The Fishbowl: James Cornish, Vevo

The Fishbowl: James Cornish, Vevo

The Media Leader’s interview series asks the media industry’s top salespeople 10 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 James Cornish, VP of international sales at Vevo.


James Cornish started at Vevo in 2014 as sales director, before becoming VP of international sales in 2018.

Prior to Vevo Cornish held sales roles at Virgin Media, Fox Interactive Media, and Emap.

What’s been your biggest challenge this year and what are you doing about it?

This year’s market has been particularly volatile, but there are a couple of things I’m focussed on to help us manage our way through it.

First, maintaining and driving forward the culture we have in our business. We’re a positive, optimistic and collaborative team. When the market is tougher you need to draw on and lean into those qualities to find your way through, otherwise, it will consume you. We are striving to ensure that we don’t worry about what we can’t control, we give the best accounts of ourselves individually and collectively, and we continue to have fun whilst we do it. I take a lot of pride in our team and the way in which they carry themselves.

Second, when marketing budgets are under pressure, there’s increasing scrutiny on effectiveness, and rightly so. At Vevo, we have a powerful and growing TV-centric video proposition, and I’m focussed on making sure we do all we can to measure, package and represent our media to the market in ways that help marketers and agencies realise that value.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

“Jimbo, it’s always better to ask for forgiveness than permission!” — Simon Daglish (deputy managing director for commercial at ITV).

Has selling media become easier or harder?

I think on balance, it’s become harder — the irony being, technology has made it more complicated. The advertiser to media/consumer path is now loaded with third parties, ad tech, measurement vendors, verification and so forth — all vying for advertising spend. It’s rare that media is appraised solely on its media value; it often must fit various buying frameworks or points of access.

I believe the quality and relevance of the media should be the primary consideration when building an ad campaign, not the DSP or tech platform I have to use to execute the buy. This ultimately limits media choices, removes neutrality of planning, forces the purchase of sub optimal media, and often leads to a lot of the problems and issues we see arise in digitally delivered media channels today.

If you didn’t work in your current sector, which other media sector could you see yourself working in?

Apart from cricket, I’m a big sports fan! So, if it’s not to be music and media, then sports and media would be a good fit for me.

What was the last podcast you listened to?

The two podcasts I listen to religiously are the BBC’s Rugby Union Weekly and the other is a CrossFit training one, called Misfit Athletics. It’s a little niche, so that’s not necessarily a recommendation!

That said, I have cued up the IAB’s latest instalment covering the future of ad supported streaming, which features Cass McDonald, Vevo’s superstar senior research manager. This will be a must listen. Cass knows her onions!

(Editor’s note: The Media Leader‘s editor Omar Oakes also appears on this episode alongside McDonald. It is indeed a “must listen”)

Who’s the best media salesperson you know (other than yourself)?

Haha, I have many good friends in the industry!

Genuinely, I work with some fantastic salespeople at Vevo right now. Per one of the previous questions, I think selling media has gotten harder and the people in our team are constantly impressing and proving a source of inspiration.

I currently work, have worked for, and learnt off some fantastic leaders in my career and have attempted to learn bits from each to mould into my style.

In my opinion, the best salespeople need a variety of skillsets. You need to understand the market, be a good listener, a great communicator, be able to build relationships and establish trust, you need a strong work ethic and persistence, be confident, ambitious etc.

Someone I worked with, over 10 years ago now, who would score highly across the board on all these things is Craig Tuck, the current CRO at The Ozone Project. I worked alongside Craig for three years and he consistently embodied all these traits. We had the same role, but I looked up to him, he kept me on my toes as I knew I had to be on my game to not be left behind. He set the standard, whilst delivering great numbers across his team.

What is one of your greatest achievements?

Personally, getting discovered by my wife Gaby — and everything that has come from that, including our children George and Gracie — has been pretty special and can’t be beaten.

Professionally, I am incredibly proud of our Vevo sales team, and what we have achieved in terms of growth in CTV, even in just the last two years. But I know the best is still to come!

What are clients talking about this year that they weren’t last year?

TV inflation.

What do you hope to be doing 10 years from now?

If I’m not spending time with the family, playing golf and keeping fit having successfully retired, then I hope I’m still involved in the industry. However, I hope that by then the industry will have made required progress in a few key areas.

First, in DE&I so that it’s not actually a “thing” anymore — it just is diverse, equal and inclusive.

Second, that we’ve made the requisite changes to put us firmly and unquestionably on a path to a sustainable future. Finally, I hope we see a return to valuing and emphasising quality and responsible media investment at the forefront of advertising planning, as opposed to the being dictated to and making choices led by the technology we use to activate it.

**Peer question** What would you tell your younger self about if you could?

Don’t fear not being the loudest person in the room. It doesn’t mean you add less value, it doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to be heard, and it doesn’t mean you can’t be a leader.

Oh, and it’s better to seek forgiveness than permission!

Question from Richard Bon, UK managing director and Europe commercial lead at Clear Channel.

The Fishbowl is a weekly feature that is published on our Wednesday newsletter. Sign up to our daily newsletter and check out previous interviews with the media’s brightest commercial stars.

Adwanted UK are the audio experts operating at the centre of audio trading, distribution and analytic processing. Contact us for more information on J-ET, Audiotrack or our RAJAR data engine. To access our audio industry directory, visit audioscape.info and to find your new job in audio visit The Media Leader Jobs, a dedicated marketplace for media, advertising and adtech roles.

Media Jobs