The Fishbowl: What’s keeping clients up at night?

The Fishbowl: What’s keeping clients up at night?
The Fishbowl Interview

Clients have never had so much media choice and, at the same time, so many ways to measure and scrutinise the effectiveness of those choices.

So what is coming up in conversations with clients right now? And how has this changed in recent years?

From AI to retail media to an uncertain economy, both media owners and brands have a lot on their plates.

The Media Leader‘s Fishbowl interview series, which draws a list of questions at random from our virtual fishbowl, has been asking top salespeople a variation of these questions.

AI dominating conversations

Danny Aldred, the Financial Times‘ global advertising director, B2C and investment, said AI was coming up in “almost all the conversations” with clients, colleagues and suppliers.

Piers North, chief revenue officer at Reach, pointed to AI’s impact on business metrics in particular. Meanwhile, Tom Armstrong, vice-president, global advertising, at The New York Times, questioned how AI will automate and standardise when it comes to talent, and how can it empower people and make them more effective.

Solène Dassing, director of sales, international, at Acast, said: “I believe there is a place for AI within podcasting when used to enhance the human storytelling experience, rather than replace it. It will be fascinating to see how far AI goes in the podcasting sector.”

It’s still about the data

Karin Seymour, director of client and marketing at Sky Media, called data and effectiveness “two big interlinked topics” that come up with every client in order to create effective and efficient campaigns.

This was shared by her colleague Ruth Cartwright, Sky Media’s investment director, who noted: “There’s extra scrutiny on marketing spend to ensure it is having maximum impact.”

While Simon Daglish, deputy managing director for commercial sales at ITV, acknowledged that “data, data and more data” is what clients were most excited about, he thought this “a shame”.

Instead, Daglish added, they “should be excited”about people, customers and connecting with them emotionally. His advice? “Be the customer’s friend, not their stalker!”

Seamless customer experience

Kylie McKie, enterprise sales director at LiveRamp UK, said the rise of commerce and retail media exemplified “the power of data collaboration” for brands.

For Mark Smith, UK sales director at Clear Channel UK, while retail media has been a recent industry hot topic, the OOH sector has actually been working with retail partners for decades.

He remarked: “The focus now is how the different channels can integrate to create a seamless consumer experience and how other retailers can monetise both their offline and online offerings.”

Goodbye to cookies

When it comes to discussion around data, the deprecation of cookies is inevitably front of mind for many.

Indeed, Charlie Brookes, chief revenue officer at Octave, said the cookie’s “drawn-out death” has been “dominating conversations”.

Jessica McGrogan, general management of business development (brand) at The Trade Desk, said clients were “significantly prioritising” identity, retail media and full-funnel attribution, and in the past year there has been “tangible progress” in conversations.

The year of community

Hannah Barnett, executive director for clients and planning at Mail Metro Media, and Georgina Iceton, vice-president, partnership activation, at AEG Europe, agreed that loyalty and community were strong themes this year.

For Iceton, it’s simple: “If a brand can develop a deeper relationship, understanding their customer interests and responding to them through smart loyalty programmes, then the customer is less likely to leave.”

Barnett acknowledged that while the idea of brands and communities was not new, 2024 feels like “the year of community”.

She explained: “There’s been a strong theme this year in brands wanting to create a genuine community with their consumers, building loyalty and bringing on the next generation of customers.”

Voting time

Nicole O’Shea, GB News commercial director, noted that “people are talking more and more about the election” and there’s “a strong sense of anticipation”.

For Johanna Mayer-Jones, The Washington Post‘s chief advertising officer, this means “a real awareness shift” in the role advertisers can play in “supporting journalism and news organisations”.

Brand-building is back

Wayne Davison, chief revenue officer at Little Dot Studios, pointed to “a quiet optimism” that 2024 is going to be “in a lot better shape” than the last two years.

Caroline Fenner, commercial director at BuzzFeed, said that last year many brands funnelled spend into display campaigns “where performance, not brand, became the main KPI”. However, this year has seen “more clients talking about award-winning work and willing to take more risks”.

Howard Staines, BlowUp Media UK’s commercial director, said clients were focusing more on “long-term visibility”, adding: “Brands have been asking how they can stand out from their competition, looking at longer periods of activations, ownership of locations and areas.”

Indeed, Seth Hart, senior vice-president of sales at Footballco, said that if 2023 was the year of efficiency, performance and lifetime value, 2024 is “the year of brand”.

Simon Kilby, MD, Bauer Media Advertising, James Cornish, VP of international sales at Vevo and James Fleetham, director of clients, marketing and research at The Guardian, will be speaking at The Future of Audio and Entertainment about what keeps sales leaders up at night.

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