What does it take to put on a global media conference? How do you keep on top of global trends and decide what to prioritize and put on the agenda each year?
Jeremy King, CEO of The Festival of Media shares the months of planning that go into each of their Festival events. If there's one person that sees the macro changes in the industry so closely each year it is Jeremy.
Learn why Jeremy has been such a passionate advocate for inclusion and diversity in the industry and the role that the Festival has played in raising that agenda onto conference stages around the world and inspiring the whole media industry to make change.
Festival of Media website
Festival of Media twitter
Jeremy King twitter
Hello everyone. I'm Tom Denford, Co-founder of ID Comms. Welcome to episode 29 of MediaSnack Meets recorded each week in New York. We get to meet the individuals and organizations doing great work to inspire success and drive change within the global media and marketing industry. In each episode we find out what is behind that success, what it takes to make change in the industry, and what the rest of us can learn from that experience. My guest for this episode is Jeremy King, the Chief Executive of the Festival of Media, one of the go to events for professionals in the global media business taking place each year and bringing together 500 or so advertisers, agencies, publishers and vendors for a three day conference in probably what is one of the most beautiful conference settings in the world overlooking Rome. If you've ever been to the festival, you'll know it's changed a lot over the years. Maybe it lost its way a few years back and attendance, especially amongst advertisers was down, but under Jeremy's more recent leadership, it seems to have found its feet again and advertisers have come back and in some force this year's festival we'll see media executives attending from lots of major advertisers, companies like P&G, Mars, Unilever, McDonald's, Nestlé, Duracell and many, many others with all the change and turmoil in the industry. I think it's telling that the festival describes itself as a beacon of hope, something we probably need. I think it's increasingly important to have a platform to acknowledge and tackle the biggest challenges for the industry, to have an opportunity to come together as an industry and share ideas and learn from each other. Those of you that know Jeremy will know that he has an un-suppressible optimism. Very important. I think if you are in the event business and he has an infectious energy and passion for media making him the perfect ring-leader for the festival stage. In this episode, we discuss Jeremy's plans for the festival this year. What you can learn from judging awards of the world's best media work, why Jeremy has been such a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion over the years, and how exactly does he stay on top of the industry news and trends. You can check the full show notes for this episode at www.mediasnackpodcast.com but without further delay, please enjoy this MediaSnack Meets with the energetic CEO of the Festival of Media, Jeremy King. Jeremy, hi welcome to MediaSnack Meets.Jeremy King:
Hi Tom, thank you very much for having me. It's very unusual to be the interviewee as opposed to the interviewer, so I am with trepidation and excitement all at the same time.Tom Denford:
Excellent. Well I've taken tips from you having watched you interview the, the greatest and the best across the industry for the last 10 years. So I'm delighted that we're able to do this. Let's just start off by talking about the Festival. Just just explain for those that aren't familiar with it, what exactly is the Festival of Media?Jeremy King:
Yeah, absolutely. So Festival Media is about bringing together that media ecosystem and offering a platform for discovery and opportunity and opportunity to develop and foster new relationships and access to an engaged community to understand and learn about what is happening globally, insights, trends, and talking to one another and working out what initiatives, what techniques they can use to keep abreast of that ever evolving consumer to understand what marketing works, what marketing doesn't and and where it works effectively.Tom Denford:
Who would attend the Festival of Media? Who is it actually designed for?Jeremy King:
Well, it's really interesting. Over the last two and a half years, we've really kind of shaped the festival and our strapline is kind of curated by advertisers for advertisers. So we spend a year talking to advertisers around the world, trying to understand what their key media learning issues are and we then go away, look at that research and develop a program that will allow them to come to the event to learn and see new things that they wouldn't necessarily see in their day to day jobs, but which will effectively help them. Our audience is 50% made up of advertisers and then there's a nice kind of equal split between media owners, media agencies and tech companies making up the other 50%.Tom Denford:
We're approaching now the Festival of Media global, right? You do the festival in a number of places around the world. The global one is the big one in May in Rome.Jeremy King:
Yes it's really exciting actually because last year actually was the culmination, we've been going 12 years and last year was the culmination of something we've been putting together for a couple of years and there's three things really. One was to ensure that the events became truly about media and was truly for the brands. So it was this learning forum for them. The second one was to make it much more inclusive, so not just our program, but also the whole delegate experience. So making sure our judges represented society and not just society from the UK society, from around the world. So we had judges from all corners of the world. We had LGBT judges, we covered off ethnic minorities, females, and actually just wanted to make the whole thing much more inclusive. Equally one of the things that came out of that was this whole piece around purposeful media. So not just purposeful media as in we're creating a product that is going to help society, is going to help culture, but purposeful in actually its purpose for understanding what consumers want and how they consume media and marketing. The third one was to create this experiential event. So something that was a little