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“Anyone who says that we can’t innovate at speed will be pointed to this period and called into question forevermore”

Welcome Tim Bond

Head of Insight

DMA

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Tim Bond is an experienced communications professional, with over 12 years of experience in marketing, PR, and data and is currently Head of Insight at the DMA. He discusses the importance of data, analytics, and insights, the industry’s key concerns for Covid-19, and what the new normal looks like in a post-pandemic world.

 

Transcript:

Nathan :

Tim Bond is the head of insight at the DMA. He is an experienced research and insight professional with a background in social science and over 12 years of experience in communications, data, marketing and technology, a proven track record of planning, executing, and delivering tactical insight and research projects. I’m very much looking forward to the conversation, Tim bond, welcome to ClientSide.

Tim Bond :

Thanks, Nathan. Pleasure to be here.

Nathan :

Absolutely fascinating having you on the show. You get your MA in sociology from Aberdeen University in 2007, you don’t see that many people in marketing with a social sciences background. What perspective does sociology bring to your marketing career?

Tim Bond :

I think you’ve hit on an interesting thing there in itself that I think social scientists are almost bred and certainly educated to be in marketing and understand people. So I think for me, it’s always given me the perspective of trying to understand the drivers behind people’s behaviours and the choices they make, which across all the roles I’ve had, has always helped me to then formulate strategy and things like that based on evidence that we can see, or at least base in some kind of process or facts where possible.

Nathan :

Well, we’ll come back to that a little bit later in the conversation, because it’s something that I’m really fascinated by as well, but you’ve worked with many notable agencies and brands over your career. Tell us a little bit about how you got started in the world of media and marketing.

Tim Bond :

Yeah, so to be honest, I had no real idea at university what I wanted to do halfway through my sociology degree and sat down with my dad, who’s actually a chartered accountant by trade and he has always worked with marcoms companies, so basically asked me some questions about, what I like doing and what I wanted to do with my life and basically said, “Marcoms is the way to go, Tim.” And thankfully he was right, to be honest. We sat down and looked at the top 50 PR agencies, ad agencies, marketing agencies, and he made a judgment on which ones he thought and was aware that that had good graduate schemes. Literally that’s where we started. We ended up from that edit of anywhere from, I think, 20 to 30 agencies that were all mid sized, and I started the process of harassing them all as much as possible during an economic downturn to give me a job, which eventually happened.

Nathan :

2008, 2009, that sort of time?

Tim Bond :

Fun times, yeah.

Nathan :

So what made him think that marcoms was the place to go for a young graduate? You look at finance, you look at roles with economics, roles with backgrounds in computer science, maybe. There are many other career journeys. What attracted him to the marcoms world?

Tim Bond :

Yeah, well, I guess for him in particular, he he’s a finance guy who’s I think just frankly ended up with it, but he also has always been quite interested, certainly for as long as I’ve been alive, in marketing and advertising at the broader level as well, and how businesses can influence people and gain customers. It’s almost a finance director who actually cares about marketing, which is rare in itself.

Nathan :

A rarity.

Tim Bond :

But for me, when we talked about, “Okay, what do I want to do?” I said that I like talking to people. I like building relationships and working together, but I also like the things that sociology has taught me and actually trying to understand people at scale as well and how you might influence them and what the drivers of those things are. So, with those two mixtures, it was immediately agency. Agency is a good place where you can meet clients and make those relationships as well as team relationships. But also then he was a big believer in if you’re going to go into that space, starting an agency is the place really to start if you can, because you just get to experience loads of different sectors. And it was a credit actually to my first job at Hotwire that they were quite open in where you sat within their structure.

Tim Bond :

So they were still technology focused, because I’ve always been a bit of a geek as well, but I started in their media and marketing team, but had some other clients in other spaces. So as a geek, I had some consumer tech clients as well, but I’m probably not a consumer, PR, or marketing person. I’ve always been a bit more B2B just with how I think of things. Although for the research side, I’m a bit more mixed, but the media and marketing team was just where I settled in and where I naturally had a lot of interest as well, because they deal a lot with all of the things that I say I brought from my sociology background, really interested me with actually how they put those into practice for businesses across clients like Experian Marketing Services group and the data that they’re able to use to help businesses understand their customers better, by the way, through to some of the processing companies and companies who build the infrastructure behind some of the great brands that we know.

