Ben Oliver is the Head of Media at Splash (The in-house agency at Treasury Wine Estates) and someone with first-hand of the challenges and benefits of taking media in-house.
While we have talked about in-house agencies before, this is the first time we have discussed in-house media, and interestingly, the in-house creative or content side of the in-house model appears to get more attention than the media. Yet more money is invested by companies into media channels than the content that runs in them.
Ben shares his experiences across his career, from journalism and public relations to where his today, and discusses the specific challenges and the benefits of establishing an in-house media team.
You can listen to the podcast here:
“I suspect it probably comes out of a desire for cost-cutting. I would argue that the discussion around in-housing should never start off from P&L discussion of how do we save money? I mean, there are so many good reasons why you would do it.”
Hi, I am Darren Woolley, founder and CEO of TrinityP3 Marketing Management Consultancy. And welcome to Managing Marketing, a weekly podcast where we discuss the issues and opportunities facing marketing, media, and advertising with industry thought leaders and practitioners.
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This week, we’re revisiting the topic of in-house agencies, but from a different perspective. Much like advertising agencies, it seems that for in-house agencies, the creative or content side of the in-house model appears to get more attention than the media side.
Yet in both, much more money is invested by companies into media channels than the content that runs in them. Why is that? And what are the specific challenges and benefits of establishing in in-house media function?
To discuss this, please welcome to Managing Marketing Podcast someone who knows firsthand the head of media at Splash, the in-house agency at Treasury Wine Estates, Ben Oliver. Hi, Ben.
Hey, Darren. How are you going?
Very well, thanks. And thanks for joining us. Look, the first thing I noticed looking at your LinkedIn profile is that you’re not one of these people that sort of leapt straight out of high school or university straight into a media buying role. Are you? You actually came via journalism and PR.
That’s right. Yeah. I think it’s fair to say that the trajectory of my career has been anything but linear. I kind of just tended to follow subject matter and things that I found interesting. And probably until fairly recently, didn’t have a really solid plan about where I wanted to end up.
But yeah, I came out of uni back in Perth at Curtin sort of a fresh, young, hungry journalism graduate thinking I was going to change the world. And then got into that for a few years and then realized I probably wasn’t going to change the world at all, which might be a reflection of my talent in that area, I’m not sure.
And then, yeah, took a break, went overseas and did the London thing, like a lot of my generation have done and lived there for a few years. And I did some random work. I worked at Royal Bank of Scotland in credit card security, which was advising clients on how to keep their customers’ credit card details safe, which for me was wild given I had no training in that, but it was literally just all on the job stuff.
And I got given a manual in my first week, and it was just literally told, read this for two weeks, and then you’re on the phones after. And I’m like, “Surely this is not the way that we do this.” But I didn’t care. I was 25 and I’m like, “Yeah whatever, I’ll give it a crack.”
And then it was a really good job for landing because I got paid pretty well which meant I could travel as well as do the London thing. And not everyone finds jobs where you can kind of afford to move. I was quite fortunate and just a completely different area to be exposed to.
And then, yeah, on the way home my Visa ran out and then I was freaking out about coming back to normality. And a mate of mine said, “I just did a tour with Busabout, one of the tour companies over there. And he said, look, I think you’d make a good tour guide. Why don’t you apply for that?
So, I thought, why not, went through the application process, and I think I was one of about 30 odd people to be chosen for training in ‘09. And so, yeah, did that for a summer, which was a lot of fun.
And then when I got back, I sort of had to work out what I was going to do with my life, and by that stage, I’d sort of decided journalism really wasn’t the path forward for me.
And one of my cousin actually, who had done some journalism, he’d been working in agencies for a little while and he said, “Look, have you thought about coming over to a PR agency, it’s a pretty applicable skillset.” And I thought, “Great, let’s do that, give that a crack.”
And then yeah, got a job with a company called Buchan, which is now called WE Buchan, I think they’ve been either taken over in whole or part by Waggener Edstrom. And yeah, did that for a little while.
And then as I was working in PR, I sort of got interested by the social space and started to upskill in that area and kind of launch the digital function in that office. Mostly just around things like Twitter and LinkedIn.
And then from social, sort of started branching out into broader digital marketing and sort of upskilled in areas like SEO and CRO and just other parts of digital marketing that I hadn’t been exposed to.
