Please describe your job: What do you do?
I’m the UK CEO of Mediahub, a media planning and buying agency, part of the multi-discipline marketing services company MullenLowe Group, and therefore part of Interpublic Group (IPG). I am ultimately responsible for our P&L, our product, our service, and our people in the UK.
Mediahub is a fast-growing but relatively small agency which I joined a year ago from MediaCom, the UK’s largest media agency where I was London MD. But the fundamentals are the same. Our job is to help our clients achieve their desired business outcomes by delivering brilliantly designed and implemented communications campaigns based on human insight, data, and creativity.
Talk us through a typical day…
It’s a cliché, but there isn’t one. The only typical thing about the day is how much video chat there is in it.
Most days are spent working with the client or product leads, commercial, new business and people teams to ensure we are driving forwards with our strategic priorities. These revolve around having the best people, creating the best campaigns, and having the effectiveness of our work recognised in the marketplace in order to help attract more clients.
How do you maintain an effective work/life balance?
As anyone who has been on a call with me in the past year will know, I have spent much of this time working from my “shed” in the garden. This has been extremely useful in a number of ways, not least that it keeps me away from distractions happening in the house, and of course the fridge. It is quiet and has a nice view and access to some fresh air. But it also helps create separation, and a “commute”. So most mornings after a coffee and a scan of the newspapers and LinkedIn I will go to the shed and that’s me at work for the day.
At Mediahub, we have instigated a digital detox hour for all mediahubbers in the middle of the day where we try to avoid email, video calls and other comms. I also try to have fewer calls in the afternoon if possible in order to create time for proper thought.
At the end of the day, I’ll come back into the house and as much as possible that’s work finished – although we all know how hard it can be to stay off of our devices into the evening. I am lucky enough to have a wife who sees to it I don’t spend my entire evening staring at the phone.
How has strategy changed at your company?
Our priorities and strategy hasn’t fundamentally changed, but we have made sure that we focus on the fundamentals: People, Product, and Partners. Our first priority has been to support our people through this situation, whether that is through equipment, digital resources or help with managing mental health. The people team have been outstanding. This has definitely helped us maintain the excellence of our product in delivering effective campaigns for our clients. This has been recognised in a host of industry awards across different clients and disciplines, from strategy to data, to econometrics, to paid search.
How has customer behaviour (or your clients’ customer behaviour) changed during the pandemic?
Every client has been affected differently. We have been lucky that we weren’t heavily exposed to travel, hospitality, automotive and certain types of retail, and therefore have not seen the drastic reduction in client spend and revenue that many agencies in our industry have. While some clients have paused their plans, others have seen opportunities in new customer behaviours and have maintained or increased their activity. We have also been fortunate enough to attract new dynamic clients during this time, which really adds to the sense of momentum both in the people and in the P&L. Our revenues will grow 30% this year against a market contracting by 10 to 20%.
What do you predict for the future?
Last March I predicted cinema would bounce back strongly. Sadly that wasn’t the case, but some of my earlier predictions including the importance of strong news brands were more accurate. In media and consumer behaviour the direction of travel has been obvious. Our habits have been changed, forcibly and globally. Human adaptability and incredible technology have come together to enable the pace and nature of change we have seen towards digital behaviour. But the question is whether this is forever, and that is something no one can predict.
So maybe let’s go with what I hope, rather than what I predict. I hope that as many of the people displaced by the economic effect can find roles again in our industry as things recover, and that recruiters don’t bias against them.
I hope we continue to make ground on inclusion, and I am proud Mediahub are building from a strong foundation based on our principle that we should reflect the society we serve and the one we draw talent from. I hope our efforts to de-stigmatise mental health continue. Basically I hope we come together as a human race and support each other out of this awful situation.
What advice would you give a marketer right now?
Your agencies need you and you need them more than ever. Remember corporations are rewarded fiscally, but people are rewarded emotionally. Our worlds are based on human insight and relationships. Understanding your customers as humans, understanding your teams as humans and having a human relationship with the agency people supporting your business. You’ll be amazed what can be achieved with a little kindness.