Media: Double Standards - 'The next excitement is just around the corner'

Two agency sales chiefs and former colleagues reveal how they get the most out of their agencies and what advertisers in the near future will be able to do in the online sphere.

LUKE TOWNSEND - HEAD OF AGENCY SALES, AOL

- What are your professional ambitions for 2007?

To spend a greater proportion of my time with agencies. AOL was in a period of transition in 2006, selling our broadband customer base to Carphone Warehouse, so we're now bursting to present our new opportunities externally, in order to deliver even better results than in previous years.

- What exciting content do you have coming up for advertisers?

AOL "Show Me" is our new video content product for 2007. It's a comprehensive set of online self-help video guides, which have the answers to everything, be it how to tie a bow-tie, or how to paint and decorate your home. In my mind, this is what the internet is all about, giving people the right information exactly when they want it.

- What tactics do you use to get the most out of agencies?

Honesty and knowing your onions.

- How well do agencies understand your product and services?

AOL's core values are well established in the market, but with recent developments, we're having to re-educate people that we're now focused on being an audience business playing in the portal world, so some of our traditional values may change over time.

- How frustrating is it not to have a universal trading currency?

The real question is not should we have one, but how should it be structured. Anyone who is genuinely serious about seeing this medium grow should be frustrated.

- As established online brands, how hard is it to create a buzz when much of the media hype is about newer entrants?

Creating a buzz is all about delivering exciting and successful ad solutions that answer the client's brief. I don't measure the success of AOL on the number of headlines it gets. I measure its success on the amount of business we win. In this respect, we punch well above our weight and always have.

- You used to work together at AOL. Describe your relationship.

It was great back then, and it still is. It was a real pleasure working with Miles. It is just as fun going head to head. I should say, though, that I don't miss his "Bryan Adams air guitar" routines, and regardless of what he'll tell you, I'm much faster around a racetrack.

- Can you give us a few insights into some of the new and exciting things advertisers will be able to do online in the near future?

Growth in compelling advertiser-funded content opportunities, especially around video products. The line between standard and non-standard advertising will continue to blur as new technologies allow us to connect with consumers in a more engaging way. Behavioural targeting will become the norm on many media plans. Mobile is hugely exciting, but I don't think its full impact will be felt until 2008 or 2009.

- Outside of your own sites and services, what do you most enjoy online?

Gazumping eight-year-olds on eBay for second-hand Sega Master System games. How can something so wrong be so right? I'm also a big petrolhead, so Evo, Autocar and Autosport feature heavily on the favourites list.

MILES LEWIS - HEAD OF AGENCY SALES, YAHOO!

- What are your professional ambitions for 2007?

To do everything possible to stop another Bisto "Ahh Night" microsite appearing across the year. It was a fantastic example (now removed) of how online was an afterthought to a broadcast plan.

- What exciting content do you have coming up for advertisers?

Yahoo! has deep content that many advertisers already use, from Yahoo! Answers to Yahoo! Music. 2007 will see some developments across key areas of our content, as well as some major new launches.

- What tactics do you use to get the most out of agencies?

I admire those who do not have to revert to tactics or falseness to do a great job.

- How well do agencies understand your product and services?

Agencies are constantly recruiting, so it becomes a huge, never-ending challenge of mine, especially in this medium, to find the knowledge gaps ... then plug them.

- How frustrating is it not to have a universal trading currency?

There is so much debate about a common currency. Yahoo! is absolutely committed to enabling planners and marketers to fully understand the medium and to be able to trade it with confidence. Our aim is to see continued growth with online budgets.

- As established online brands, how hard is it to create a buzz when much of the media hype is about newer entrants?

In any medium, the excitement around launches and new entrants is understandable. The seismic difference with online is the sheer volume of launches. "The next excitement is just round the corner," the press love it and if billions of pounds are at stake, all the better. But when the hype dies down, what's left? Users and, more specifically, their eyeballs. This is where Yahoo! does what it does best - coming up with innovative and engaging solutions to advertisers' briefs. With Yahoo!'s 19 million pairs of eyes a month in the UK, that creates buzz for our advertisers.

- You used to work together at AOL. Describe your relationship.

I recall meeting Luke at his interview. We had conducted around a dozen at that point, and it was pretty clear he was going to give those shortlisted a run for their money. As one of the first two group heads ever at AOL, he offered me unwavering support, which I thank him for.

- Can you give us a few insights into some of the new and exciting things advertisers will be able to do online in the near future?

This year is already shaping up to be an outstanding one for Yahoo!. We'll launch Yahoo! Behavioural Targeting, with early tests in the UK already confirming the power of this product. Video, unleashed from the controlling television networks, coupled with the exponential growth of broadband in the UK, will mean online video will offer a powerful platform to reach consumers. Lastly, our focus on mobile will offer us access to far greater audiences and the ability to target consumers in their space and world.

- Outside of your own sites and services, what do you most enjoy online?

Task-driven: First Direct, Ocado and BBC sites. Entertainment-driven: Abby Lee's blog, TripAdvisor and, of course, my own blog, peppered with a load of car-related sites to fuel my passion for all things automotive (in the real world, I am quicker than Luke around Silverstone).

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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).