The Fishbowl: Wayne Davison, Little Dot Studios

The Fishbowl: Wayne Davison, Little Dot Studios

The Media Leader’s interview series asks the media industry’s top salespeople 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 Wayne Davison, chief sales officer and managing director, international at Little Dot Studios.

Wayne Davison has worked at Little Dot Studios since 2016, occupying leadership roles in content acquisition, distribution and sales.

He has previously worked in commercial and legal roles at DRG, Shine 360, Shine TV, Dragonfly Film & television, and FremantleMedia UK.

Davison started his career as a broadcast standards manager at MTV Networks Europe, offering internal advice to 18 channels relating to regulatory issues, libel, defamation and legislation.

What would you want the title of your biography to be?

Jack of All, Master of None: How charm (!) and blind optimism can go a long way.

I was going to explain this in more detail — the chameleon-like changes to my career, my delightfully sunny disposition and how people love to spend time with me. But frankly, I think the title tells the story.

We could also try the alternative, No there’s only one D in Davison, but that’s just a significantly less interesting biography of hundreds of occasions of where I had to correctly spell my surname down on the phone at people.

Who would you say had the most influence in your media sales career? and why?

Andy Taylor, my friend and the co-founder of Little Dot Studios, who very sadly passed away at the end of 2020, brought me into Little Dot in 2016 to manage the content partnerships & distribution business.

Having been a wonderful mentor, before he left us, Andy gave some very clear recommendations for where he felt I would be best placed as part of the senior leadership team in his absence. It was his evil genius that put me into this role and a media sales career in the first place — I guess he saw the seller and negotiator in me.

I still feel like a bit of an imposter without a background in the ad industry that many others have. On the other hand, it turns out I’m quite good at it — I’ve learnt massive amounts in a short time and I understand almost all of the acronyms that the industry hides itself inside of.

I’m also surrounded by fantastic sales and operations teams here in the UK, in Australia and in the US (as well as the various other UK and Germany teams that I support… before they also chide me for forgetting them!). But, more importantly, no-one’s found me out yet. So either I’m getting away with it, or Andy got it right!

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

Sonos is top of my list — for a music lover, it’s such a fantastic product. My house is more or less a shrine to Sonos and I’ve actually run out of rooms to put new speakers into (other than the bathrooms that I’m told categorically are no-go areas), as music plays in all corners of the house (this description does make my house sound like some kind of massive stately home… it’s definitely not!).

And now comes the sales pitch… Little Dot Studios’ digital ecosystem of premium content across over 500 channels on YouTube and AVOD platforms, which reach such an incredibly varied range of demographics channel by channel (for example, we have some long-form movie channels currently hitting 55+ audiences on CTVs vs Gordon Ramsay clips channels hitting 18-35s on mobile & tablet). This means we can contextually align with each of Sonos’ target audiences, and across multiple key territories including the UK, US, Germany and Australia.

With, for example, long-form docs and magic content indexing highly against tech enthusiasts, clips and comps of the likes of Dragon’s Den and The Gadget Show indexing to home appliances and some very cool content including our music channel ‘From the Basement’ playing into the hands of, you guessed it, music enthusiasts, we’re spectacularly well-set.

And with retained audiences across targeted demos, on targeted devices in key markets and incredibly high performing campaign completions, well why would Sonos say no?

It should be, wait for it, music to their ears… no?… is this thing on?… okay, let’s move on.

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

There are two big things we’re hearing in the UK ad market at the moment (although interestingly this isn’t quite the same across some of Little Dot’s other key ad markets). The first are consistent talks of agencies’ amazing client wins bringing excitement with promises of significant spends, but money either not materialising, being held back until later in the year; or, if money is being spent, it is spent “cautiously,” which usually means spending on platforms that clients have always done irrespective of their effectiveness and ending up with the same results they’ve always seen.

This makes it very hard for our teams who are regularly getting hit with radio silence from the agency teams who aren’t communicating the changes and leaving them (and many of our industry colleagues) waiting by the phone. We know it’s hard out there — we’re your partners. Better that we go through it together than everyone getting irritated by constant chasing and consistent lack of responses.

The second, very much a consequence of the first, is that businesses are having to “rationalise” or right-size their teams based on the actual revenues they’re seeing. This is also feeding into the wider industry as the booms of the early ‘20s were clearly not sustainable; many businesses had over-hired and these changes need to be made to maintain profits for their shareholders, or worse, keep businesses alive. It’s a grim situation, but it’s hopefully moving things forward. And for some businesses that took action early, we’re already starting to hear about their reset and regrowth, and in some cases there’s a quiet optimism that 2024 is going to be in a lot better shape than we’ve seen  in ‘22 and ‘23. We’re all hopeful!

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

At Fremantle, working in business affairs for TV production, I had the bonkers role of negotiating the contract with the main talent for The Apprentice in the UK, Lord Alan Sugar. My then boss (who is now CEO of Channel 4) and I were summoned out to meet with, at that time, Sir Alan at his holiday home on the south coast of Spain, to discuss some key terms of the contract to get the deal over the line.