And then, yeah, hopped around a couple of different agencies over the next sort of five years. And then yeah, then found myself working at Treasury Wine Estates in a in-house digital marketing role. And then sort of did that for a couple of years.
And then, really sort of early last year, the business made the decision they wanted to, in-house a large part of their creative and media functions. And tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Look, do you want to lead the media team?”
And I’d done a bit of media before that as part of my general kind of digital marketing responsibilities and mostly social and a bit of search and a bit of retail. And then, for me, obviously the biggest upskill there was the programmatic space, which I hadn’t really been exposed to.
So, then I was like, “Great, I’ll happily take it on.” But there was a fair bit of upskilling to do. So, that was another big kind of big upskilling and just a period of reading lots of books and doing courses and reaching out to every smart person I could think of and just asking a bunch of dumb questions.
And then, yeah, we started trading in July last year just with sort of the low hanging fruit, social search, and retail, added programmatic in October. And yeah, we’ve really ticked just over 12 months now of having all of that media done in-house.
So, we’ve sort of gone from almost zero to pretty much anything we can bid on. We’ve brought in-house in a very short space of time. So, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind, but a lot of fun.
I have to say that — and as you say, not a linear path, but nevertheless, a path is a demonstration of great adaptability. You said that when you got into, and started dealing with programmatic that you just asked anyone that seemed to have more knowledge than you, a whole lot of questions. Is that a sort of — because it feels very journalistic training, that’s what journalists do, isn’t it? Is that part of the skillset that you bring?
Yeah, and I think it’s probably the biggest skill that I can thank my journalism career for, is that ability to come at something with a blank canvas and just ask a bunch of questions and learn an area fairly quickly.
I mean, I remember one of my old journo gigs, I got a job at a magazine called Contractor, which won’t be very familiar to your listeners, and with pretty good reasoning because it’s a pretty niche construction industry magazine.
And I’d come out of working EGN for Leader/News Corp. And I remember meeting with this editor and being like, “I don’t know a fucking thing about construction.” And he’s like, “Mate, it’s fine. You’ll pick it up.” And then, sure enough, within a short period of time I’d kind of get the lingo.
And then, I worked for an insurance magazine for a little while, and same sort of thing, having to learn all about insurance and all the lingo. And I think you just come at it with an open mind, and you ask the right questions, and you sort of probe, and then eventually you sort of start to get it.
So, yeah, I think if nothing else, that sort of grounding in journalism set me up really well for how my career ended up changing and just being open and adaptable. And I’m quite thankful for that as a background. Yeah.
There’s also a bit of a sports theme happening here. You worked for the AFL as the, what was it? Match Day Reporter. And-
That was a lot of fun. Yeah.
And Public Relations Officer for Western Australian Cricket Association. Is sport something that’s important to you or passion or a?
Yeah. Honestly, I mean, I love sport, big AFL fan and MBA, but I probably didn’t seek out those jobs as much as they just kind of happened. Like the WACA one was fun. I mean, that was straight out of uni. And did an internship there for six months while I was at uni.
I don’t think I got paid. I’m pretty sure I didn’t get paid. And then it was just an interesting, cool job that came up and I thought let’s do that for a bit. And great exposure and I got to meet all these heroes like Justin Langer and Richie Benaud. I mean, that was one that was a highlight meeting Richie Benaud at the Perth test.
And I remember shaking the great man’s hand, and it was fucking … I couldn’t believe a man who looks — I mean, he was obviously sprightly, but he was just this … I was bending down and oh my God, Richie, like …
So, that was quite cool. And then, yeah, I suppose the AFL thing, again, the opportunity came up to do some match day reporting. And this was just before the AFL in-house to all their content. So, they were still using I think it was Crocmedia at the time was sort of producing all their content.
And I mean, that was an easy gig. I mean, that was like you get paid to sit in a booth, eat meat pies. I think my role involved, I had to tweet, I had to do three tweets per quarter, a quarter time report, a halftime report, and then a full match report.
And it was like 200 bucks to sit and watch the footy and tweet. I mean, it was a lot of fun. I remember my wife would say to me, “Oh, you’re off to the footy again?” No, I’m like, “I’m off to work.” She’s like, “Mate, don’t call this fucking work. You get paid to watch the footy. Don’t pretend, like, yeah …
Okay, fair enough.
