The Fishbowl: Pippa Scaife, VP, global partnerships, NBCUniversal

The Fishbowl: Pippa Scaife, VP, global partnerships, NBCUniversal

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, it’s Pippa Scaife, vice-president, global partnerships, at NBCUniversal.

Pippa Scaife joined NBCUniversal in 2021 and leads growth across its portfolio spanning 150 countries, whether through launching channels in key international markets or developing innovative ad products and data strategies.

She is speaking at The Media Leader‘s Connected TV World Summit next week about replacing lost broadcast audiences for advertisers.

Scaife previously worked at CNN International for more than four years, most recently as senior commercial director, revenue, programmatic, product and innovation.

Before that, Scaife was head of business development at Channel 4’s music TV division, The Box Plus Network, and also held roles at Sony PlayStation and Spotify.

Why are you passionate about media?

Media is a fascinating reflection of where we are as a society. Quality content informs and shapes our views.

Whether it’s a chief financial officer reporting their latest earnings, a superstar watching her boyfriend win the Super Bowl or a team of staff waiting on a mega yacht, good storytelling is a powerful tool for telling us where our values and passions lie.

And beyond just what we consume, where we consume and on which devices we consume are genuine indicators of how we are moving and engaging with the world around us.

Media done right leverages all of that data and, as a self-confessed geek, I can’t get enough of it.

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

Streaming. It’s impossible to get through a day without talking about streaming and connected TV.

We’ve seen the audience shift for some time now. It feels like the industry and the underpinning technology are finally catching up with how users want to consume, so we can now offer that big-screen impact with all of the innovation and measurement that digital environments allow.

Whether that’s through advertiser VOD or free ad-supported streaming TV, it’s exciting to see what the next evolution of TV looks like as we find scale and build formats that make sense for these new spaces.

If people are thinking about getting into sales, what piece of advice would you give?

Be comfortable saying that you don’t know. There seems to be an odd misconception that salespeople need to be omniscient.

Of course, we should know our products and know our industry, and be able to advise our clients, but we work in a rapidly evolving industry and sometimes we are all on the same learning curve at the same time.

Often trying to partner and solve together is what gets us to the best results. I’d say to any new salesperson to learn to listen first, partner second, and the sale will come.

Has selling media become easier or harder?

I suppose it depends who you’re talking to.

It’s definitely become more fun. There is so much to consider now, especially if you’re working for a multifaceted media company.

Most of us are no longer just content creators — we’re technology companies, event organisers, research specialists, consultants, inventory aggregators. We have such a myriad of platforms and formats to talk about that selling advertising becomes more about problem-solving rather than just pitching. It’s not always easy, but most of us wouldn’t be doing it if it was.

What’s the bravest thing you have ever done?

I accepted my job at NBCUniversal two weeks after having my first child. At the start of the process, even just telling the recruiter that I was seven months pregnant felt terrifying. I fully expected to get a polite email informing me that there was a candidate with “more experience” but nobody batted an eyelid.

My final interview was a week after I got back from the hospital. My interviewers were two women, both of whom have multiple children. They made me feel welcome and included, and I finished the call convinced that I could do the job and that the company was the right place for me.

Peer question: Who are your role models?

I’ve been in media for about 15 years and, in that time, I have seen a seismic shift in how women are treated and advanced. My role models are all of the women who have made that happen and continue to push for change.

Every time I see one of The Female Quotient’s amazing pop-ups, I feel humbled by how much Shelley Zalis has done for our industry, creating safe spaces for women to talk openly about the challenges, pitfalls and joys of working in advertising.

When I took both of my maternity leaves, I was more thoughtful about what I asked for and what I felt I deserved, because of the amazing work that Joeli Brearley, the founder of Pregnant then Screwed, has done. Every day, I find a new organisation that allows us to value ourselves in a new way and the women who organise them are all my role models.

Question from Davina Barker, sales director, Digital Cinema Media 

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

I was terrible at public speaking. I would get so nervous — red cheeks, sweaty hands, falling over my words. I got over it by doing it a lot.

I had an amazing PR manager at CNN called Chantal Ward, who put me up for every opportunity, coached me through my insecurities and instilled confidence. I started accepting all of the requests and eventually became less stressed about them.  Sometimes you just need a cheerleader.

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

Peer question: What moment or event was the biggest turning point in your career?

At the start of my career, I really wanted to work in the music industry and a friend of mine suggested I look at a new platform called Spotify. I’d never heard of it, but I looked it up and it’d just opened an office in London. The only job it had advertised at the time was in the ad sales team, so I applied, thinking it could be a good stepping stone. I got the job and never looked back.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if the only job Spotify had was in the finance team…

Question from Sarah Goldman, director of advertising, UKTV

Peer question: If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

We all know measurement is key to proving campaign effectiveness, but I think we can sometimes give too much weight to measuring what we can rather than measuring what matters. Measurement is a critical piece of the puzzle for monitoring short-term success, but the ads that we remember 10 years later, and the brand loyalty we feel over that time, are probably not the ones with the highest click-through rates today.

I get really excited working on events and branded content because, while we do a good job of weighing up the return on investment, there’s also something of the intangible in there and the intangible is where the magic happens.

Question from Ed Couchman, head of sales, UK and Northern Europe, Spotify; former UK general manager, Snap

Peer question: What’s the best piece of advice a boss or colleague has ever given you?

I went to a great leadership seminar last year and one of the speakers was asked this question. She said: “When they stop paying me, I stop showing up.”

It really stuck with me, because all the things we love about media — the pace, the innovation, the visibility — are also the things that make it stressful.

Sometimes, in order to be really good at your job, you do need to keep it in perspective and remember that, at the end of the day, it is a job. But a great one!

Question from Laura Chase, chief commercial officer, WeAre8

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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