The Fishbowl: Jem Djemal, VIOOH

The Fishbowl: Jem Djemal, VIOOH

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 Jem Djemal, global new business lead at VIOOH.


Jem Djemal joined VIOOH in 2021, and prior to that has held programmatic and sales roles both agency and publisher side at companies including PubMatic, Mindshare, Verizon Media, Oath, AOL, and The Exchange Lab.

He started his career at ITV as an account executive.

**Peer question** What has been your biggest, or most insightful mistake and what did you learn from it?

I will have to go back to the very beginning of my career for this one. I had just started my role as Sales Assistant at Carlton TV. Our team sold Carlton Digital’s multi-channel offering on Cable and Sky TV. One of our channels, Carlton Food Network, had a ‘USA Weekend’ coming up where Loyd Grossman would visit different states and showcase the local favourites.

In my eagerness to impress the boss, I grabbed a copy of ALF and started making an extensive list of possible sponsors. I phoned them one by one (yes, we used desk phones back then), without much luck. At the time, Nike had a big campaign heavily featuring their US heritage. Given the obvious link, I called the planner/buyer, went into my well-rehearsed pitch, and then listened through an awkward silence.

The planner then spoke, asking me to repeat my name and how long I’d been working in media. They politely said their client would not be interested in this opportunity as the programming does not reach their target audience, but offered me valuable advice which was to always think ‘audience first’ when pitching opportunities to clients. This has stuck with me throughout my career.

Question from James Cornish, VP of international sales at Vevo.

What’s the quality that people admire most about you?

I always try to create an inclusive and fun environment that treats everyone in my team with respect and empathy. We all have lives outside of work so it’s imperative to strike a positive work-life balance. This is what I’d like to think resonates most.

What keeps coming up in conversations with clients at the moment?

I am currently working at VIOOH which is a leading premium supply-side platform specialising in programmatic digital out of home (OOH). Naturally, my conversations centre around the emergence of this exciting channel within the programmatic ecosystem. Clients want to understand what programmatic digital OOH can bring to an advertiser’s broader omni-channel media plan.

This shift towards an omni-channel strategy is reflected in the teams that are buying programmatic digital OOH. As highlighted in our recent State of the Nation report, as with executives globally this year, media executives in the UK are reporting movement in buying through OOH teams (-8 percentage points in the UK) and an increase in buying through digital/ programmatic teams (+22 percentage points in the UK).

If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?

I enjoy my job and there is not much I would change, but, if there is one thing I could change in media sales, in general, it would be to remind sellers of the importance of mid-to-long-term planning. Given the nature of the role, we are sometimes guilty of focusing a little too much on the short-term without remembering the bigger picture.

**Peer question** Do you think the CPM is still an effective planning tool?

Getting to the heart of a client’s business objectives and not just their campaign objectives is crucial to building a successful framework for planning. Having a clear idea of what good looks like forms the foundation for other elements like CPM to play their part, without them becoming the single deciding factor on how a campaign is effectively planned and bought. Sometimes, a higher CPM for a smart, data-triggered campaign with very targeted placement can be more effective than a broad reach campaign at low CPM, depending on the client’s objectives.

Question from Leo Goldingham, UK director of sales at Acast. 

What’s your best advice for someone who wants a job in media sales?

To be honest, I haven’t spoken to many people in the media industry who knowingly wanted a job in media sales! I certainly didn’t plan for it and yet have been fortunate enough to make a career from it. My advice to anyone wanting to enter this space is to do their homework first and find which media channel(s) appeals the most. If you have a passion for the channel you are selling, your chances of being successful in doing something you love will increase hugely.

Which advertiser would you love to work with (but don’t already) and how would you sell VIOOH specifically to them?

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with so many brilliant brand partners doing amazing things, not just in the advertising space but also leading the way with sustainability and other important initiatives. It would be extremely difficult to pick one, but if I had to make a choice I would say working with a brand that always puts audience-led strategies at the heart of their programmatic DOOH campaigns.

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

Retiring in Cyprus! I wish! I’d still probably want to be at the cutting edge of programmatic advertising in whatever form it evolves to become.

Has selling media become easier or harder?

I can’t comment on easier or harder, but it’s definitely become more faceted. At the beginning of my career, the emphasis of learning was understanding the channel you sold and where your media owner employer fit. Nowadays, with the emergence and rapid growth of adtech, it’s so much more than that.

What’s your favourite ad of all time?

There are so many but the one that I really loved at the time was Nike Football’s Euro ‘96 OOH campaign. The slogan read, “Italy’s goalkeeper, easiest job in the world” featuring the legendary Italian defender Paolo Maldini, my favourite football player at that time. Simple design, but incredibly effective and still regarded as a classic among the football OGs!

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