The IAB is talking to some of Australia’s digital leaders to hear their opinions on this dynamic industry. This week we talked to Jonas Jaanimagi, Head of Media Strategy and Operations at REA Group, about the state of digital in Australia and his leadership style, and managed to get some sage advice for those starting a career in digital.
Q: What are our strengths and weaknesses in Australia and what are we good at when it comes to digital?
A: Having been in Australia for over four years now I’m increasingly enthusiastic about the opportunity here for us to strategically lead the way in digital from a global perspective. The market here is highly relevant in terms of both quality and quantity in order to prove out concepts deemed too hard or risky in the US and/or Europe. Global tech vendors have recently been investing in Australia as a ‘petri dish’ for some global beta products. An exciting nuance of the market here is that it only takes a small number of representative parties across our industry to commit to innovation and deliver significantly forward-thinking solutions at genuine scale. Traditionally APAC has tended to see itself as a poorer cousin to other larger digital markets, but from what I’ve been seeing and hearing over the last 12-18 months this is about to change dramatically. A clear example of this, for us as an industry, is how the IAB and Nielsen are currently working so hard towards ultimately establishing a tradable currency in Digital Content Ratings which, via the daily delivery of unduplicated digital audience data, will be a global first in objective cross-device measurement.
Q: What do you see as the key challenges and opportunities in digital for the next five years?
A: From an advertising perspective, whilst the overall rate of growth remains very positive, we are still in the very early stages of development. In terms of age as an industry we are barely out of our teens, and in terms of capabilities we’re all still working out the ‘technical plumbing’ required in order to effectively execute across digital, as well as synchronously with other mediums. The basic opportunity remains the same as it always has been, in that digital is increasingly the dominant environment in which people live their lives. The basic challenge is the relentless and ever-accelerating rate of change. The next five years will see a massive shift from the internet largely delivering, provisioning and hosting information, enabling real-time communication solutions and delivering visual and audio entertainment content towards a more fully immersive experiential medium. How we all cope with the marketing opportunities and challenges of such seismic shifts – in how we all interact with one another as well as directly with technology via digital mediums – will be fascinating. Investment in and the development of virtual and augmented reality solutions has been a significant focus for REA Group in the past 18 months as we plan for the digital future.
Q:Why is it important for your organisation to sit at the Board of the IAB?
A: The importance of REA having early input into and even some constructive influence over how the Australian digital industry is growing and evolving cannot be underestimated. From legal, operational and measurement perspectives us having experienced members of staff working in the appropriate IAB councils is absolutely critical for us remaining at the cutting-edge of all the key themes in these areas. Our subject-matter experts can constructively input into and collaborate on the standards and guidelines related to best practice for the entire industry in key products such as mobile, native and video, for instance. However, it is also nice to try and support the specialist industry that we all work in and are passionate about and have our staff representing us within the associated niche professional communities across Australia. As increasingly technological as things may have become, digital media is still all about people, trust and working relationships.
Q: How you do you drive digital transformation in your organisation?
A: In my last four years at REA Group, I’ve personally experienced how the business has continually been proactive about and open to the concept of continuous change and supporting people through this at every level. Our CEO Tracey Fellows, during her first two years here, supported this by providing a core focus upon innovation by formally supporting the regular hack-days at HQ as well as incentivising and inspiring the concept that great ideas can come from anywhere across the business globally – via a project called ‘The Big Idea’. In Media Operations we have embodied digital transformation by continually changing our ad-technologies, roles and team structures in order to try and both respond to the market demands but also to try innovatively lead the markets we service. The teams have now embraced a more fluid environment in which their roles and responsibilities can change relatively quickly and I’m confident that we strike the right balance between it being challenging and exciting for all involved.
Q: What is your personal leadership philosophy?
A: From a personal perspective I tend to build-out teams that can follow a family working ethic related to competence, trust and a common purpose. I’ve generally found that once you have created the right balance of raw talent and experience with the right inspiration, structure and the provisioning of a high-trust working environment, the teams can achieve incredible results. It’s been a genuine privilege over the last four years here to work with such young, talented and motivated teams that simply needed to be appropriately enabled, supported and developed. As David Ogilvy said: “Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it. Look for people who will aim for the remarkable, who will not settle for the routine.” The HR teams at REA Group have recently done a lot of work on our purpose and values, which have recently been relaunched internally and fully support this style of approach.
Q:What advice would you give to someone at the start of their careers in today’s digital world?
A: It’s hard, but initially try to not get too carried away by money and working titles. Instead be prepared to learn incessantly, remain relentlessly curious about everything and also be prepared to simply roll your sleeves up and work bloody hard. When you can immerse yourself completely in your work and be prepared to take on experiences that are truly challenging (and sometimes even scary), you’ll truly push your limits. With the right support and guidance, the learnings will soon follow and you’ll work out what you genuinely enjoy doing, how you can add value to organisations and teams – but also, and importantly, what specific areas you will need to develop. As a key element of your development, regularly attending IAB events and having your employers formally support your training via the IAB certifications in Digital Sales, Ad Ops and (the forthcoming) Data Solutions is vital. Then just keep repeating the process. You will change, but your appetite for development and being open to learning from everything and everyone around you never should.
Jonas Jaanimagi is Head of Media Strategy and Operations at REA Group and an IAB Board member.