A day in the life of... Managing Director of an ad tech firm
I love our 'Day in the life..' series for its insight into what are (to me) sometimes opaque job roles.
What better position to shine a light on then, this week, than the Managing Director of an ad tech company.
I caught up with Chris Bennett, EMEA MD of Pixability, to find out what he does all day.
This isn't (of course) a sales pitch and Chris gives some particularly lucid insight into the world of digital (and what it takes to succeed).
Please describe your job! What does the EMEA MD of a platform such as Pixability do?
My job is to build upon the successful product, team, and reputation already achieved in the US, and establish a wider company footprint.
From day one, I’ve committed to building robust foundations in four areas:
- Develop a strong European reputation as the integral solution for successful cross-platform video advertising across the walled gardens of YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
- Hire a stellar crew of commercial sellers and account managers.
- Build operational practices in unison with my US peers.
- Finally – and most importantly – build commercial partnerships with media agencies and their brand clients.
Right now that means lots of meetings with a wide variety of media agencies, clients, journalists, job applicants, headhunters, and end-of-day management conference calls to HQ in Boston.
It’s a long – but very fulfilling – day.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
I lead Pixability’s EMEA presence and report into Art Zeidman, SVP and Chief Revenue Officer for the business.
We met last year and found lots of common ground in both experience (multi-media backgrounds and former Google employees) and ambition for the business.
He successfully helped build Unruly Media and understands the nuances of a European media operation versus a US operation.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
I wear multiple hats every day. While I have the support of more than 60 people in the US, we are a start-up in Europe.
That means I must be seller, spokesman, office manager, and recruiter.
All of these roles require strong relationship management skills.
In our industry, customers are inundated with fresh ideas and new business opportunities, so articulating the marketplace, our value within it, and our USP quickly – but with some degree of playful charm – is important in all discussions.
Success will come from strong strategic planning combined with speedy execution. An ability to think and run at the same time is supremely valuable.
Strong decision-making is a must. This can be as much about what we won’t do, as what we will do.
In small teams and early-stage businesses, it’s very easy to be distracted by inbound noise that only steers you off track.
Strong and effective leadership is about bringing talented individuals together to work hard towards a common goal.
No one individual will make Pixability a success – it requires a cohesive team effort.
Having the aptitude to be the conductor of these efforts is the most important skill I can deliver on.
Tell us about a typical working day…
I am usually in the office by 7.30am.
We are based in a fabulous WeWork building in Moorgate and I value the early quiet time to prepare and plan for the day ahead – not to mention the uninhibited access to the coffee machine before the 9.30am rush takes hold.
Customers always take priority – most days I will have meetings at the media agencies.
This week I was in London with Mindshare UK while last week my focus was in Paris, working with Gucci and ZenithOptimedia.
I receive numerous inbound enquiries every day from Europe to Africa and Asia.
I make a habit of connecting with Art and the US team on a daily basis as it’s important to share practices and discuss customer responses.
Our business is evolving fast, and listening to our customers is the best way to continuously enhance and develop our solution.
I also regularly tap former colleagues for a third-party perspective on the market.
Steve Hyde at 360xec is great independent counsel thanks to his extensive experience on the agency side, Steve Parker at Starcom MediaVest sets me on the straight road, and Derek Jones at Mediatel – despite being an Arsenal fan – always has pearls of wisdom to share.
Early evenings are normally spent interviewing new hires.
I place great importance in meeting lots of candidates – it takes time but it helps me build the best teams. Get the hiring wrong, miss out on cultural fit, and everything else is a wasted effort.
After that, it’s home to the family, though sometimes via the spinning studio. I am training for a triathlon and the eight cups of coffee every day does me no good at all.
Pixability has a culture code.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
The breadth and variety of responsibilities help me leap out of bed every day. No two days are the same and that is very motivating.
Equally the opportunity to build a successful business for Pixability was – and continues to be – a big draw. We have a great product, a great team, and a great opportunity.
Time zones can be the hardest part of my job. It can feel like my partners in the US are just gearing up for the day as I am winding down.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
My short-term focus is on measuring revenue, customer wins, and retention.
That will fast develop into greater scrutiny of profitability, to ensure that as we scale resources we don’t lose sight of our core ambition.
My goal is to develop a strong European reputation as the partnered solution for successful cross-platform video advertising across walled gardens.
My longer-term focus is to deliver strategic value back to the core business. For example, today our partner discussions take place in California.
I look forward to the day we can develop and sign off on a partnership with a European platform business.
As we develop the organisation, I see a very strong value proposition for the large TV players in all markets.
On a personal level, my ambition is to continue to enjoy every day. That involves building a super talented team who aren’t afraid to bring brave new ideas to the fore.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
- 1x coffee machine plus 2x pairs of Asics trainers keep me fast and sane.
- TheListInc – an online database tool that helps me to understand the key client and agency relationships in the UK.
- Slack – a brilliant shared messaging and posting board we use across all aspects of our company – serious and social.
How did you get started in the digital industry, and where might you go from here?
After a number of years in commercial roles at what we know as traditional media channels, Google UK hired me as one of a number of new industry leaders.
I was tasked with developing new customer relationships in the entertainment and media sector.
After Google, I spent some time with Publicis, followed by three early-stage mobile companies, two of which were sold off to European media players.
As for what’s next – hold up, I only just arrived and am intent on ensuring Pixability’s success. I’m particularly looking forward to visiting our future office in Shanghai.
Which brands do you think are doing digital well?
Under Armour is definitely creating some noise in the industry and rightly so. By connecting data across multiple platforms such as food diaries and activity logs, an unrivalled view of a consumer can be achieved.
Equally its approach is very social – the brand cares about what influencers are talking about as much as what it is trying to say across platforms.
Do you have any advice for people who want to work in the digital industry?
To get hired, walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk
Demonstrate an interest and proactive approach to digital media – just being on Facebook or subscribing to 50 YouTube channels won’t cut it. Write a blog, become a vlogger, and build a website with ad capability and analytics tools enabled.
Build your domain knowledge to be successful
Understanding the moving parts of digital media and the technical language is not always a prerequisite for a role but it certainly helps you stand out from the crowd.
Be credibly ambitious
Hiring takes time and can be expensive so I always look to hire for the second role someone might hold in my company, not the first.
Candidates who have a strong awareness of their capabilities and a roadmap of ambition to grow and succeed in the business always catch my attention.
Prove numerical capability
The ability to interpret data and articulate insight and opportunity from data is crucial.
While we operate in a creative industry, it’s no longer acceptable to ‘not be good with numbers’. If you think it’s a weak spot in your armoury, be proactive and learn.