Tim Bond :

So I’ve worked for companies who the lay person has never heard of, least of all now, because they’ve all been acquired by other people as well, but they underpinned the website infrastructure for some of the first brands that really launched online. And without these companies that nobody’s ever heard of, those online experiences wouldn’t really exist as they are today. Right the way through to more recently, some of the companies around online reviews and user generated content as well. So [inaudible 00:06:22] I’ve done some work more recently with the guys at FIFO as well. Really, I’ve always been interested in that how brands develop those experiences and the customers actually want as well. So even my B2B side has a bit of a consumer hat on.

Nathan :

We will come back to that a little bit later in the show as well. Let’s talk a little bit about your agency experience. You’ve held several positions with Hotwire PR, a really well regarded PR firm. Tell us a little bit about your time with the agency and what did you take away from that experience?

Tim Bond :

Yeah, so, like I said, I find in hindsight, I was really lucky to start where I did. I was able to develop very much at my own speed. There was no that you’re making tea for a year, none of that kind of feel, but they also gave me the opportunity to understand the different sectors that I might be interested in. So, although they’re technology focused, like I said, you’re able to really experience some different areas and find what’s the best fit for you, which I think, as I say, I was lucky that I started in the team that was the best fit. But I think the other thing is the leadership. I can’t say enough for the founders of Hotwire, Kristin and Anthony, both just really good people and lead by example, genuinely.

Tim Bond :

And I think when they moved on, the leadership that took over was still really good, but when they moved on, it was definitely a big shift for that agency. I still know some of the team there, the leadership team there now, and they’re still great. But I think as somebody who got to experience Kristen and Anthony at the height of their success and before the acquisition, they were just fantastic people who really cared about their people as well. And I think that’s something that I hold very dear to me, the way that they treated me, and then I hope I pass on to anyone who’s worked in any of my teams as well, but I think it’s that personal connection that builds teams that really are able to succeed.

Nathan :

Really interesting. Fast forward a few years and you’re now the head of info insight for the DMA. What does the head of insight for the DMA do?

Tim Bond :

Yeah, a lot, a lot every day. It’s really exciting. I love my role because no two days are the same, which is what I wanted when I came out of university in the first place, doing the same thing over and over is I don’t think anybody’s, or certainly a very niche person’s cup of tea. But I can do anything. So we do a lot of in house research that we conduct ourselves, me and my team, which is there to really help our industry understand the key trends that are affecting it. So, for example, at the moment over the last couple of months, we’ve launched a tracker for our industry and how it’s dealing with the coronavirus, looking at some of the key concerns, some of the key issues around furloughing and potential redundancies there that are having to be made, as well as impacts on business as usual and revenues.

Tim Bond :

But also more importantly for us understanding what we need to do as the DMA to lobby government and make sure that the right things are in place, so that helped us to understand that with the DM trust, a charity arm that we have a close historic relationship with, we came up with the DM trust home learning fund, which was a fund co-funded between us and the IDM, our training arm, to offer a whole bunch of training to people who had either have been made redundant or were furloughed as part of the current crisis to give them that opportunity to advance themselves, even in these hard times to hopefully then go on to find their new roles and progress their careers when some kind of normalcy returns, whatever that looks like.

Tim Bond :

So that’s just one bit. The other thing is doing things like this or events, speaking about the DMA and about the insight that we see. We also have projects that we do with other research companies. So one of our longstanding research partners is Foresight Factory, and we’ll often do co events with them where we’re talking about the trends of the future and what we see there. They’re very much a consumer facing research house, so we’re able to get a lot of insight from them, right the way through to helping our own marketing and communications teams, with content and with insight where possible. And even actually just later today, I have a catch up with one of the teams about setting up more surveys that can be used for our learning division, the IDM, that could potentially be used for bigger corporate clients to understand the current and future needs of their workforce at scale. So actually using insight to inform our own products and offerings as well. [crosstalk 00:11:50]

Nathan :

Yeah, just a little bit. So let’s talk a little bit about those trends and insights that you’re focusing on right now. You mentioned COVID-19 and how the industry is responding. There are a lot of people that have been, a lot of brands and agencies that have been significantly affected by COVID-19. It seems as though we’re slowly seeing a little bit of recovery. There are potentially green shoots out there right now. What are the things that are most topical or top of mind to the members of the DMA that you’re speaking to and what are the things that brands are really struggling with right now as it relates to COVID-19?

