Sunday Column (413)

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Friday. Around 2 pm and I am sitting on a train home. I have a half day and enjoying myself. Kind of. Light Up Hassocks awaits me. The yearly highlight of switching on the Christmas lights. I am doing the school pick up, my parents are coming. By time of posting this will all be past. It is nice to take a half day, get some initial work done, then chilling in the afternoon. Particularly at such a gorgeous day like today. It is almost too bright to work. And it is almost December too. And it got bitterly cold later on. Light up Hassocks was nice, the weekend with my parents was nice, so all good. The routine starts again tomorrow.

I summed up my life on Facebook on Friday, I thought I share it here. It sometimes feels that simple:

Ok. Left work early to attend light up Hassocks. Parade and lights and fair ground rides. Kids and parents and wife had a fab time. Feeling ripped off paying two months of pocket money on light sabres but hey, it’s for the greater good and the kids. When parents went to bed I finished off work and now reflecting on the day. Remembering the youngest saying ‘Daddy,I haven’t seen you all week and I don’t remember what you looked like’ (which isn’t true). But sometimes feels like it. And what if (not unlikely) Southern rails had had another 20 min delay on top of what they did. I would have had to have a contingency plan for pick up. I did. I didn’t need it. But I cannot trust Southern.
Doesn’t that sum up my life? Dominated by Southern (yet hey are not accountable or responsible), great friends and a full on life.
Enough for tonight. Weekend. Looking after the loved ones. Time to chill. Moaning over.

Maybe to add, a friend didn’t get home in time because his train was 40 minutes delayed. Life could be so much better without Southern, or with any reliable train service. I know I am going on about train travel but it is just so unreliable.

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Yet the week was kicking off with a media owner event. It was great, yet one thing I noticed (and no, it isn’t criticism): breakfast was from Pret. And so is most day’s breakfast if it is from a media owner or when I go into the office early, or when I have a quick snack for lunch or in between. Where is that obsession of us Brits (and want to be Brits) with Pret coming from? A quid for a decent brew of filter coffee, Apple pay accepted from day one, a sandwich for everybody’s taste, cookies that taste nice, breakfast that seems to cater for everyone and it is convenient too. Not one street corner without a Pret it seems. There is even a vegetarian one. The first one opened in 1986 and they look like a great corporate, with a CEO blog and apprenticeship schemes, organic food without additives, and used to be owned partly by MacDonalds. It’s sister company is Itsu, the up market sushi shop, which can be found most often in close proximity to a Pret. Maybe they need an agency, what a fantastic brand to work on and take to the next level. The love for standard good food seems to align us – the nation – in Pret 🙂 And I love the salmon and egg baguette for breakfast, unless I have a hungover and prefer their sausage muffins….yes, I am obsessed too 🙂

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Another phenomenon that kicked off this week seemed to be around programmatic. A few people keenly voiced their opinion on programmatic being overrated. I have said that before. Where are we with programmatic advertising? I did present that to a client too. Back in the days we were keen on having real time bidding (RTB) to make impression by impression decision making in real time via a bidder. Nowadays, we execute that and a lot more all from one single line item, highly targeted and across multiple channels. Whether that is real time or not, it is programmatic, it is traded in a programmable fashion. So what does that mean? The whole industry gets automated, and we call it programmatic – for some companies a great chance to be ‘specialists’ and to hide margins, for others it is just another acronym that confuses their clients. As a friend on Linkedin wrote this week: the bottom line is whether we answer the question what value we add to the client. And of course, this is a ‘yes we do’ or ‘no we don’t’. Yet the main differentiator is not whether we execute programmatic, but whether we know how to navigate the ecosystem, understand limitations of ‘make or buy’ and use data in a clever way to our clients’ advantage. That paired with excellent planning makes a good agency (and a few other ingredients). But this wasn’t supposed to be a sales pitch, yet my astonishment of how advertisers just cannot understand my part of the industry. So feel free to look up my Linkedin article on AI – take it with a pinch of salt – but aren’t we falling into a big trap of complicating things? And that is why some programmatic consultants still get paid a high day rate without being questioned. As you can clearly see, I am settling in well in agency land. It is time to get closer to clients and make them understand what adtech is all about!

Another theme, a red line throughout my conversations with some mentors and friends this week, suggests that there is more out there to which people and companies aspire to or should at least. As I reviewed my productivity book this week, where I am addressing those situations, I am wondering how to best help. How to best move things along vs. moving things up, vs. making the first move to take massive actions. Where I am leading with that isn’t quite obvious. I guess it is about doing your daily job and thinking beyond and taking over responsibility and accountability (spot a theme, Southern?). To perform beyond your duty and to use what’s in between your ears: no not your hair, your brain! To do what we preach and suggest to our kids. I see that across people and then across organisations. One changes the other, pushing the next. By being able to be consciously aware of what is actually happening around you, what happens in life, and how it is portrayed to you, how you portray things on the outside too. Exciting mind games, great discussions are fuelled on the back of these discussions I had this week. And it is exciting and it makes me grow and want more. I hope my book will reflect that too. And the more people I can get on board, the more exciting it gets for the journey along. It is about my 5 people I spend the most time with, they challenge me, they move me along.

And then there was the guy on the train, after a few beers, who explained to me how he works for a German bank, has an MBA, hates Brexit, worked in Switzerland and wrote a book. Lots of synergies there. We had a good yupp and catch up and I truly enjoyed speaking to him. These are those above random conversations that push you over, take over your thoughts and influence you. I might never meet the chap again, or maybe I will. But he would agree with all of the above and how you need to look in and take it beyond, and it all will fall into place eventually.

Enough of a brain-drain this week. Hope it was useful and sparked some thoughts.

Best wishes,
Volker