Today, we at Dedicated.ai have a special announcement: we have launched our own podcast!
Winning relationships today is a team effort. It begs the question, especially in an increasingly fragmented world for employees given COVID, remote-centricity, and more: how do some of the best sales teams out there thoughtfully foster a culture of collaboration internally, before turning their development efforts externally?
On our new podcast, Growth Culture, the world's foremost Chief Revenue and Chief Growth Officers offer their perspectives on how to foster world-class growth and team dynamics, both for their teams and for themselves, in conversation with Adam Conner.
To submit your CRO or Chief Growth Officer for consideration for the podcast, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our debut episode features Jay's views on changing consumer behavior, the ways he stays a student of his craft, and how he turns inward to build the best team around him possible.
If you'd prefer to read rather than listen, we've got you covered. Read on, and stay tuned for more!
Adam Conner (00:10):
Today on Growth Culture, how does the man charged with growing the third largest agency holding company in the world continue to grow himself? I'm your host, Adam Conner and that's the question of the day for my guest, Jay Askinasi. He's the Chief Growth Officer of Publicis Groupe. And today we learn about his views on changing consumer behavior, the ways he stays a student of his craft, and how he turns inward to build the best team around him possible. From the newspaper to the national, Jay is now on the biggest stage of all, and we hope you enjoy his perspectives on how to spur world class growth. This is Jay Askinasi.
Adam Conner (00:55):
Hey Jay, thanks for talking to me. How are you?
Jay Askinasi (00:58):
I'm great, Adam. Thanks for having me. Coming off a nice holiday weekend with the family.
Adam Conner (01:03):
That's nice. I am glad to chat with you first because you and I are at different places, obviously, but we started in the same kind of craft, which was business for a school newspaper. And I love that because everybody that I knew that I was in that grind with of basically selling eighth page ads to pizza shops has learned how to do it either with million dollar software or other things, so it's a good cloth to be cut from. Glad to be chatting with somebody like it.
Jay Askinasi (01:33):
Absolutely a proud alumni of the Diamondback newspaper, University of Maryland College Park. I believe at the time circulation of 14,000 a day. We very proud of that.
Adam Conner (01:45):
And that's something that I'm guessing a stat that was just like in your head all the time, it's why you can recite it now.
Jay Askinasi (01:51):
Adam Conner (01:52):
But today, I mean, hey, you're looking at a business and your career has been parts of businesses with reach of much, much more than 14,000. I want to first get a basis of knowledge here to learn about your journey to today, your journey to this point at Publicis specifically, but it involves, as I understand it, prioritizing growth sales and product altogether, which seems like a ton, but can you help aluminate the path for me here?
Jay Askinasi (02:20):
Yeah, of course. So I would say that what we spend most of our time thinking about and working on across, not just my team at the group but the leadership team at Epsilon and Publicis Media and the other entities within Publicis Groupe is how are we going to continue to evolve our business from primarily agency services into more of a product and technology driven organization. And that's a long-term evolution, excuse me, and one that is easy to say and very hard to do.
Jay Askinasi (03:01):
Fortunately, we have a CEO who is fully committed to that and the acquisition of Epsilon a couple of years ago was really the rubber stamp that made us go from just talking about it to actually putting our money where our mouth is and attempting to not just bring our business but our clients into this digital first world and thinking about how do we grow adoption of Epsilon, not just Epsilon [inaudible 00:03:35], the other assets, product and technology across Publicis Groupe clients is what we wake up thinking about every single day and balancing first and foremost, client performance and outcomes and satisfaction with group growth and value for our shareholder base.
Jay Askinasi (03:55):
So that's really the the sort of north star for myself and my team. And we're not assigned to any one client, but rather thinking about what's best for the whole. And fortunately for us, we have a roster of the biggest and best marketers in the world to do that with as a trusted partner to them. And we're excited to get going. So, yeah, it's a lot, but it's something that every day I wake up excited and enthusiastic about what we're working on and how we're going to transform, not just the business, but the industry that we're in.