So, no, yeah, I don’t know. And then, I did a gig overseas working at the Asian Games, which again, sort of came about through some mates and it was a cool opportunity. I worked in Guangzhou for nearly two months, and then before that in Doha for about six weeks.
So, I mean, yeah, it’s interesting I reflect on it now. Sport has been a theme throughout all of it, but yeah, I wouldn’t say I’ve kind of actively sorted out as much as the opportunities have sort of come to me a little bit. And again, I’ve just been kind of open to receiving interesting offers and it’s just kind of happened that way. I guess.
Now there’s another convergence here because in your role at Splash, at Treasury Wine Estates, and also you mentioned being a tour guide in Europe. But now you’ve actually founded a business called Drinking History Tours in Melbourne, which seems to combine those two skills quite well.
Yeah, yeah. My two favorite loves, having people listen to me and drinking, my two things I love the most. No yeah, I mean, the tour guide thing kind of started off. I did the European tour guide thing, came back, and then while I was working agency, I also, on weekends was working for a tour company called I’m Free doing free walking tours, which was all sort of cash enhanced stuff, which was really helpful.
I’m sure anyone who’s worked at agency at a relatively junior level knows just how bad the pay can be. So, having the weekend cash definitely helped out. And then, yeah, did that for about five years. And I’d kind of always toyed with the idea of doing my own tour company and couldn’t really find the niche that I thought would be interesting.
And then the insight I came across, if you’d call it an insight, was that there were lots of walking tour companies where you’d sort of walk around the city and it was all kind of academic, and you wouldn’t really go in and do anything. You were kind of just on the streets, and then you were done.
And then, on the other hand, you had all these pub crawls, which were mostly geared towards the sort of younger backpacker market, and you go to the bigger, more popular venues, and you get watered down shots.
And I kind of had this thought of, well, what if you just went to nice laneway bars, and mixed that with some history and some interesting spiels and sort of appealed to a bit of a older market. And that’s kind of where the Drinking History Tours was born.
The catchphrase is, “More fun than a walking tour, classier than a bar crawl,” which for me, hopefully captured that essence. Like people in their 30s and 40s who don’t want to get shitfaced on bar crawls and they don’t want to go to places they went to in their 18, they want to go to the laneway bars that Melbourne’s famous for and have a couple of drinks along the way.
And then, get exposed to some interesting history they may not know about. And yeah, so it’s been a good little side hustle. And it’s been good also because I think particularly in my day job, especially my day job now, so everything I do is really focused on very small part of marketing and comms in general.
And so, running the tour company’s been great to get hands on exposure and things like channel strategy and pricing and product development and all those things I find quite interesting. But I just don’t get the chance to really touch on in my day-to-day job.
So yeah, it’s been a fun— I mean, I say hobby, it’s sort of bigger than a side hustle, but not big enough to be a full-time job. But I’m lucky I’ve got a lot of contractors who actually do the tours for me now.
So really, to be fair, I’ve kind of got it down to a couple of hours a week where it’s setting up tours, emailing bars and that kind of stuff. And it more or less kind of runs in the background now, which is fine.
So, that’s called Drinking History Tours. So, if anyone finds themselves in Melbourne and wants say something classier than a pub crawl and something that’s more refreshing than a history walk, they should be booking online, I imagine.
Well, I’m sure we can work out a special rate for your listeners, Darren. We’ll do mates …
Now, Ben, moving on to the topic. The first thing that I raised, and you sort of inferred this in the fact that you started at Treasury Wine Estates as a digital marketing manager, right?
Is that a lot of the conversations around in-housing seem to be around content and creative. And that media, if it’s ever mentioned, is usually around paid social media, SEO perhaps, or paid search. Very rarely do we hear or have conversations around the full media servicing actually going in-house. Why do you think that is?
Yeah, I suspect it probably comes out of a desire for cost cutting. I think, I would argue that the discussion around in-housing should never start off from P&L discussion of how do we save money? I mean, there’s so many good reasons why you would do it.
But generally, it kind of comes down to how much we are paying our agency versus how much would it cost to do it ourselves. And I think creative my suspicion lends itself to that conversation. Particularly now, I think, most companies realize just how much content you need to serve, whether it’s your marketing functions, whether it’s sales.
