracing remote and hybrid work?

My default view is based on my legacy experience of being office based five days per week for many years — so I am a big supporter of teams spending time together face to face regularly. I do think relationships are built faster and better in person, and the opportunities of corridor/kitchen impromptu meetings so often create opportunities that are difficult to do over video calls. Additionally the age-old value for team and relationship-building over a beer in the pub cannot be overstated.

However, I do think that the flexibility that working from home has brought to the world is a huge positive on managing home, family and work life and has put power in the hands of employees. As long as managers and companies can see their teams’ productivity, working from home should be an option for those roles that are suitable.

I think where I am settling on is a general rule of two to three days in the office per week for teams where there is an effort for ‘anchor days’ whereby teams co-ordinate a specific day per week where they know all will be in the office.

** Question from Brenda Tuohig, chief commercial officer at Scope3.

What’s your favourite ad of all-time?

Must be Guinness’s ‘Swim Black’ ad in the late nineties (closely followed by Guinness’s ‘Surfer’ ad). Largely down to my love of Guinness, swimming & the ocean, the story of brotherly love, competitiveness, and a little cheekiness within the ad. I love ads that inspire emotion and this is definitely a great example of this.

When AMV won the account from Ogilvy in 1998, its principal challenge was to turn around the negative consumer opinion of the time it takes to correctly pour a pint of Guinness. By creative director Peter Souter, copywriter Tom Carty and art director Walter Campbell — who was apparently a teetotaler who had never touched Guinness — who took the inspired decision to not only not shy away from the 119.5 second wait, but to make patience a virtue.

This was the ad that introduced the ‘Good things come to those who wait’ line. And its story of the aging local sports hero’s annual swimming race against the ‘clock’ of a pint of Guinness being poured perfectly at his brother’s bar remains one of the finest encapsulations of that expression. ‘Swim Black’ boosted sales, giving Guinness the confidence to make ‘Surfer’, and paved the way for some of the best advertising of the next two decades.

Name all the streaming platforms you subscribe (pay money) to.

Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify.

When did you last change your mind about something?

I have wracked my brain to think of an example and can’t seem to. But what I find these days is that I am a lot less tied to my initial opinions and more open to persuasion.

There are no doubt many ways to skin a cat and I have found my opinions are definitely not always right. Having four children — now in teens and twenties — has shown me that my initial thoughts and opinions are not always right and flexibility is a necessary and valuable quality in life.

What was the last movie you saw at the cinema?

Top Gun: Maverick — what a movie for the big screen!

**Peer question** If you could live in somebody else’s shoes for one day, whose would you choose?

Probably someone like Taylor Swift — she’s ruling the world!

** Question from Ryan Rummery, commercial DAX director at Global.

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 ella.sagar@uk.adwanted.com.

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