Tim Webster is chief strategic officer (CSO) at programmatic specialist Exchange Lab.
He started his career at Ask Jeeves in 1999, and co-founded the Exchange Lab in 2007. Webster says in this interview “I have never understood how anyone could want to read about my typical working day”, nevertheless, we asked him about it.
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Econsultancy: Please describe your job: What do you do?
Tim Webster: I am CSO at The Exchange Lab, a programmatic company I founded back in 2008. My key responsibilities lie in shaping and effecting our product vision and roadmap, as well as overseeing the company’s analytics teams.
I work closely with our tech and vendor teams to ensure our product remains at the forefront of innovation, and with the new business teams on client pitches and engagements, which keeps me close to market needs.
E: What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
TW: Being a good listener may not sound like a skill associated with ad tech, but it’s actually an important ability to have, with problem solving coming a close second. You need to hear what your customers are saying in the first instance to understand the challenges that need solving. Only then can you apply your knowledge of the industry and technology to put together solutions that address their actual requirements.
E: Tell us about a typical working day…
TW: I have never understood how anyone could want to read about my typical working day, but since you asked – at the moment I am usually up and about by 6am thanks to my three young children.
I arrive in the office around 9am and do the usual… emails and a cup of tea. If I’m lucky I make it to 9.30am before the marketing team knock on my door with PR pieces and interviews they’d like me to look at.
A lot of my time is dedicated to product innovation and project-based positioning, which means no two days are the same. I’ll quite quickly move between tasks from a research project to scoping new items on our roadmap or working towards a new business pitch – this week the focus has been on 2019 planning. I travel occasionally, it’s great to spend time with the teams in our other offices, although it does drag me away from my young family and the array of pets we seem to have accumulated.
Most days I catch up with Chris, our CEO, and we go over what we’ve got on and priorities. I also like to see the teams on different floors in our new office – it was easier when we were all on one level but at least I’m getting some exercise.
I’ll head home to my family around 6pm, battling Thameslink trains as I go. I’m home in time to see the kids and help with bed times.
E: What do you love about your job? What sucks?
TW: I am lucky to work with a talented, hard-working bunch who love what they do. I enjoy overcoming challenges with the team, identifying new opportunities and feeling the satisfaction of affecting positive change whilst addressing customer requirements.
As for what sucks: you can never get to everything – there are never enough hours in the day.
E: What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
TW: Measuring KPIs and goals is a big question and one that is close to my heart from a client perspective. We are often asked to work to KPIs that are ill-thought through and not appropriate measures of what clients are trying to achieve. In fact, I’d go further and say that often they work against the desired outcome. We spend a lot of time with clients understanding what they want and how best to measure it. Only then can we look at setting the right KPIs that work towards specific goals.
As a company we want to remain at the forefront of programmatic thinking and innovation. The challenge here is trying to understand how current and relevant you are. Over the last twelve months we have significantly evolved our positioning to address industry challenges and meet differing client requirements. We measure this success by the acquisition of new business across our different markets.
E: What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
TW: Never underestimate a cup of tea and a white board when it comes to problem solving.
But really, our people are our tools – we are proud to employ the finest programmatic expertise in the industry and our offering would be nothing without the people behind the scenes, constantly enhancing and developing our product.
E: How did you land in this role, and where might you go from here?
TW: I fell into digital advertising by accident back in 1999 when I took a trafficking role. I was lucky enough to find myself in a largely undefined industry that was just getting started. It sparked my imagination and over the next decade I gained a wealth of experience across different roles. I recognised a shift towards automation early and that’s when I set up The Exchange Lab. It’s been an incredible 10 years since then and as for what’s next I can’t be sure, but at some point it would be nice to take a little time off!
E: Which recent ad campaigns do you admire?
TW: The ad campaign that immediately springs to mind is J Walter Thompson London’s World Cup campaign highlighting the link between football and domestic violence.
I found myself mentioning the ad to people during England games I watched, and I imagine lots of others did the same. A hugely important issue was brought to your attention in the most powerful and hard-hitting of ways – it was a great creative.
E: Do you have advice for anybody who wants to work in your field?
TW: Read lots and speak to as many people as you can. It’s a small industry (even though it’s huge) – always treat people well, you never know who you will cross paths with, or need support from in the future. Don’t burn bridges.
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