It’s a machine that needs feeding. And I think, the economics of bringing that in-house usually stack up pretty well compared to what agencies can do. I think, it depends on the nature of the creative, obviously.
And when you’re pairing, I mean, obviously the outputs themselves, but they’ve … I think the hard thing is to obviously get the outputs right, but also the creative insight and the creative strategy that informs the build of the creative.
So, I think from a pure build point of view, I think, the economics really stack up. And I suppose that the tricky thing is ensuring that you’ve obviously thought about the creative insight and the strategic framework for where that creative’s going to come from.
So, I think that’s probably why creative just tends to be first and foremost. And I mean, at Treasury alone, I mean, the sheer output of the creative we do, and it’s not just about building … or building 16 nines for YouTube.
It’s building toolkits for Penfolds that they’re distributing across their regions. And now, I mean, the creative guys are moving into all kinds of interesting territories. It’s bottle design and things like that. So, it’s yeah — and I think media … generally, I don’t think that media is a cost saving function.
I think media agencies have a certain economy of scale that allows them to be on paper at least pretty cost efficient. So, I think from a media standpoint, I suspect that most companies look at it and go, we’re probably not going to save a lot of money bringing this in-house. And from our point of view, we never saw media as a cost saving function.
The reason we wanted to bring it in was really transparency of data, proximity to data and speed of turnaround, were really the three big ones for us. And I kind of use the example of, you mentioned paid search before.
I mean, we’ve had some crazy stuff where Brian will be like, “We want to get a paid search campaign up tomorrow.” And we cut some corners getting there, but we can get it done. And I think an agency could do that, but you’re looking at extreme pricing to get that done. Or in some cases, they may not just be built to be that that agile.
So, I think yeah, the … and I mean, for the creative guys as well, it wasn’t just about saving money, it was also about the speed. And my boss will talk about this. It’s the proximity to the brand team to inform the creative work to make such a big difference.
The ability to have that, walk over to a brand manager’s desk and have that quick chat and sense check an idea. And also, to be closer to the strategy, I think agencies often talk about that true partnership.
But I think at the end of the day, most of them are in different offices in different buildings, and you can’t get as close to the strategy and the mechanics of the business as you can when you are in the same building.
So, sorry, that’s a really long-winded response, but yeah, I think that’s my take on the creative versus media in-housing focus, I guess. Yeah.
Yeah. Because It’s interesting that we’ve really only heard about very large organizations. And what I mean by that is the multinationals, it was the big P&Gs and the Unilevers and that sort of global scale that really considered even, in the last few years, about media coming in-house.
And one of the things was this whole idea of the cost of technology. Because media these days a lot of it is all around access to DSPs or trading desks. And when you talk about data, actually investing in the ability for your customer data platforms so that you can actually interact with those has been an obstacle.
Because when you think about it creative is a few more computers, maybe a printer and a couple of other things relatively low cost compared to some of these big platforms, aren’t they?
Yeah. And I think you’re right. I mean, the tech stack discussion does scare a lot of people off when it comes to media, which is why social — those wall guarded tend to be the first ones if they decide to bring media in, they’re kind of the easier ones. It’s free to access and relatively simple to use.
I think we had a big discussion around where we draw the line with the first iteration of the in-house media team. And I mean, social was always going to come in, search YouTube through Google Ads was always going to come in. Retail media was always going to come in. And I think yeah, the programmatic one was one we spent a lot of time trying to work out, is this right for us?
Because I think I get asked this a lot, whether we want to in-house, should we do programmatic? And my answer’s always it depends because I think, it depends on your level of sophistication and particularly level of media spend. You do need to really try and develop a relatively accurate idea of how much you think you’ll be spending on programmatic before you can even have that discussion.
So, I think for us, we went back and forth a little bit, and then we decided, look, our programmatic spend’s not going to be huge, but we think it’s sufficient enough to sustain ongoing.
And it was probably less about the tech stack and more about the people to actually run it because media traders are pretty hard to find. And the market out there, you can earn pretty good money with some decent programmatic experience.
So, I think for us, it was entwined in that discussion about ad tech was okay, getting DSP is one thing, are we actually going to be able to find someone who can run it? And what are the redundancies around that headcount? If they’re hit by a bus, God forbid, or they’re sick, how do we make sure that the wheels don’t fall off because our traders are gone?
