The Fishbowl: Tom Perrett, Outernet London
The Media Leader’s interview series asks the media 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 is Tom Perrett, commercial director at Outernet London.
Tom Perrett started his career at out-of-home specialist agency Kinetic Worldwide, spending more than 10 years there.
He has also held sales and leadership positions at Adlux and Talon, before joining Outernet London in January as commercial director.
What’s the bravest thing you have ever done?
Departed for Johannesburg as my first international long-term placement for Kinetic back in 2009. I was warned it could be a dangerous part of the world, and it felt daunting going solo.
However, it turned out to be the most welcoming place ever for those on their own, with huge warmth from their people, and vastly exaggerated bad news stories.
A brilliant city and a great experience to push me out of my comfort zone at the time.
Which deal in your career are you proudest of?
Over the years it’s easy to categorise this by the biggest budget or what won the most awards, but in my opinion the retention of deals under the hardest of circumstances has (in retrospect) been the most rewarding.
Difficult to say which individual deal as there were a few, but working with long-term airport advertisers over the Covid years was quite something.
Negotiating then renegotiating, based on -70% audiences. Those I managed to retain, whether small or large, were among the best achievements. With of course huge support from my former teammates.
Who is the smartest person you know?
A couple of names spring to mind. When considering my career overall, I have been fortunate to work with many huge brains in the business over the years.
Chris O’Donnell, a former colleague at Kinetic in the ‘00s stands out. Storyteller extraordinaire and an inspiring communicator. Historian and a general font of knowledge. You’d want him on your quiz team.
But if I was to be put on the spot for a single individual, I’d go for Mike Whittaker, our former CTO. He was enormously inspiring to me when I joined and responsible for the leadership of the tech build behind the Outernet project.
Quite an undertaking and we have him to thank for the foundation of our work moving forward.
What key thing has changed in conversations with clients this year compared to last year?
When thinking in general terms, certainly a genuine longer term feeling of confidence as Covid has been put behind us all. The commitment to plan further in advance, particularly on the events & experiential side of our business is certainly visible.
Diversity and inclusion requirements have rightfully increased, resulting not only in wider representation of people, but critically, diversity of thought in what we do on a day-to-day basis.
When considering individual campaigns, there has definitely been a further development of the desire for greater accountability on audience delivery. On a more qualitative perspective, there’s also far higher expectations on the delivery of meaningful positive experiences for identified target audiences. For this year and beyond, these considerations are at the forefront of our tech development and experiential potential.
Why are you passionate about media?
Over the years I’ve worked for, and with, many hugely inspirational people, whose energy and enthusiasm has certainly left its mark on me.
Finding the right path towards something that you don’t have to pretend that you love in order to sell it has been a tricky but ultimately hugely rewarding endeavour.
Being in this role since January has re-awakened this spirit. Seeing an idea move from embryonic idea or off-the-cuff comment, in to truly ground-breaking, award-winning, media firsts is never anything but enormously exciting. I’m fortunate to work with a team whose passion and commitment inspire me every day. And long may that continue.
**Peer question** What interview question do you always ask anyone looking to join your company and what answer are you looking for?
“What can your experience and knowledge tell us about past, present and future expectations from clients? (in the context of this specific role)”
I’m looking for the candidate to validate their suitability for the role by showing a depth of experience (in order to do the job), and a vision of the future, in order to set, achieve and deliver clear agreed goals. Typically, we will be looking for self-starters, who we can trust and allow freedom in pursuit of their targets, whether that be commercial, technological, or creatively focused.
** Question from Dan Durling, MD at Alight Media.
Has selling media become easier or harder?
Automation has made many transactions more straightforward for our buyers. And in many instances, for us too.
However, from our perspective when selling, we are a unique media opportunity that often spans multiple media classification principles. We can choose to be as simple or as complex as required with our unique propositions by brief. This is hugely exciting, but covering OOH, experiential, TV, events and immersive… probably makes selling harder… but certainly more rewarding.
What one thing would you change when dealing with media agencies?
If I was being ambitious I’d suggest that all Outernet proposals were done in person, on site, rather than via a PowerPoint. Plenty are done this way already and the true impact of the space can only really be measured by being there.
**Peer question** When did you fail the hardest and what did you learn from it?
Without going in to too much depth, in the past I’ve been ambitious and driven at the cost of more important things in life.
Developing perspective, an effective work/life blend, and making tough but sensible decisions have been critical learnings. It’s taken 20+ years but I’m getting there.
** Question from Wayne Davison, chief sales officer and managing director international at Little Dot Studios
**Peer question** What advice would you give yourself at the start of your career with the hindsight you have now?
Listen to opinions the opposite of your own. Trust your gut. Always hire those who you feel have the potential to take your job. Always credit others and remember positivity is contagious.
** Question from Ben Walmsley, managing director of The Sun.
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 email@example.com.