Adam Conner (04:33):
And being responsible for such a wide swath of disciplines and having all those great marketers at your disposal means that very broadly, you got to build great teams, but also you got to make sure that they collaborate that being the focus of this show, I'll get to that in just a little bit. But just as you pursue your north star, so too do the many clients that you serve aim to look at theirs and your job is to know where they want to go. Where's that right now?
Jay Askinasi (05:00):
Good question. I think it certainly depends on the industry and the relative sophistication and maturity of marketers, data, and technology stacks, whether it's themselves or their partnership, or third parties that they're associated with. Generally speaking, I think some of the biggest things that all brands are thinking about and helping move into the future or thinking about as they move into the future is how are they not just compliant but super consumer focused, certainly all the regulation, all the changes in our industry way beyond our industry, right? I mean, think about Apple's latest commercial, where they are promoting their do not track, where the guy clicks on the do not track button and all the people disappear around him that were tracking him. That's a major mass media way to appeal to the general consumer about what's happening on these devices and on the internet in terms of tracking and measurement and retargeting and all the rest of it.
Jay Askinasi (06:17):
So every brand is thinking about that and how do they live in a world that's very different than it was for the last 15 years with targeting and measurement and attribution and the way that their media mix and marketing objectives were achieved. I'd say that's the biggest thing on everyone's radar. Equally, or maybe more so obviously would be investing in having a strategy around a diverse and inclusive media and media owned by diverse and inclusive companies and individuals. And that is certainly at the forefront of every single client conversation and new business pitch that we're a part of right now.
Jay Askinasi (06:58):
So those are the two biggest areas of time and strategy and evolution that we're going through with our marketers. And more generally, I'd say it's the digitization of business, right? And we all know that, whether it's e-commerce or what's happened with the platforms and Walled Gardens, and that's been going on for quite some time but it accelerated with COVID. And I think in certain cases, you'll see a little bit of retraction, but in other cases you won't because of the efficiencies that people have realized. So those three things can all be part of the same overarching strategy, but there are the things that we spend the most time thinking about, strategizing against, and talking to our clients.
Adam Conner (07:43):
And you got to be in there all day long. I know that you prioritize being a student of the craft as a basis for growing anything, whether it be a team or a business, and over the last year or year-and-a-half, a lot of things have been changed, not only in the way that we are, let's say tracked to give credence to that Apple commercial, but also in the way that we are behaving and consuming things that would be produced perhaps to be tracked on. Let's talk about that for a second because I know that this is something you're passionate about. Consumer behavior is changing a lot especially around video, whether it be somebody who is going to stream or all the way down to a kid streaming games on Twitch. How does that affect you all at the end of the day, because it's your responsibility to make sure that you have your best foot forward in terms of media and where it's consumed and how it's made, so where does this fall into your path?
Jay Askinasi (08:37):
Thank you for asking that. It's definitely one of the things I'm most passionate about is sort of the intersection of consumer behavior with media consumption and what's changed and how it's continuing to change, not just because we all spend a lot more time on our mobile devices or more people are cutting the cord, but what the downstream impact is on the media and marketing industry of which we're a part. So the only way to really, to your point, stay on top of that beyond living and breathing your day job and talking and networking is to be a student of the industry and understand what's happening and whether that's from reading industry trades or listening to podcasts or reading even The Times or The Journal, which spent a lot of their inches or digital inches on these subjects as well and every marketing dollar, I think the famous quote is I know 50% of my marketing works, I just don't know which 50% it is, now that's starting to change because of the digital environment ecosystem where you can target and measure more.
Jay Askinasi (09:52):
And where 80 plus percent of a marketer's dollar maybe five years ago was in linear television, now that number is shrinking quick. It's still the lion's share for a lot of the largest brands out there, but that number is getting closer to 50% or under, in certain cases. Certainly brands that have been birthed in more of a digital ecosystem versus a legacy CPG or retail company, that evolution has been even quicker and their way that they measure the effectiveness of their marketing is very different, right? There's a lot of, you'll hear media mixed modeling or econometric modeling, all of these sort of legacy brand marketing, KPI, trackers, and measurement capabilities.