Tim Bond :

So I think the big thing is just being able to keep running and keep the doors open. I think that’s a big concern for a lot of certainly agencies and suppliers and keeping their staff in place. We are a people industry at the end of the day. So that’s a big concern for a lot. I think when we start to think about actually the marketing and the work that we do, and ultimately the customers, I think the big shifts we’ve seen are ensuring that the services and products that people have on offer are usable, frankly. Anyone who says that we can’t innovate at speed I think will be pointed to this period and called into question forevermore, because we’ve seen fundamentally some massive changes from brands.

Tim Bond :

Even to big FMCG companies who never had a direct to consumer offering, launching direct to consumer offerings in weeks, and albeit they may not be perfect and they may evolution as they go, but I think that belief that actually we can innovate at speed and we can make changes and [crosstalk 00:13:56] potentially a little bit more of that, be willing to change and potentially break stuff, as long as you’re able to change quick enough to then fix it again, obviously. I think that could be one of the big changes. I think the other will be just what the world looks like after this. There’s a lot of discussion at the moment about what the new normal is. And I’m sat at home right now as I have been for three months in front of my laptop working every day. But do I think that’s going to be the new normal? Frankly, no. And anyone who 100% commits to what they think the new normal is going to be, I think will probably be found out to be wrong more than they are right.

Nathan :

Really interesting.

Tim Bond :

I think that there’s a natural regression back to the behaviors that we think, and those kinds of behaviors shift over time. Yes, this is an unprecedented event. And I think there may be a couple of things that do change. I hope one of them is the openness to homeworking that we’ve seen over this time and the hopefully the belief that actually just because we’re working from home doesn’t mean we need to perform working from home. So, sending emails at 8:00 and 8:30, and then making sure that we’re sending another one at 6:00 so that everyone knows that we’re still working [inaudible 00:15:23]. I think human human understanding I think has changed, hopefully will stick around, but I think we’ll have to wait and see to be honest. Come back to me in a year. I’d far rather tell you what has changed than what I think will change.

Nathan :

Sure. Sure. I don’t expect you to have a crystal ball. None of us do.

Tim Bond :

Especially not right now.

Nathan :

Especially right now. You spoke recently about the consumer email tracker at one of the recent DMA events, looking at what consumers want. That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? What’s the answer to that question? What do consumers want?

Tim Bond :

Honestly, more relevant is the biggest thing. And that’s been a longstanding challenge for our industry, which actually the industry, when we do that equivalent survey to marketers as well, they agree that they’re not sending enough relevant email, which is a damning indictment in some ways. From the consumer perspective, I understand that it’s hard to define what that relevance is, but I think the fact that the marketers agree implies to me that there’s definitely wiggle room for marketers to improve.

Tim Bond :

So I think it’s making sure that when they’re sending an email, there’s a purpose to it, and that it’s not just really getting away from this batch and blast or sending for the sake of sending because there are also a myriad of other ways of engaging them that that might be more effective. So actually looking at, I think email is the central channel around which a multichannel strategy should and can be built. So whether that’s involving offline channels or face to face, I think the big thing for me is that integration piece, understanding customers, how they want to be contacted and what best is going to engage them. And then actually delivering that content, how, where, and when within reason people, people are able to as well.

Nathan :

Really interesting. Your recent research says that 37% of the British population listen to podcasts at least monthly. Brands are investing so much in podcasting right now. You look at platforms like Spotify, TuneIn and SoundCloud that are also investing significantly in podcasting. Do you think this podcasting thing is really going to take off?

Tim Bond :

I think it already has, to be honest. I think that 37% figure you mentioned is actually [inaudible 00:17:51] data as well, so it’s not just [inaudible 00:17:54]. We mentioned it in a future trend of ours, which is around podcasting. And I think podcasting to me is, I’m old enough to have grown up listening to Radio 4 throughout my university career, because I’m that kind of person, but it’s the evolution of that medium, in that it is about the personal connection. And I think the key things we see in our research around podcasting is the trust that people have in the people that they’re listening to. Now that also translates into trust in the advertising that they hear and the marketing that they hear within it as well. So that means an opportunity for brands.

