The Fishbowl: Viv Woodward, The Guardian

The Fishbowl: Viv Woodward, The Guardian
The Fishbowl

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, it’s Viv Woodward, head of regional sales and international at The Guardian.

Viv Woodward started her media career as an account manager at GCap Media, now Global.

After six years, she moved to Bauer and then MEN Mediasales, where she held a range of account, digital and business management and development roles.

Woodward has headed up Bloom North and joined The Guardian News & Media Group as regional account director in 2014. She became head of regional sales and international this year.

Has selling media become easier or harder?

I would say harder due to a number of factors. Clients’ marketing budgets are under pressure, and supply chain issues exacerbate this problem. The media marketplace has become more diverse and complex, with so much content available, more platforms, advanced technology and more third parties.

In that context, you need a strong brand to stand out from the crowd. The Guardian has that. We are one of the most influential media brands in the world, with a progressive point of view and a real relationship with our readers, rather than being just traffic. That is a true advantage in this new fragmented media landscape.

How did you end up working in media?

My career started in finance, but it felt too corporate for me. I couldn’t express myself the way I wanted to and, being naturally talkative, I struggled to conform.

I made the decision to move to Manchester, got a job as a planner at what was then Capital Advertising (now Global Radio) and never looked back.

Why are you passionate about media?

I love learning about the world and I love people — talking to them, learning about them and building relationships.

I’m fascinated by the power of brands, ads and the psychology behind audience strategies.

I still get a high when we win a pitch or have an amazing idea. The fast-paced nature of the industry means every day flies and there’s always something new to learn.

It still doesn’t feel like a normal job.

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

The announcement of the election has given some clients a boost of optimism, which will hopefully help with adspend.

As you can imagine, there’s a lot of buzz about the election at The Guardian right now — it’s set to be one of the biggest cultural moments of the decade.

We know that politics and news can be scary for advertisers. But The Guardian is different — we are the only place where you can get trusted, quality, independent journalism that isn’t behind a paywall.

Right now, people are reading us deeply, in their millions — it’s an incredible advertising opportunity.

If people are thinking about getting into the top jobs in sales, or getting into sales, what piece of advice would you give?

As a starting point, you need to be a people person.

Look at the best salespeople around you (in whatever walk of life) and learn from them.

Think about your values and use them to be authentic and passionate about what you sell.

Be resilient, learn from setbacks (there will be many) and always push yourself.

I found it also helped to have a mentor. I worked on building my profile in the industry, I was president of Bloom North and I am still an active member of the committee. I also leveraged social platforms such as LinkedIn.

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

Netflix, Apple TV, Spotify and Amazon Prime. I very rarely watch live TV any more and like to be selective in my choices when it comes to screen time.

I rely heavily on The Guardian’s influential culture pages for reviews and recommendations on what to watch or listen to.

Peer question: Who was your first media lunch with and where did you go?

My first media lunch was with the owner of an independent media agency in Leeds — Dave Byrne from Byrne Media.

I realised it was going to be a long and enjoyable one when he ordered the first bottle of wine.

Question from Emma Callaghan, sales and invention director, Reach

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

I think the phasing out of third-party cookies is making us reconsider what we want from digital marketing and lots of people are talking about the swing back to brand and context. That’s really exciting.

I think EssenceMediacom’s signalling work is proof that that’s the right thing to do. The media is the message.

Question from Ed Couchman, head of sales for the UK and Northern Europe, Spotify

Peer question: Who would you say had the most influence in your media sales career? And why?

Lots of people along the way, but I’ve also had some really excellent leaders. The best were the ones that empowered and put their trust in me.

They really challenged me and asked all the right questions. As a result, I was able to learn, grow and develop.

Question from Jean-Philippe Amos, managing director EMEA and global brand partnerships, Mediabridge

Peer question: In a world where change is omnipresent and reinvention is consistently a theme, what would you like to retain?

The human touch, meaning diverse voices, journalistic integrity and creativity.

I think Forbesgate, MFA and fake news around elections bring this into sharper focus.

The Guardian will always be by humans for humans and that will only become more important in the future.

Question from Simon Daglish, deputy managing director for commercial sales, ITV 

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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