Jay Askinasi (10:41):
They're not as needed when you're in a world where you can click to order or buy or measure or see when I drop a dollar into a platform what the ROI is back almost instantaneously. So the consumption of mass media changing so quickly means marketers need to evolve where their messages are seen, who they're being seen by, so theoretically you shouldn't have to "waste" 50% of your dollars and then measure and measure on real sales as opposed to a brand metric or some type of calculation off of what they think the halo effect of advertising messages.
Jay Askinasi (11:22):
And while there certainly sort of still big mass media that matters and think about those big tent poles and sponsorships and NFL sponsorships and the Oscars, those can't miss moments that maybe we'll never be measured down to the penny, the vast majority of media weight or as we joke media by the pound can be tracked in a very different way than it ever was before.
Jay Askinasi (11:46):
And the consumption is what's driving that and the technology keeping pace. So there's a lot there and hopefully that didn't go down a rabbit hole too quickly, but you can school yourself up on it by reading and absorbing and having good conversations and asking questions of your clients and your partners and your vendors and that's what we do every day. And we can only be as smart and effective as curious we are and that's something that we pride ourselves in, at least on my team and in our industry, excuse me, in our organization to make sure that we're ready when clients ask us the hard questions and we're helping push them into this next frontier.
Adam Conner (12:31):
Well, as the curiosity rises, so too does that rabbit hole deepen, but that's why you're great at what you do. And it's also increasingly important for leaders to do that so that they can pass on these lessons, these teachings, these findings, these tips, and tricks, and skills to ensure that those that come after them are ideally better than they are at this so that they can continue the growth path. To that point, I know you said you like to read a lot, you like to listen to a lot of podcasts, which is great, what are some of your favorite resources to get these tricks of the trade? And I know that you like this particular book, Trillion Dollar Coach, is there like a lesson within there that has helped you in the way that you pass on some of this knowledge to people?
Jay Askinasi (13:14):
Yeah, I think about this a lot and when we onboard new talent and I usually have a one-on-one with most everyone in our organization, one of the things I say to them is to make sure they're a student of the industry and that's one of the requirements of being on my teams at least, and only because it invests, not just in themselves, but also in the product that we deliver for our clients and partners. And we want to be best in class in everything we do and the way to do that is to have a broad understanding and basis of what's happening around you, whether that's competitive or complimentary.
Jay Askinasi (13:54):
So some of the things I like reading and listening to each and every day, whether it's really specific to our industry like Ad Age or Adweek, AdExchanger for the more of the technology crowd, more broad than that, things like The Times and The Journal, whether it's just the marketing or business and technology sections or the broader news, obviously, since it's all really applicable to our business, because our brands and the influence are everywhere like I mentioned earlier, in terms of like the consumption patterns.
Jay Askinasi (14:28):
I also am a big fan of the information paid subscriber, Scott Galloway's podcast, both Prof G as well as the one he does with Kara Swisher is great. And, yeah, I think those are probably the one, Business Insider, depending on the subject of the day, is another one. And I just try and browse as much as possible, click into the ones that are more interesting, save them for later, pass them onto my team. And that's where I think you get a really good understanding and knowledge base of what's going on.
Jay Askinasi (15:06):
Even more fun than that, I still listen to Bill Simmons and I'll pick and choose the ones I want to listen to, but I think understanding what's happening in pop culture and shows or movies or technologies that are really prevalent or so important for us to have an eye on and an ear to, with respect to where marketers should be going. He recently had Ben who runs Stratechery on and that was a full conversation about platforms and what's happened and video distribution, so super relevant to our industry even though you wouldn't think Bill Simmons is necessarily someone that you should be listening to if you're in the marketing business [crosstalk 00:15:49]-
Adam Conner (15:49):
Right, but hey if you can get away with it, great.
