I was flicking through Facebook earlier today and I caught a picture of a school friend who is now the CEO of a UK retailer. He had updated his status with a picture of him on the shopfloor and with a name tag bearing his christian name.
Nothing new here. Over the last couple of decades, many MDs and CEOs have made sure they spend time on the shop floor. Many have created initiatives that ensure board rooms and management teams get real with customers and understand the business at the coal-face.
Last week, our friends at the AANA raised some questions regarding transparency. A good initiative even if I disagree with some of the conclusions (I will just say Australian data and leave that for a different debate).
Part of the follow up has been on two topics:
- Transparency in digital
- The responsibility of the senior marketer to 'get into the weeds'
I actually think the two are very linked. Transparency in digital starts with a common understanding. If you are going to talk about the digital value chain and start to look at a dollar moving across it, you need to make sure you understand the technology between the advertiser and the publisher before you start to criticise it. Better still, get hold of some real data too. Many of the technologies are there to help you better target your ideal consumer and therefore drive better conversion.
On the second point, I believe we need a two-way road. There's no question that the senior marketer (or Digital Investor) needs to understand both digital architecture and how it works. At the same time, the digital techies have to play their part and simplify their conversation.
If we can get to a common basis of understanding we will have a much better conversation and therefore a much better outcome.
In the last few weeks, we have started to record podcasts (The IAB Simplify & Inspire series) and one of the most common themes that comes up is education. The best conversation for many technology companies come when a marketer or a publisher has actually played with the product. It often results in an 'aha' moment for both parties.
I'd like to encourage all senior folk in the industry to find 1 hour a week to play with a digital product. If you're interested in digital transparency or brand safety then get your agency to show you exactly how digital media is booked and what filters can be used. Or rather than get a presentation from a technology company get them to show you the product in action right away.
P&G's Marc Prtitchard has led the charge on transparency and the ask of marketers to 'get into the weeds'. It was another former P&G boss, Roisin Donnelly, who started a reverse mentoring initiative at P&G in the UK specifically to enable senior executives to get more familiar with digital technologies. I'm told this has helped executives with safe digital understanding.
I'd even go as far as asking consultants and academics to play with the product. You might learn something and at least it helps us get a better and common understanding. In the old days, all you could do was go on the shopfloor to see customers and understand the coalface. Now in the digital world, you can also look at the products and technologies that show real ads being placed and managed towards real consumers. You can see the role of data and see the engagement as it happens.
So roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty this week.