As though heatedly discussing a deal in the Spanish garden of a British legend of industry wasn’t bizarre enough, various of Lord S’s friends who were also holidaying there pranced around behind him in my peripheral vision in some very questionable speedos.

After several hours of this, incidentally whilst being a delightful host, Lord S was definitely ready to be rid of us both. However, Lady Sugar had very different intentions and before we flew home, insisted we stay and join them all (en-speedo’d friends included) for a lovely summer boozy lunch in their fabulous dining room, very much in spite of Lord Sugar’s protestations (it was very clear who was really in charge in the Sugar house). I couldn’t say yes fast enough — and it turned out to be a very fun first media lunching afternoon, although the negotiations did continue for weeks afterwards!

**Question from Emma Callaghan, Reach sales and invention director.

If you could have any job in the world (other than what you do now), what would you do?

I’d like to be creator and founder of Spotify (or something similar), although I hear someone else may have done that already. Even before I started my career, I’d always had a massive hankering to be a part of the music industry. I’ve managed to have some really brilliant touch points throughout my career but never had a moment to fully step into it. So Daniel Ek, I’m coming for you!

And if that isn’t possible, I’d be pretty happy running a pub. I pull one hell of a pint.

Who is the smartest person you know?

Throughout my career and still now, I’ve had the great privilege of working with some incredibly smart people who achieve unbelievable things across our industry. And amongst them I have various family, friends and colleagues who could easily fulfil the title of “smartest person” for a range of different reasons.

But frankly I’m not going to name drop them here — I’ll literally never hear the end of it, both from the ones I did mention, and more likely the ones I didn’t. And of course if any of them get onto me, I’m happy to replace them with ChatGPT, which is quickly becoming a strong contender for the title.

**Peer question** What is the most fun you’ve had doing this job?

It’s a bit of a cliché but I am one of the lucky ones to genuinely love my job. There’s a lot of moments I can definitely say have been brilliant fun in this role. I have the great privilege of being able to travel and do really brilliant things that are loosely connected to my job.

Our entertainment team and I following unbelievable musicians around late night jazz bars in New York; with our Aussie sales team and clients at the MCG in Melbourne to watch the first Aussie rules game back since COVID restrictions were lifted (I still don’t think I fully understand the rules); going for a run through overgrown nettles with colleagues and rewarding ourselves with cocktails on an island in Essex on a fantastic company retreat; watching the Toronto Raptors in the NBA playoff semi-finals in Toronto with US colleagues and partners.

Now I’ve written that, it’s basically summarised as sport and booze.

Maybe it’s me that’s the cliché. Frankly they’re all ridiculous moments and I’m incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to do any of these things as a part of my job. And, although I do work in between the fun, based on my previous answers, I’ll keep having fun until someone finds me out.

**Question from David Wilcox, commercial director, News UK Broadcasting.

**Peer question** What, if anything, is your business planning on doing differently in 2024?

Little Dot Studios has had a big focus on sustainability across the whole of the business, having been Verified Carbon Neutral to Future Net Zero Standard for 3 consecutive years of reporting. And in 2022 we increased our offsetting efforts to account for Little Dot Studios’ historical emissions backdating to the company’s inception in 2013.

Our supplier and provider relationships are constantly being reviewed in order to make sure everything we do exists in harmony with our sustainability vision.

And we have a Net Zero strategy in place with the target of achieving net zero status by 2025, having already achieved a 25% reduction in operational emissions between 2021 and 2022. And we are currently in the review process for B Corp certification.

So, by providing this to our advertising partners it is another key benefit of working with Little Dot Studios. Alongside our AVOD offering, our ad business is contained within the YouTube ecosystem. Google is carbon neutral across its whole business, and has its own goal of achieving net zero.

And therefore all of Little Dot’s advertising inventory on YouTube gives agencies and advertisers an incredible solution for working with a publisher partner that meets their own sustainability goals at the same time as running highly effective, high-performing, contextually-aligned ad campaigns against premium broadcast and sport content by working with Little Dot Studios.

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

What podcast do you regularly listen to and why?

Pivot, from Vox Media and The New York Times, with Kara Swisher and Professor Scott Galloway, is my absolute go to. It’s a twice weekly podcast. They’re brilliant, funny, always provide a (broadly) balanced debate on the tech industry, cover a lot about related US politics which I’ve definitely taken more of an interest in as a result, alongside regular penis jokes. What’s not to love?

And then there’s Business Wars, from Wondery, a really great series (although you have to play it at 1.25x speed because the presenter just talks too slowly) which covers the battles over the years between major companies globally — Netflix vs Blockbuster, Nike vs Adidas, Haagen-Dazs vs Ben & Jerry’s — all really insightful, well-written, and well-delivered (albeit slowly) narrative stories about many of the major brands we know and love today.

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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