Jay Askinasi (15:51):
Yeah, exactly. So those are some of my favorite ones. In terms of the book, one thing that comes to mind, maybe not my favorite lesson but one that I just have been applying more recently is starting every meeting with more of a personal discussion instead of just getting into the business. I think that that is more relevant now than ever before with virtual settings and distributed workforces and making sure everyone knows that we're people first, we're here for each other, being a part of a team, in my opinion, is one of the most important things in terms of your happiness and your satisfaction at work and your willingness to work harder. And that's something that I want to make sure our team takes seriously. So having that balance of getting right into it, but also understanding what's happening with everyone as an individual and that's something that Bill Campbell hits at some point, probably in the middle of the book, and it's a great one. It's a fast read. I'd recommend it to anyone out there in leadership that hasn't read it yet.
Adam Conner (16:47):
And as part of curating these teams, that personal connection is obviously top of mind, but something that you said there makes me curious, especially from the leader's perspective, that idea of being there for each other, one for the other and vice versa. Of course, when you have a situation where a leader is managing large groups of people, it's typical to comprehend that those folks are working upwards, they are working for their leader, but it's equally as important as I know you prioritize to make sure that people understand or at least perceive that you are working for them and maybe not even necessarily the other way around. How do you truly get people to feel like that because that's a real art, in my opinion?
Jay Askinasi (17:32):
Yeah, I appreciate that, Adam. I think it's really important. I didn't read that in a book somewhere, but it's something that happened to me over time and thinking about the bosses that I enjoy working for and the ones where when my cell phone rings and I see their name, I want to pick up, because I'm eager to talk to them and happy to answer a question or get them something they need versus that feeling when you see your phone ring and you get the pit in your stomach because you're like, now what? I've had both. And when you see the name and you want to work for them, it's usually because you know that they have your best interest in mind and success of yourself and the team first and foremost and the clients that you're working for.
Jay Askinasi (18:19):
So one of the things that I do is I just try and make myself available mostly whenever my team needs me. I don't go a day with an unanswered text or an email. I could say that confidently, specifically with anyone on my team, but more broadly than that I try and do it as well. And I think communication and being supportive and helping people work through problems is one of the most important things you can do as a leader. And I like to think we foster a great environment. Again, it's really hard right now when you're not able to grab a coffee or grab a beer or lunch with someone to get to know them a little bit better because everyone needs that outlet or that opportunity to vent or brainstorm and it's really hard to do virtually so we're eager to get some balance back to bring that in.
Jay Askinasi (19:12):
But because we haven't had that outlet, having the calls, the texts, the, whether it's late or early, hopefully fills that void. And I think it's critically important to have trust in an amongst the team, whether it's up and down or horizontally and it's something I think about every single day and want to make sure that they know I'm not just asking them to do anything that I wouldn't do myself and there's a reason I'm asking for them to do it or for us to collaborate on it. And that is maybe the most important thing that I think about with respect to leading a team in an organization.
Adam Conner (19:53):
I can understand that vent for sure. Any well-oiled machine has its exhaust system. And you need that even in a business outside of the car. I'm curious though, and these will be my last two for the day here, because just as much as you want to instill that collaborative environment, where everybody can voice their feedback where necessary, and hey, yeah, vent if they need to, but you also need to be aware of the other side of that spectrum. So I'd be curious from you as a leader, what red flags do you perceive or have you noticed before that might tend to indicate that either a team or an environment is not as collaborative as it should be?
Jay Askinasi (20:31):
Yeah, that's so important. I'm glad you asked about it. You usually get some whiff of something, whether it's a passing comment or if you're physically in a room with folks and you see body language, if you hear team members voicing concerns, and instead of building constructively others, maybe, not, again, healthy debate for the purpose of moving forward, we should be doing that all day long versus contradiction and infighting. And the second that you sniff any of that out, you really need to try and squash it.
Jay Askinasi (21:16):
And I've been the person doing the infighting and I've witnessed it on my teams and I think we've done a really good job, especially for me the last maybe 5, 7, 8 years when I've been leading bigger teams than previous in getting rid of that stuff pretty quickly and trying to diffuse it and it doesn't mean someone's right or wrong for their points. It's just, let's hear both sides of the story. Let's figure out how we want to move forward. Nothing's perfect. You need to add perspective about what's happening at other companies or other parts of the industry that maybe you think your team or your organization isn't innovating fast enough or this competitor is doing X, Y, and Z, and we're not.