And then that leads to a whole discussion around upskilling and then, managed service backups with your DSP and things like that. So yeah, it’s always different per each company. But yeah, we just felt that, again, the proximity to the data, the speed of turnaround and the transparency were important enough for us to go down that path.
And what about, because you said that it was all paid media that you’re handling now, what about things like out-of-home and broadcast TV? So, is that also something that is part of your remit or is that something you’re sharing with an agency?
Yeah, so our agency partner Mindshare, so the way it’s structured is we work with them … so, I’ll take a step back. Let’s say that there’s a brand brief that comes in. There’ll be a budget, there’ll be an objective, myself and Mindshare will get briefed at the same time.
Mindshare takes the lead on — I don’t come from immediate background, so I find all these terms really funny, connections planning, connections architecture, that’s all these bullshit terms.
But I mean, essentially, you know what bucket of money goes where, they take the lead on that, they’ve got the tools and the expertise. And so, once they’ve had that sort of first iteration, we’ll have a discussion around that because it’s a reach-based planning tool, and we’ll need to sort of apply that art versus science and where do we up weight and down weight based on inputs, like attention, for example. And our own data to feed into what they’ve got.
So, once we’re happy on the connections plan, we take all the digital elements and then brief that out. And then they’ll take all the non-digital. So yeah, basically out-of-home, linear TV, commercial radio, are the three big ones they look at. And most of that’s really out-of-home.
So, we were never going to look at taking all media in-house in the first run. It was always going to be just focused on the digital. And then, I wouldn’t say there’s been open discussions about whether we take more in-house because I think, again, it’s this discussion where it’s different for every company.
So, I think about a Youi, for example, up at the Gold Coast, and they do everything, they’ve got a TV desk and they’re completely in-house, all their media.
Whereas, for other companies, it doesn’t make sense to go beyond social and search. And I think for us, I think based on our scale, based on the way we’re structured, I think where we’ve settled now is probably where we’re going to be for a little while.
I think, again, for something like out-of-home where agency, the holding codes have those economies of scale for negotiation on rates, and it’s something that we as an individual business just don’t have access to that.
So, I think, really, I kind of see Mindshare as being our key partner on those elements. And moving to a hybrid model was a little bit, I wouldn’t say tricky. It was just a new way of working. We had to just work out the processes as we were responding to campaigns in some cases, the old building the plane while you’re flying it, sort of analogy.
So, I wouldn’t say it was painful, the transition, it was just a different way of working. It took a bit to get into our groove, and now we are there. There’s no real plans to kind of reevaluate whether we extend that into offline anytime soon.
Well, Ben, you can never say never because we’re already seeing OTT over the top, as they say in America. But on demand from linear sources, and they’re talking about programmatic digital outdoor, once these things happen, it’s then changes the whole mechanism, doesn’t it?
Well, yeah. And Ritson’s made this point. He kind of calls bullshit on the whole digital versus non-digital divide because he’s right. I mean, it’s pretty much all digital. And it’s more about how you transact and to your point around programmatic, out-of-home, we’ve actually done a couple of in-house campaigns, which we weren’t really expected to do until probably next year, but we got a couple of opportunities.
We thought, oh, look, let’s test ourselves. And if nothing else, it was really good opportunity for our traders who haven’t done that sort of campaign before to get exposed to it. And programmatic out-of-home. I mean, I had to learn about programmatic, and then programmatic out-of-home is such a weird little beast inside a beast.
There’s all these weird little structures and they have dealing directly with the SSPs and then the SSP inventory they’ve got, and some publishers are on PMPs and some were on open exchange. And then there are certain minimum investments with some, and then you can get owed through this one, but not through that. It’s such a weird ecosystem.
So, we did that, and then really then it became, okay, from a consumer’s point of view, it’s all out-of-home. They don’t see the distinction between whether it’s digital, programmatic or IO static. So, then we were like, okay, when does Mindshare do out-of-home and when do we do out-of-home?
And for us, the divide came down to objectives. So, if it’s a brand campaign, so pretty much mid funnel or above, then Mindshare really takes o over the out-of-home component. But where we’ve been using programmatic out-of-home is more for short-term path to purchase immediate sales kind of revenue driving activity.
So, I’ll give you an example. We’ve recently actually just wrapped up a campaign for one of our MPDs 19 Crimes Cali Gold. So, it’s a sweet sparkling wine under the 19 Crimes range. That’s another Snoop line extension and distribution across Dan’s, BWS, Coles Liquor Group.