Tim Bond :

So anyone that isn’t taking notice of this as an opportunity and as a channel, I think should do. That doesn’t mean that every brand and their son has to launch a podcast. You can support ones in interest groups that are natural to you. So, I’m a keen cyclist. So I hear from a lot of cycling brands who support the various podcasts that I listen to in that space. But I also hear from other brands in there, which I always find it, as somebody in the industry really interesting to hear, “Okay. Oh, that’s interesting. Why have they chosen to advertise through this medium, to a cycling audience?” And that’s where it almost comes back to that previous point I made about understanding your customers and where you might be able to excite and engage them. And actually going back to this idea of contextual as well, and a return to potentially a slight steer away from maybe some of the real time bidding and trying to get them at that perfect moment with that perfect message.

Tim Bond :

Yes, those things are still important and timing is important, but rather than getting down to the second, why not pull back a bit and actually look at the context of how you’re marketing and actually place your marketing in an audience where might find new people that you didn’t know would be interested in your brand. And I think podcasting is an area that is really interesting for that kind of space, because you can pick an audience really that are drilled down to a topic, be that cycling, because there’s a podcast for everything these days, as well as I’m finding now that I’ve recently switched to Spotify and other podcast services are available, but their discovery engine is throwing up all kinds of things for me, that I’m-

Nathan :

Really interesting.

Tim Bond :

I’m having to stop myself from subscribing to more because there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Nathan :

There aren’t, yeah. It’s the niches where the opportunity is. The big [inaudible 00:20:29] have pretty much been taken as all new mediums did in the early days, email, et cetera. But it’s really the niches where I think the opportunity is for podcasting. And especially as you say, the trust angle, which I think is really interesting because you’re literally going into people’s brains while they’re cycling, washing up, hoovering, and all the rest of it. It’s a really exciting time for podcasting right now. Let’s talk a little bit about behavioral science and behavioral economics, which I know that is something that’s really quite close to your heart. Should all marketers be required to learn about behavioral science and the work of Kahneman, Tversky and Thaler?

Tim Bond :

Wow. That’s three big names that you’ve thrown in there at the end as well.

Nathan :

They’re the biggest.

Tim Bond :

I think there’s definitely an importance in understanding some of the theory, whether that means everybody has to have behavioral or social science degrees, no, because the industry has survived this long and succeeded this long necessarily without that. But I think having some of that base level understanding I think is really powerful and important to understanding the impact you can have. I just attended, I think it was last week now, the Nudge Fest from Ogilvy, which had some fantastic speakers and even just being able to attend that now because it’s virtual, whereas normally, it might cost a little bit of money, but also it might be more challenging to spend a whole day out of the office.

Tim Bond :

I think events like that are able to make some of that behavioral science and some of those principles, not only embed them and share the latest insights, but also start to bring them to life as well. And I think that’s really important because a lot of marketers can listen to the theory, but actually, it’s when you see it in practice and working that I think it really hits home to them. So I’m not sure everybody should be forced to learn behavioral science and Kahneman and the like, but I think certainly being shown examples and have access to learning, maybe in a slightly simpler or relatable way and principles and theory based way, I think can be really powerful, but bringing it to life as well, we’ll see the most impact.

Nathan :

Really interesting. Let’s talk a little bit about choosing and appointing agencies. Selecting an agency partner is one of the most important decisions that a client can make. It’s very easy to pick up the phone on the spot and hire a new agency. It’s far more difficult to find that ideal partner to reshape their approach and their thinking towards marketing that will propel their business forward. What’s the best way for clients to choose the ideal agency partner?

Tim Bond :

I think for me, it’s having a very clear brief about what you want and what do you want them to do. That clear brief could be very general in that they are to support your entire program, or it could be very specific that you have a campaign or focus for them to be. So I think upfront, you need to know what you’re hiring, because the best agency in the world can not succeed with a terrible brief. And that’s the brutal truth of it. They can, but the likelihood is that they won’t because you’re setting them up to not know what success looks like, which is also part of that briefing process. I think then, going through that journey of actually finding the right one, I think is relationships. I’ve said it already, right up front about, that we’re a people industry, and I’m a big believer in that.

Tim Bond :

I think great work comes from good relationships. And that doesn’t mean you have to be best friends, some of the best work and actually award nominated work that I’ve done in my career has been with people who I don’t necessarily have a personal connection with, and actually we’ve had arguments over the work, but the arguments have all been to the betterment of the world.

Nathan :

Sure, shows you care.