Jay Askinasi (21:59):
And once you see some of these things enough times, you know that most of the time, most of that noise isn't necessarily true. And you need to add perspective and be empathetic as a leader, but quickly get to a solution to move forward. And sometimes maybe it's not just a fair answer. Sometimes you have to make a hard decision and that's what you get paid for as a leader to help the team move forward. And if you make a mistake, you learn from that lesson and you correct that fast, but you have to really get to it quick and you have to make sure people understand that you're doing what's in the best interest of the business first and not any one individual. And as long as you can keep that eye on the ball, then I think people will respect your decision even if it isn't the one that they necessarily agree with.
Adam Conner (22:48):
I want to close here by asking for some advice for those batters out there trying to keep their eye on the ball here, but our audience is largely leaders and great collaborators in and of themselves and you've clearly demonstrated here your years of both nipping and nurturing when it comes to finding those things that aren't collaborative and getting rid of them, as well as making sure that you are curating environments, which are as synergistic and collaborative as possible. I be curious to know, as we close here, what would be some advice for somebody who's either aiming to emulate your path or frankly somebody who is feeling they're not on the right track and needs to be on yours.
Jay Askinasi (23:27):
So I think being curious and being a sponge as we talked about earlier and learning as much as possible about whatever it is that you're interested in doing or the craft that you're pursuing is the most important thing. Creating a really strong network of people that you can rely on for those hard decisions, whether it's changing a job or going for something new or approaching your boss with a hard conversation and having trusted people that you can bounce ideas off is really important and helps, we all get through this together, no one has it figured out. And I think having a good group around you that you trust, whether that's within your company or not, is really important. And spending time with the people after you leave jobs with those who are really close and meaningful to you is important.
Jay Askinasi (24:17):
And there's a handful of names that come to the top of my head immediately when I make that comment because I do maintain that myself. The other big piece, which is more, maybe practical in today's world than previous, I came up with more of a sales background and relying on relationships and providing solutions and proving value and repeat, in today's world you really need to be a practitioner and understand technology and product and how that works and the tie between product, management and strategy, and sales and go to market has never been closer, in my opinion and it's something that if you want to be a well-rounded leader or general manager of a business, you absolutely need to have some level of understanding of what it means to be within a product or an engineering organization making trade-offs, priorities, building business plans, so on and so forth.
Jay Askinasi (25:17):
And that makes yourself more valuable going forward and someone that a company is going to want to come after or your own company will want to keep. So, I would mix a little bit of the interpersonal networking and coaching and sort of security blanket, if you will, with studying and understanding the business you're in as well as making sure that you are learning outside of your defined lane. In this case, I use sales and product as that example, but it's something where if you don't understand the other person's shoes that they're in, in terms of like the push and pull that you go through every single day, you're never really going to get to that next level. And it's something I spend a lot of time with and there's always more to learn there. But I think more and more going forward, as things become more digital and software centric, it's going to be even more important for product and go to market to live harmoniously. So, those would be a few things that I would recommend.
Adam Conner (26:23):
Well, I feel like I've learned a little bit just from this conversation, but for helping us hear the harmony and for building a few of the bridges between these disciplines right here on the show, Jay, I can't thank you enough. I really appreciate your perspective. Thanks.
Jay Askinasi (26:35):
Of course, Adam. I really appreciate it and I hope to speak to you soon.
Adam Conner (26:40):
Thanks for tuning in today. To hear more conversations just like this one, head over to wherever you get your podcast and search Growth Culture. And while you're there, leave us a rating and review to let us know how you liked this one. To learn more about Dedicated.ai and our other events, visit us at our website by the same name or send us an email at email@example.com. We'd love to hear from you about what you'd love to hear from us. Until next time, I'm your host, Adam Conner signing off.