Oli Knight is eBay’s head of UK advertising.
We live a day in his life, featuring tenacity, Richmond, a hatred of email, Tableau and plenty of programmatic media.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
Oli Knight: I’m Head of UK Advertising at eBay, which means I’m responsible for managing and growing the company’s display advertising revenue from ebay.co.uk. I head up the client-facing part of the UK ad business, so a major part of my role involves packaging up the elements and opportunities that we can offer and presenting them to agencies and advertisers, to demonstrate the value that eBay can bring and how we can help them to achieve their objectives.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
Oli Knight: At eBay Advertising we have a pretty fluid structure, broken down at a European level into two branches: a commercial team and an ad technology and innovation team. I work on the commercial side and report into Mike Klinkhammer, Director of Advertising Sales EU at eBay, who’s based in Germany.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Oli Knight: Tenacity is a must in our team. eBay is a big business, so if you want to move the needle, you need to be equipped with the determination to overcome hurdles and enact change. But that drive goes hand-in-hand with flexibility. The advertising team is lean, and we need to be able to move fast to respond any changes.
Technical skills are also incredibly valuable in my role – and I’d say this is a growing trend for marketers. It’s no longer enough to just have commercial acumen or creativity, it’s also key to be able to understand the nitty-gritty, technical side of things and be eloquent in the infrastructure of the programmatic ecosystem that sits behind our offer.
And, while programmatic continues to grow, and both marketing and marketers change in line with consumer behaviour, we – at eBay – need to be able to deliver solutions that reflect what marketers need. This requires innovative thinking, and the ability to imagine new possibilities and solutions.
Tell us about a typical working day…
Oli Knight: My working day changes completely depending on where I’m based. Each week tends to be split between working at the head office in Richmond, and spending time with clients, usually in central London.
In Richmond, I work with the sales operations team to ensure our fulfilment is as optimised as possible. I’ve also invested a huge amount of attention in growing our sales team, which we recently brought in-house to help us create more open, collaborative and innovative partnerships with our customers.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve also spent a fair bit of time with our Director for Ad Tech and Innovation in EMEA, Geoff Smith. We’re working on some really exciting plans to innovate and improve our offer – from optimising our supply path to improving ad quality, and even developing our own ad tech stack to boost performance and transparency. Watch this space!
At eBay Advertising, we are a strategic partner to our clients. We sell outcomes, rather than just pixels – so the other half of my week is dedicated to catching up with our agency and advertiser partners. It’s important to us that we work as collaboratively as possible with them, so we can anticipate and meet their specific needs.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
Oli Knight: I love the technical problem-solving that lies at the heart of all digital marketing. And I love that, despite all the tech we have, communicating with people will always be our end goal.
Like many people, the worst part of my job is the excessive emailing. I much prefer talking to people in person, over the phone or via Skype. We need to find an alternative to email, which works just as well without wasting so much time typing… I’m thinking telekinesis-written emails. Can someone invent that, please?
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
Oli Knight: My number one priority is to protect and enhance eBay’s position as a leader in marketing solutions, while helping advertisers increase relevance and boost ROI. And, given eBay’s primary function as a marketplace for shopping, we need to make sure that everything we do complements, rather than detracts from, the customer experience on the site.
We’re looking to achieve this through everything from innovative new tools such as eBay’s Local Services Ads, which we launched earlier this year, to building an insights team to help advertisers take advantage of the rich insights we have into the 23.9 million unique UK users of our site each month.
When it comes to measuring success, the most valuable metrics for us come from conversations with marketers and agencies. If they understand how we can help them maintain a good relationship with their customers and are excited about it when we walk out of the room, that’s the best sign of success.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
Oli Knight: Much of my job revolves around data, so tools such as Excel and Tableau – which make it easy to create efficient processes – are incredibly helpful. Video conferencing is also an invaluable tool, helping me to stay in touch with our team in London and across Europe when I’m out and about.
How did you end up at eBay, and where might you go from here?
Oli Knight: I joined eBay earlier this year, after just under three years at Publicis Media, where I consulted on programmatic and data strategy. Geoff Smith was there too, and he was great to work with – so, shortly after he moved to eBay, I made the leap too. Before Publicis Media, I was part of the advertising team at the Financial Times.
But I haven’t always been rooted in advertising and programmatic. In 2009, I co-founded a company called smallcarBIGCITY, providing tours of London in Classic Mini Coopers.
As for what the future holds, at the moment I’m just focussing on getting my teeth into my role at eBay, and putting together some exciting plans for 2019.
What recent media campaigns have you admired?
Oli Knight: Nike’s ‘Nothing Beats a Londoner’ campaign caused a lot of buzz for a reason when it came out earlier this year. It is exciting, funny and hyper-local – and it’s a great example of a really powerful and inspirational piece of creative that connects the brand with its audience. The digital ad space has a tendency to be very transactional and acquisition oriented, but this campaign demonstrates clearly how, with great copy, brands can play an emotive role in society.
Do you have any advice for retail marketers who are just starting to advertise on marketplaces?
Oli Knight: However you advertise, it’s crucial to remember that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. No matter how simple or complex your marketing models, plans and strategies are, you need to make sure that every part is as optimised as possible in order to increase your chances of success. For instance, you may be able to build a campaign powered by fantastic tech, but it won’t be very effective if the creative is rubbish – and vice versa.