I’m a strategic advisor to growth businesses, via a circuitous route, passing through brand advertising, a video on demand channel startup in London and a software startup in Silicon Valley.
I’ve written this newsletter for my peer group (senior marketers or advertising executives who grew up in the world of broadcast tv, outdoor and print) who are navigating through the new world of growth hacking, big data, automated marketing digital/internet, and frankly, are finding it all a bit confusing.
I too went on this journey and it’s the results of those adventures that will occupy this newsletter
Before we get there, please let me introduce myself and briefly tell you my story.
My business life has been incredibly varied. Starting in my native New Zealand, I landed in London with Saatchi & Saatchi as Global Account Director and got my first real taste of both international marketing and what really sharp elbows felt like.
It was the most intensive commercial university I could have hoped for. Exposure to other markets that were completely new to a boy from Down Under – the UK, Central and Eastern Europe, India, USA and Asia – all with their unique spin on doing business.
During that year, I became convinced that my future direction lay within technology. Marketing technology caught my attention and I saw the potential of tech to radically transform the way people marketed their products and services.
I shared my situation with a good friend Jason Kerr, with whom I had invested a few years previously, and Michael Mayall – who were working on a project and happy to have me join them. It was my first hands on experience of the term “startup”.
The lesson of product development matching the vision and being able to execute quickly were learnt as we went. It was a hard grind. Finally, a London based entrepreneur saw some advantage in what we had built and acquired it, placing it into an AIM listed shell company for promising technology.
Through that experience, I met Jonathan Pfitzner, then of Ardent Advisors, who was instrumental in putting me on a path towards the most exciting time of my professional life. Jonathan was insightful, full of advice and generous with his network, eventually putting me together with Justin Gayner and Wil Harris who had a small TV studio in West London turning out 3min internet video shows, under the name Channel Flip.
This experience was an incredibly steep learning curve, new terms, new technology and a new business model. It was mind-numbing at times, often exhausting but mostly, incredible fun.
My main contribution to Channel Flip was finding a business model that worked. We hit on an advertiser funded approach and soon after had landed our first paying client for a funded show. Following that initial success, more brands came on board and the business prospered with the result that Channel Flip was soon acquired by Elisabeth Murdoch’s Shine Group. A good result for the team and for the shareholders.
My love affair with the combination of technology and brands was now in full bloom. I understood that the world of comms was changing rapidly. Brands were now being marketed within a whole new set of rules. Rules that most of my advertising peers were struggling with and their agencies certainly not equipped to understand much less exploit. New terms like “growth hacking” and “marketing automation” were foreign. Having a reasonable grip on technology, I wondered how these intriguing tools were being deployed in modern marketing and how to make the best of them. If I could understand that, then the future would be even more exciting!
Within the startup community I quickly learned that necessity was the mother of invention, and a new breed of companies were being built with little or no marketing resources, and certainly no traditional infrastructure. I wondered if I was the only one who shared this sense of optimism and I questioned if I was alone in recognising this development and feeling a real sense of optimism?
This threw up three important questions;
- How would the CMO of today see all this?
- What would he expect from his agency to capitalize on it?
- Is this just a trend, or part of a whole new cycle?
It was all happening in Silicon Valley, and I was there – straight from Madison Ave.