And so, Brian came to us and said, how do we support this launch? And so, we sort of said, look, we think it can be a mixture of channels, but we think that programmatic out-of-home should take the lead here, given we can buy within 200 meters of certain stores, we can do a footfall measurement study, and then report that back into you.
So then, the speed and the ease of the turnaround and the measurement of footfall, we felt like that’s something we can do internally. We don’t need to brief Mindshare on that.
But yeah, for the bigger, more integrated kind of brand campaigns where the objectives are, driving mental availability, salience, awareness, consideration, all that good stuff, that’s where we go with Mindshare, so that’s our line.
But I mean, for businesses it’s different, but after a bit of test and learning, we just felt that that was the most efficient and effective way to kind of break up those components.
And you’ve mentioned there, that geographic ability of targeting within a couple of hundred meters of a retail outlet, but then there’s all sorts of things like day parts or time of day to get people on their way home or on their way out.
And even temperature, that was one of my ones that I’m waiting for the day that when the temperature hits a certain amount, which beverages company is going to have every outdoor billboard showing their product with that beautiful product shot of the condensation running down the outside of the bottle. Which is the thing that when you’re thirsty, just makes you want to buy the product.
Yeah. And I mean, that is one of the great things with programmatic out-of-home is the external data feeds that can inform when creative goes live. And things like temperature or I’ve heard all kinds of things like how the stock market’s going or whatever those data sources look like.
The only thing I’d say with that is from a marketer’s point of view, that sounds fucking cool. If the temperature hits above 30 degrees, we’ll switch out the creative, we’ll serve them one that has a hot outside today kind of messaging.
Again, maybe it’s my old journal background. I’m really cynical on whether that kind of creative actually drives a higher brain uplift than just a general messaging. And I could be wrong. But I was at a summit recently and I asked the question like, yeah, cool, programmatic out-of-home can do all this kind of stuff. It sounds awesome, looks great at PCA, great story for the marketing team internally.
But show me a case study where someone’s done this, and it’s actually led to a higher uplift compared to non-responsive creative. And I haven’t found one yet, and maybe there’s one out there, and I’d love if someone could send me one.
But from a performance point of view, that stuff’s a lot easy to measure because you just A/B test it. And does the dynamic work better than the … and it’s kind of an easy one from, when you talk about programmatic out-of-home and branding, I’m always a bit cynical on these cool fucking tools and it’s the market is froth over them.
But I’m like, is this actually — and we’ll trial it, I mean, I’m not against the technology or the ability, but I think my default is always like, how do we create a test that’s going to show this works rather than just do it? And then it becomes a cool talking point in a PCA.
So, I don’t know maybe I’m overly cynical, but that’s always my starting point, is how is this going to be more effective because it’s going to cost more.
Well, and the other thing that often gets in the way of any of those sort of responsive campaigns is, and you mentioned it earlier, actually trying to align all of the various parts such as the content team, the media team, and the marketing team to actually get aligned on this and deliver it next day or in real time.
Yeah, yeah. It’s a good point. Yeah. I mean, it is, I guess one of the benefits of having some of these functions in-house is that ability to even if you perhaps don’t have the perfect structure or perfect ways of working, the fact that you’ve just got proximity to the right people means that you can Jerry-rig alignment and until you get the process and everything else right.
Now, Ben, you said that media buyers are not easy to come by. I’ve heard a story in New York about a large client that bought their programmatic in-house and hit the agency up for about 40 staff members to come and work for them across the river in New Jersey. It was a New York agency.
And six months later came back and said, “Oh, 30 of them left. Could we have some more?” From the agency, “Hang on, we’re not giving away the most valuable asset that we have.” Well, it’s an issue though, isn’t it, finding talent generally because the agency certainly are struggling to recruit talent and keep it.
Yeah. And it’s an interesting — it’s a weird little island in a sea of marketing roles that’s kind of going against the tide. That’s a really clumsy analogy. But I guess you’ve got marketing at the moment, generally in the employment market at the moment for marketing, is pretty tough.
If you’re a marketer looking for a job right now, it is a really, really tight market. There’s hundreds of people going for roles. I know some incredibly well credentialed marketers who should be picked up like that and are still struggling to find jobs.