bit different that became much more immersive than a bunch of senior media people sitting in a room looking at a screen, sitting on the same wooden chairs, like sitting in any venue in the world, but actually developing a concept that made them feel as if they were part of the fabric of the entire event. So we developed a catwalk stage for one of our stages. We then developed three zones. So, for instance, the content zone, which had seven or eight sessions around content in media and how you work that to how you distribute it. And it was like you walked into a storybook and you suddenly felt like you were part of this whole content beating hearts. So, to make it much more experiential. So they were our three key aims. On the back of that, we're developing that further for 2019 and it's really interesting. So we've got some really key chats coming up on everything from transparency to in-housing versus outsourcing, to trust, to media sustainability, to a conversation where we're hopefully going to be doing with you Tom which is all around how to be an effective Global Media Director.Tom Denford:
Yeah. I'm looking forward to that. I think that role is just changing so quickly and it's difficult to be the most senior executive in the organization, right? Responsible for these billions of dollars. So I'm delighted to be supporting that. We'll definitely be on stage with a few advertisers, global media directors of major advertisers discussing those things. Jeremy, one of the things I wanted to pick up, because you've mentioned a couple of things which I want to dig into. I think in so many conferences, rightly so, they've taken on a more inclusive agenda, you know, aware of promoting diversity and that's a great thing for the industry to acknowledge. But I think you should take some credit as well for that because I know it's been something that you've been hugely passionate about, but you were championing that very early on with the festival. That's been something that I think I know you've been very passionate about. Where are you taking that?Jeremy King:
We really want to try and make a difference and ensure that, you know, what we're putting on stage is a true representation of not just society but of the industry itself. And I think last year we opened the festival with a blind speaker. And I think if I'm not mistaken, we're probably the first media conference that put disability at the top of its agenda.Tom Denford:
That was Caroline Casey? She was fantastic.Jeremy King:
Yes and it's such a lovely story because she had said her whole reason, and part of coming to festival was to connect with the media industry because she wanted to put disability at the top of the agenda at Davos and get it at the top of agenda for workplaces and she thought that the media marketing industry would be the ideal place to start that. So she came and did her session, which was fantastic and engaging and I don't think the audience particularly knew what to expect at first. And she did that. And Lo and behold, this year in February, she actually spoke in Switzerland at Davos and launched a disability in the workplace campaign, which is absolutely phenomenal. And she credits, which is very lovely of her, the Festival with being a route into meeting Paul Polman (Unilever CEO) and Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook COO) who have both kind of supported her case, which is great. Where do we want to go next with that? Well, I want to continue to have an agenda that has a good healthy balance of inclusivity on it. So as long as we are doing that and as long as we are bringing in different subjects to the fore that we're not doing, that no one else is doing, then that really excites me. So this year to move that disability piece onto the next level, we have a wonderful lady called Stacy Stockwell who is actually an actress, but alongside that is also a deaf teacher. So she has discovered that in media itself as an industry, the biggest disability is actually hearing. So during the Festival she's going to be doing a live test to just to see how many people have hearing difficulties within the media industry that are at Festival of Media Global and it's a really interesting space to be actually, because we have these inclusivity talks on the main stage. In fact, only three years ago when we first said, right, let's make sure we bring inclusivity high up on the agenda. We did a conversation and as soon as we had mentioned the word 'diversity', I think we used then, literally three quarters of the audience got up and walked out. So the following year I was determined to ensure that those conversations got a lot more respect than they did in that first year. So the next year I got everyone into the room. We had our inclusivity chat, I think it was number three on the agenda and before it started, I said to everyone in the audience, "If I see any white, middle aged men leaving the audience, once we start this discussion, I will be posting their names around the rest of the venue for the next two days". Needless to say no one dared move for the entire 35 minutes session which was wonderful. Actually what was so pleasing on the back of it was a whole bunch of agency CEOs and a whole bunch of Ad Tech CEOs who are men, actually say to me, they got a lot out of the session and they were looking at things in a new perspective.Tom Denford:
Congratulations on that because I know it's something that you've doggedly supported importantly, and as you say, I think hopefully it is leading the industry in the right direction now. The other thing that I wanted to pick up, that you'd mentioned was you talked about the judging. So whilst you have the festival and you have the stage and you have the opportunity to kind of learn and listen and share, the judging is this kind of secret little bit that happens before the festival, which leads to recognizing good work and what I'm interested in is that as CEO of the Festival of Media, you get to see the best of the industry, right? Every time you go through that judging process. Given that very privileged perspective that you have, this access that you have, what do you think has been the change in the industry that you've observed?Jeremy King:
Yeah, it's been seismic in terms of the change and the transformation of the industry. It's been absolutely huge. I remember back in the days as editor of Media Week and we'd do the Media Week Award judging for example, and you would do that and you'd see campaigns that were, I suppose in those days when I first started with just like either on TV or in or out of home and it was posters, it was real TV ads. Digital was not a huge player. And then gradually digital has become that that huge driver and I suppose it has converged with the more traditional types of advertising that we see in the more traditional types of media distribution places. One trend that are certainly become more prevalent over the last two or three years, particularly in the awards is that I think in fact it was 2018 and not across the media awards, across CAN, across the FEs is a real push for sustainability and to do good in society in general. So there was a lot of amazing campaigns that kind of rose to the fore. There was one particularly, an export beer in New Zealand. Basically New Zealand's beaches were being decimated because builders, we're taking the sand and the natural sand from the beaches and using them to build and develop houses, flats, office buildings. To the point that export came up with this genius idea of creating a machine where you would put your empty beer bottle into it, press a button, it would crush the glass and turn it into sand. And on the back of it they've been able to preserve New Zealand's natural sand and beach habitat, which is absolutely phenomenal. So that's been the last two or three years. But I think the big difference has been digital and how digital digital has completely changed it and obviously now you see the likes of Facebook, the likes of Snapchat, Google start winning awards, you know, five years ago that was unheard of as they kind of take the forefronts in marketing and media, which is all very exciting and a lot more clients putting forward their own work and not necessarily relying on the agencies to do it for them now, which is also very exciting.Tom Denford:
That's good. I think a measure and maybe the attention advertisers are placing on media, you know, not just wanting to celebrate the creative work, but understanding the media strategy that goes behind. That kind of leads me to the next thing I wanted to talk about, which is you talk about the significant change that's happened in the industry and we talk a lot obviously about that change and the complexity but not least driven by the digital opportunities that now exist. When you were actually sat down with a blank piece of paper and planning a conference or an event, how on earth do you curate that because there's so many things you could talk about. I mean this is one of the things about the challenges of being a global media leader on the advertiser side, it is knowing what to focus on. What are the things I really need to know about? A lot of these people are looking to you to curate the industry somewhat right across a two day festival. What's the secret to making a good conference like that, when you've got so many things that you could talk about?Jeremy King:
I think the first one, which I always think and I've always felt is the most overlooked thing for any event planner or any event organizers, no matter what sector, is making your potential delegates feel like they are the heart of that event and that they've had a hand in curating it effectively. So we spoke earlier or I spoke earlier about how we make it our business to talk to brands around the world. To understand what are the key topics driving them or keeping them awake at night and how do we bring those to life and how do we solve them, if that makes sense. So that's where we first look and go, "right, what are their issues?" We then are everyday kind of speaking to various vendors, various tech companies who are launching a magnitude of solutions across the media space and it's kind of trying to distill those solutions and thinking, "right, how did they work with issues that the brands have" and thinking, "well actually we could curate 35 different topics here and who would we get to speak around them?" So we then kind of go back to the brands and say, "look, these are the 30 topics we think we could cover over the two days. Is this what you had in mind? Here's an idea of some of the speakers." Not only do we use the vendors in that sense, we then use the other brands. So it's a lot of peer to peer. So GSK can learn from Mars or P&G can learn from Nike and and vice versa. So they can see peer to peer understanding and you know like any good review when it's peer to peer, it just resonates so much more and people understand and people get it. So I think the heart of what we do is ensuring we're creating something that actually our audience wants. The temptation of any kind of creative person is automatically to think, I've got this amazing idea, I'm going to do this, this and this and they go ahead and do it and then worry about bringing the audience first. The one thing I wanted to do five years ago when arrived here was actually get rid of that and actually speak to your potential audience first and then build the event around them. That is the crucial piece and then it's about "well actually they've said all these topics and not only can we pull these people from the industry, but can we pull people from outside of our industry that would give them a different viewpoint on that said subjects?" So I look for that and we also look for speakers that you wouldn't necessarily find at other media conferences. So one of our Latam events two years ago, we opened with the gang leader of the most notorious gang in Latin America and he had actually come outside of prison after 13 years. But the relevance of this was while he was in prison, he realized that the gang and what it stood for and how it operated was completely wrong. He came out and he transformed the gang into a group to help unemployed children in Latin America getting to work. The reason it was so relevant is, how do you transform a brand? How do you transform something that is renowned for solving its problems with either a knife or a gun and actually say, "well, actually now we're a business that is helping people and helping them move around society and get jobs. It's a real trick.Tom Denford:
There's obviously a kind of secret to that, you have to be very disciplined on the areas that you want to focus on and maybe it's easier said than done, but listening to your audience. I think it's fair to say, I mean those that have attended the festival over the over the years, maybe lost its way a little bit and it just seemed to kind of lose its focus, but I think in the last few years you've guided that to be much more focused on being useful to the advertiser and so I think the industry recognizes how helpful that is. There hasn't been a really good global platform to discuss media at a time when in the last decade media has become more important on the corporate agenda. It's a more influential part of the marketing mix. It's had its massive challenges or things that we've talked about before and there needs to be a forum where people can come together and discuss those things and that's what you're providing.Jeremy King:
It's great to see people want to resonate. I had a really good conversation and I'm not going to name who they are, but with a a supplier or a partner for this year's festival who's never partnered with us before from a commercial perspective. So that's really exciting. They said to me, "what would you prefer Jeremy? Would you prefer you charged us another 30% to what you're charging us now and we deliver something that looks okay or would you rather charge us less and we put more money into making something look amazing at the festival and the latter was always the key for me. It's always about "actually yes we run a business," but it's also about developing an experience that you might not necessarily get at other events. I think that's the real key for us. I think having an audience that are there to learn and that wants be engaged with really drives things for us. You know, P&G, I'll bring in their global marketing team, Volkswagen I'm doing similar with all 20 of their brands coming to the festival. So its starting to resonate and it's really exciting.Tom Denford:
Across the industry, as I mentioned before, in the role that you play, you've got to be in touch with everything that's kind of going on, right? You've got to see the trends. You've got to kind of know the story and I know you're constantly out there talking to people, but what other resources would you recommend to find really good sources and resources of really good information in the industry? Where do you go to get that?Jeremy King:
It's really interesting actually, and I think this comes from a journalist background. One of the first things I learned when I was training to be a journalist and also my very first job in local newspapers. So in those days it was, "how do you take a national news story that may be in the Guardian, the Mirror or the Sun in the UK, and how do you spin that?" There's a local angle on it. So what do I mean by that? Not only should you be reading some of the business press, you know I love some of the stuff that the drama of doing is really exciting. Some of the things that my old colleagues that campaign, are doing are great, but then looking at things like national magazines, international magazines, and then going "right, that's happening in the business space. What does that mean for media?" This tends to fire my inspiration A: by following the right people on Twitter. When I say following the right people, I mean a real mix of people from musicians to sportsmen to actors, to people within our industry and people within other sectors. I get a real kind of overview of what they're doing. I tell my team every day to read, it could be from any magazine, whether it's The Economist or The Guardian or the Business Insider, read at least three articles in the morning on anything, just to give them a knowledge of what's happening in the world. A couple of Dave Trott books, who I find really interesting. I've been reading a number of his creative [pieces], he was a creative, but I'm reading some of his books around content, which is really interesting in getting inspiration that way. Then the final thing is I see a lot of startups, so a lot of MarTech companies that are trying to make their way in our industry and seeing some of the clever ideas they have. Some of them you realize, "my God that's never going to work." But some of them you just pick up bits of inspiration here, there and everywhere. I think it's having a natural curiosity and a need to know stuff, like always wanting to learn. That's the key term. That is the real key.Tom Denford:
So Jeremy, looking ahead, what do you hope for across the next 12 months both for your business, Festival of Media, but also what do you want marketers to be doing in a year aheadJeremy King:
With our business I want to get us to a space where, at the moment there are one or two events that are automatic picks for people to come to. I want the Festival of Media to become one of those automatic picks and not just from a commercial point of view. For me it's about that learning perspective. We have such great content that you don't necessarily find at all of the other events. People should be coming as a, "We need to come here and we need to learn. We need to speak to people who are in similar positions to ours." Another key thing which I'm really driving for this year is to connect us to some of the other events in certain ways. So you know, if a conversation happens to take place at AdWeek Latham for example, rather than them creating the same conversation over again at First of the Media Latham, why don't we take what that conversation was and take it to part two. So, you know, bringing together stuff that gives people a real opportunity to understand and learn. It really drives their kind of understanding of what's happening. The year ahead for marketers I think is very exciting as well. You're kind of at a crossroads where for marketeers, for them to try and get that information that's really going to guide them and navigate them through the choppy waters of what our agency is doing now, how the agencies work with clients, what parts does a marketeer keep in house? What parts does a marketeer take out? I just think it's a really exciting time and as you know, Tom, everything is changing at such a pace. It's sometimes impossible for for them to keep up with what is happening, but the whole aim should be then to set up and plot a course, but overall I think 2019 is just a really exciting time.Tom Denford:
Jeremy King, Chief Executive of the Festival of Media. Thank you.Jeremy King:
Thank you Tom. It's been a pleasure.Tom Denford:
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