My Media Week: Piers North, Yahoo

Piers North, head of strategy at Yahoo, spends his week pondering the online giant's video strategy, presenting to media agencies and filming a spoof video for next month's global sales conference

Piers North, head of strategy, Yahoo
Piers North, head of strategy, Yahoo

Monday

My scheduled client meeting in Newcastle with our new managing director James Wildman is postponed, so I’m mercifully spared a crack-of-dawn start. James joined in January from television sales house IDS, and he is a valuable fresh pair of eyes from outside the digital world.

My newly freed-up morning is spent in internal meetings with the sales heads and planning team, including sales director Steve Brown; Matt White, who runs all GroupM business; and Alex Macnamara, who handles Havas and Starcom. Next, I jump into an internal EMEA legal summit to present a market overview on our Science, Art and Scale (SAS) positioning that rolled out last year. A weekly staff meeting with Steve Brown and the senior leadership team, including editorial director Andy Williams and head of trade marketing Jo Tomlin, leads into a working lunch for our bi-monthly update on our goals for 2011 - so far, things are looking good.

I finish the day with internal filming for a spoof video to be shown at Yahoo’s 2011 global sales conference next month. I’m not sure that acting silly in front of a thousand colleagues is the best career move. I grab some flowers on the way home in a weak attempt to mark Valentine’s Day. However, any romantic meal plans are overridden by choosing a new bathroom for our impending loft conversion.

Tuesday

Breakfast at Soho House. I recently took part in an internal workshop with all key areas of the business on an analysis of our business strategy and client feedback. We constantly use both external and our own surveys for market feedback. It’s great to see agencies and clients stressing the desire for more creativity from digital.

Back to the office for a quick sandwich and to mediate in a debate about our policy on accepting 40-second video ads. Our video strategy is based on shortcast video, and the length of our video ads is a constant debate. The industry needs to work on structuring a policy that balances ads against creative content in a way that works for clients, agencies and consumers.

I finalise a presentation for UM that afternoon, taking Jason Carter, Alan King and the senior digital team through our core propositions, including Consumer Connect. This is our partnership with Nectar loyalty cards that enables FMCG advertisers to target consumers online based on offline shopping behaviour.

I leave work promptly to get home in time to read the kids yet more stories from the Mr Men collection, then grab an hour to indulge my skiing obsession by watching the highlights of the World Championship downhill race from Garmisch.

Wednesday

Spend a morning session with the whole team of new agency 101 London, chewing the fat on digital. We have some great exchanges with founding partner Phil Rumbol, the ex-Cadbury marketing exec responsible for the ‘Gorilla’ campaign.

This year, we’re going after creative and marketing agencies to widen the discussion on digital and avoid it being pigeonholed at media-buying level. Yahoo sees its future as the premier digital media company investing in content, experiences and the advertising that comes with it, with data a big part of the story.

I spend an afternoon catching up on emails and preparing for a British Airways client presentation with the travel team. That evening, I head to Battersea for barter company Astus’ fundraising dinner for former Six Nations player Matt Hampson, helping people who have been seriously injured by playing sport.

Hampson’s story is humbling and puts life and work into perspective. Along with the rugby community, it’s great to see so many media agency tables supporting the cause. It’s a fun night, enlivened by plenty of rugby stories.

Thursday

As punishment for stumbling in late (or is that early?), I’m given the early shift when our youngest daughter decides to wake up at 5.30am. At 6am, I’m still debating the benefits of Rice Krispies versus Cheerios.

Head straight into a 9am meeting, updating Omnicom trading heads Steve Peacock and Harriet Perry on the constantly changing digital space. I take them through our 2011 plan and a refresh of our Science, Art and Scale positioning. Back at the office, I work with my PR Sophia on drafting commentary for a piece on the changing roles of online media companies.

It’s an afternoon of internal meetings, including a strategy meeting with Jon Myers, head of account management, on the implementation of the Search Alliance between Yahoo and Microsoft. End the day on a conference call with our Swiss HQ on market forecasts for 2011 and update them on our progress and strategy in the UK.

Friday

My planned breakfast meeting with Neil Cunningham and the online team at Vizeum is postponed, so no croissants today. I spend the freed-up time preparing material for a meeting with Yahoo’s EMEA video team next Monday. Video is a key plank of our 2011 plan, so the whole business is aligned around it.

I fit in a quick team brainstorm on an RFP before heading to Islington with Steve Brown to present to marketing communications agency Pulse Group, as part of our strategy to reach beyond our normal agency portfolio. It’s a good turnout from their team and again, it’s nice to reach outside our traditional media agencies to discuss digital. The conversation continues over lunch with managing director Mike Spicer at Frederick’s in Islington. I’m back to the office in time to clear an email backlog before heading home early to the kids as my wife has plans for Friday night.

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