But then, in media trading, you can’t get enough traders. It’s the one part of marketing that is really in demand. And I think you hear stories about agencies who they’re essentially outsourcing the trading to the DSPs managed service because they just don’t have enough traders themselves.
We recognized early on, because when we hired, I’ve got a team of three, and when we hired, we hired one guy as our programmatic expert. But obviously, we knew that we couldn’t just have everything reliant on him.
So, everyone in my team, including myself got skilled up in how to trade programmatically and obviously would never be as good as him, but to do the basics. I had to set up a programmatic out-of-home campaign a few months ago.
So, I mean, yeah, to be able to do some of that stuff’s really important. And I think particularly in a small team, you’re not going to have subject matter experts in silos. You’re always going to have the programmatic guy also does social and his learning search.
And then another one of the guys on my team, he came from a shopper marketing background, and he had to upskill across everything, but he now can set up programmatic social, he’s getting pretty good on search now as well as retail.
And then I think eventually, it’s a classic business problem as we grow, how does that org structure look like? And then, do we start to look at more kind of heads of and more siloed skill sets? Like an agency would be.
But it’s one of the benefits again, of being in-house and at an agency, we are recruiting for a role at the moment, and I was interviewing someone the other day who works at an agency, in a social role, and he said, “Look, I’d love to do programmatic, and I’d love to do video. But I’m in social and if I want to do that, I’ve got to switch teams.”
And I said, well, “Mate, if you come to me, you’ll do everything and then you’ll walk away.” And that’s the other thing. I think I’m pretty philosophical on the fact that I might get two years out of everyone or higher.
And my thing is, leave them better than what I found them. And if they give me a good two years and then they go into their next job and up their salary 25, 30%, that’s a win. That’s fantastic. And it’s good for them. It’s been great for me for the two years.
But particularly with traders, I just know that if I’m getting more than two years, that’s amazing. So, I’m like, get someone in. What are they strong on? Fantastic. Lean in into that for the first couple of months in the background, let’s get you skilled up in those other areas so that eventually the time will come when you’re looking for something different.
And they’re unicorns. People who can do programmatic social search, there’s good money for people who’ve got that skillset. So, yeah.
Yeah. It is one of the issues, isn’t it, that as the industries become more siloed and more specialists, that people get trapped in those verticals, and yet there is a need for people that have skill sets across all of them.
It seems that the indies and the in-house media agencies the best place for that to happen, because I have heard that from a number of sources that the bigger the agency, the more difficult it is to jump across those teams.
Yeah. And I think, there’s pros and cons. Obviously, if you’re a subject matter expert, you get a deep, deep level of knowledge that you just can’t get being a generalist. But I think often, it’s that classic curve where the difference between being 80% proficient and 90% proficient, it does give you an extra 10%, but for 95% of your campaigns, you may not need that additional level of proficiency.
And I think the other benefit I see of being particularly in media trading is there are things that you do in Google Ads and philosophies and tactics that can often inspire ideas in what you’re doing in social or in programmatic. And that’s within a trading environment.
But one thing I’m trying to get my guys to think about is don’t think of yourselves as media traders, think of yourselves as marketers who trade, because I’ve met a lot of people in this industry who are just outstanding at programmatic and just incredible traders, but aren’t necessarily well-skilled in the broader principles of marketing effectiveness.
I always say to my guys, look, you need to read How Brands Grow, part one and part two. You should, if you can get the chance to do some of the Ritson courses, or at least follow him because he gives away half his material for free on marketing week.
And if you understand the broader marketing principles, I think it makes you a much more effective trader rather than just doing all that media trading in a silo. Yeah.
Also, to get any sort of leadership role, if that’s what you’re aspiring to, you do need an understanding of all of those disciplines.
Yes. Spot on.
So, that you’re able to one, attract and manage those really deep specialists and understand how it all comes together. Because I think that’s one of the interesting things is that the more fragmented it becomes, the more difficult it is to get that perspective because ultimately performance comes out of knowing which levers to pull when.
I think yeah, it’s a great point you make. I think it’s Jeff Green from the Trade Desk said that “Today’s programmatic traders will be tomorrow’s CMOs.” And it’s that proximity to what will arguably become the way that the media is bought in the future.
So yeah, I think, even just getting exposed to some of those areas can be really, really beneficial in your current day job. But yeah, certainly in the long-term.
