Mike Fantis is VP Managing Partner at performance marketing agency DAC Group. We caught up with Mike to find out more about his role. We also discuss marketing budgets, the importance of first-party data, and what’s to come as we head further into the year.

Tell me about your role – what does a typical day look like for you?

My role is split across running the UK operations, managing key accounts, client management, and heading up the marketing and business development arm for DAC Group in this country. If I break it down, the operations piece usually takes up a big chunk of my daily schedule. In plain English that’s ensuring everyone is looked after and happy, that includes the team and our clients! As such, I need to keep on top of client deliverables to make sure they are in hand.

What are you seeing right now in terms of performance marketing budgets?

 Thankfully, we haven’t seen any drastic changes – as yet. There’s no point in trying to wish away a recession though. We just have to accept that it may well be just as bad as we fear and set contingencies to manage accordingly.

We do want to stay ahead of the curve with clients and we’re already having honest conversations about what we can do to make the most of their budgets in a difficult time. We approach it as “we know it is coming, let’s discuss the options we could take to help you manage expectations internally.”

We’re in a better position than many agencies given performance channels are normally the last to be cut. That said, I expect we may see demand for some channels, notably paid search, to decrease. From this perspective, we need to plan for which channels will offer the best ROI for clients, rather than over invest and reach a point of diminishing returns.

What are some of the standout trends you are seeing in your industry right now? And what are the implications?

The trend we’re paying most attention to is first party data and analytics – it’s a common theme at networking events and round tables right now. Brands know they are missing out on actionable insights from the first party data they’re sitting on and want to understand how to make the most of it.

There is undoubtedly a huge – and under-used – opportunity for brands to understand targeting signals; at the very least they need to be able to recognise which of their audience segments are most profitable and then how best to engage with them. At DAC, we’re great believers in the power of personalisation, it’s one of the biggest drivers of brand loyalty, but only when it’s done right. Making sense of first party data offers the means to unlock those personal experiences.

What are some of the key traits of a good leader? What strategies do you use for positive leadership?

I know sociopaths often make it to the top, but if you can’t put others first it’s never going to be a positive working environment. So, a really good leader needs to love people, not just themselves. That means taking the time to get to really get to know your team, to listen to them and understand what they do, their background and their passions. The better you know your people, the better you can empathise with them, add value to them and lead with respect.

Understanding what makes someone tick on a personal basis helps enormously when it comes to coaching and training. My colleagues know I love an analogy, but it comes from a good place! Thinking carefully about what will resonate with someone and bring something quite complex to life can often make learning new skills less daunting.

There should be no ego in leadership in a well-run business. Everyone contributes and everyone should feel valued. My take is, you won’t appreciate what each person brings unless you understand what they do. Of course you want your experts to know more than you about the specialist digital tools they use every day, however it can be extremely de-motivating if a leader doesn’t show expertise.

A well-run business is more than just its leader, everybody should be able to learn from the SLT and, actually, one day you should hope one day they will surpass your own achievements.

What trends or innovations do you predict will come to the forefront of your industry in the next 12 to 19 months?

I don’t want this to sound self-serving, but I firmly believe it to be true. The big media agencies might desperately be trying to convince their clients to continue to spend big on above-the-line brand awareness to stay front of mind post-recession. Yes, we do know there is some truth to this, but it may not be what many CFOs want to hear right now. They need to keep revenues flowing so performance will be key. Within this, I think programmatic media buying will grow exponentially next year and actually that works in favour of the more agile agencies.

What’s next for DAC?

Unsurprisingly, growth is always front of mind, whether that’s through new services or in terms of new geographic markets. We’re in the process of growing our media planning team in the UK, but this is part of a longer term plan to think bigger.

We want to grow in a way that is measured and sensible though, this means balancing new opportunities for clients and staff alike with not growing faster than the team can keep up. Ultimately, we want to build out what we can offer clients on an international scale, with full-service media strategies.

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