So, one of the things we’ve done in the past 12 months with a client overseas is that they’d started building and had their media function in-house, but primarily, as you said, around SEO, SEM and mainly within the wall gardens.
But we helped them restructure their roster of agencies and appoint a media agency where half the staff are actually in-house with their team. And it’s a really interesting model because one, it gives you access to the agency staff, not just at the agency, but they actually turn up and work with you in-house.
But also, there’s a rotation as well, so that there’s this constant feed of people coming through with various perspectives in that which work really well with the in-house team. What do you think of that model?
Yeah, it’s interesting. And so, in that example, the media team are still employed by the agency. And they work in the building of the clients, or how does that part of it work?
Yeah, they work in … well, and sometimes because the client’s still working partly remotely, but they work with, and they have positions with the in-house team. So, the client basically has added an extra X number of staff to their in-house team.
Yeah, I think it’s a really interesting structure and I think, correct me if I’m wrong, I mean the plastics one model at Telstra feels a bit like what you are describing with the set roster of agencies, and I forget who it is now, who’s the media component for Telstra?
OMD. That’s right. Yeah. So, they’re not in the building as I understand, but they’re on weekly calls, but it’s essentially a team, and OMD is the Telstra media team from what I understand. So yeah, what you are describing is, I suppose a next step up from that.
I guess, yeah, I mean, you definitely get the benefits of redundancy. So, if people leave, you’re not suddenly scrambling to hire and it’s the agency’s job to do that, not clients, that’s a benefit.
I guess, the main thing I can’t ask about that is the cultural aspect. You’re employed by the agency, but you’re pretty much working for the client, at what point does that become a bit confusing for the individual person? I mean, I don’t know.
Look, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing or a good thing, it’s probably just more of an observation on culture, how do you maintain that and grow that if it feels like you’re straddling two worlds and not either one.
I think that’s the benefit of total in-housing where we are … I mean, I don’t even like the term in-house agency even being totally honest. I see ourselves as a business unit. We work with brands, not for brands.
And I think we have a bit of a subculture within treasury. I think there’s definitely a bit of that, but we are still very much part of the treasury culture and the treasury DNA and the treasury ways of working and what am I trying to say? All that stuff is our DNA as well.
So yeah, I don’t know, to me, what you’re describing the cultural part of, it’s probably the trickiest part to figure out. But again, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. It’s probably just one thing to-
It was best described by one of the clients. They said it’s like an extended workbench where you go to a labor company and you hire the people from the labor company, they still work for the labor company.
In this case, they’re working for the agency. And it’s interesting because the agency team is still doing all the things that, in your case, your agency’s doing outside of that sort of the digital component, the more sort of traditional negotiated rates area. So, there’s quite a strong connection there.
But anyway, look, I raised it because it seemed to solve one of the problems, which is they struggle to attract new talent into the in-house media function that they already have. And one of these solutions was by having a rotation of agency staff through there, and rotated every six months-
I was going to ask you, what’s the rotations? That six months, right okay. Yeah, interesting. And that’s on just media, the six-month rotation? Or was that across?
Yeah, okay. Interesting. I don’t mind it. It’s a different way of doing it, I think, if they felt that — and maybe one of our, as I’m sort of thinking what I’m trying to answer, one of the benefits of Treasury is that we’re a house of brands.
So, we almost are kind of like an agency in that sense. And one day we’ll be on Penfolds, and I mean, it’s still within the wine category, but the brands are quite different. Well, obviously Penfolds is really our luxury icon.
And then you’ve got something like a Wolf Blass, which is much more of a commercial kind of workhorse. And then you’ve got the recruitment brands Squealing Pig and 19 Crimes, and then you’ve got those kind of mid-tier kind of, not quite luxury, but like the Pepperjacks. So, maybe that’s one of the benefits we have.
You’ve got portfolios, you’re managing portfolios of wine lines or brands. Yeah.
Yeah. So, maybe for a single brand, the model you are describing might feel more attractive. I don’t know, but it’s an interesting different way of going about it, yeah.
Look Ben, time’s got away from us, so I really want to thank you for making the time and having the chat.
Pleasure. Absolutely. It’s been fun.
And look, a question before you go, because you’ve said that your side hustle’s got to be the drinking. What’s your favorite drop?