Tim Bond :

That’s the focus, exactly. So if you can find people that care and that are willing to speak truth to power, and that’s not necessarily something to go against. Now, there’s always a line. People can like speaking truth to power a bit too often and not just do as they’re asked, but I think it’s knowing the kind of people that you want to work with and that you’re going to be able to trust and to listen to. I think that’s where the collaboration comes that can make really great work that can deliver on the clear brief that you set out. So I think briefing and relationships breeds successful collaboration [crosstalk 00:25:29].

Nathan :

Really interesting. Now, as much as agencies would love to hold on to their clients forever, the reality is that clients work with agencies with increasing regularity. What are the most common reasons in your experience why clients and brands do this and what can agencies do to protect themselves?

Tim Bond :

I think there’s a couple of things at play. I think one of the reasons that they can stay is simple inertia at times, just as one of the reasons they leave can be that the grass is always greener. We hear about pitch processes where it’s really hard to be tight and incumbent. I think, without seeing all the numbers, there’s probably a period of time where actually it’s really easy to beat the incumbent because [inaudible 00:26:11] potentially stayed and the client wants something fresh. I think that the biggest reason outside of those two, I think can just be that there’s need for a change, or potentially that the brief is altered, and I think the biggest thing for agencies to do, is also to always keep that door open.

Tim Bond :

Thankfully I’ve not experienced it, but I’ve certainly heard stories of clients who move on and, and essentially that relationship ends up between bad blood, and maybe… However, that ends up, essentially that relationship, which may have run for years, decades even, is just burned to the ground, and I don’t see how that benefits anybody. Agencies, I think have to accept that the clients are going to leave and move on. Yes, that that can have a financial impact when they’re a big client. But I think the same should be said of staff as well. I think there’s also an acceptance that people make, whether that’s through other agencies or in house. One of the things that I think Hotwire has always done very well, which I think is actually proven by the fact that I know of a number of people who, I think some of them are even still there, who have left the agency and come back, and others who have left to go in house and have come back as a client.

Tim Bond :

And I think it’s understanding that we are all ultimately people and that it’s a relationships industry. So if you’re going to burn one down with one client, because you don’t like losing that client, I think you’re potentially biting off your nose to spite your face because that could have wider ramifications as people move on, and we can’t be a slightly gossipy industry at times as well.

Nathan :

Really interesting. Tim, just bringing the interview to a close now. Final question, before we get into our more fun questions towards the backend of the show. You mentioned that obviously we’ve all been at home for the last three months because of COVID 19. I also know that you have a six year old who you’ve been homeschooling as well. It’s been a challenging time for everyone that’s been affected by COVID-19. How have you stayed grounded over that period of time?

Tim Bond :

Gosh, cycling is the honest truth I’ve got it set up in my garage and that few hours a week, spread over the week that I spend on a training bike in my garage by myself, listening to podcasts, or just silence on occasion as well, when I’ve been out on the road, have been invaluable. It just gives me that space to think, to calm down, to work things out. And I think certainly for my family, it’s helped them as well, because I’m regularly tope on my wife that I come back in in a much better mood if I’ve been out on the bike for a couple of hours on the road [inaudible 00:29:35].

Nathan :

Definitely. Brilliant stuff. Okay. Let’s get into our favorite questions now. This is our speed round. So I’ll fire some questions at you. If you can fire some answers back at me, that would be appreciated. Which CMO has the most difficult job in marketing right now?

Tim Bond :

Gosh.

Nathan :

Or which brand?

Tim Bond :

I think any high street retailer right now. I think it’s really hard, just because of the situation we’re in and how they communicate. That reassurance with customers is just really tough and getting that balance right as well as actually protecting employees, because I think that’s one thing. Another thing we’ve seen from a lot of customers right now is that need to actually… The reaction we’ve had to the NHS and to key workers that actually that we need to treat our employees how we expect our customers to be treated as well. So that wasn’t a very speedy answer, but any high street retailer, I would have the utmost respect for right now, because it’s not an easy-

Nathan :

Yeah, yeah definitely. I think I’m putting too much pressure on you to respond with quick answers. You can respond with any answers. What’s the single biggest thing that you like about working with agencies or working in agencies, and what do you dislike about working with agencies?

Tim Bond :

Gosh, probably actually I’m going to give the same answer for both. The clients, and the clients. I think certainly when I was in agency, one of the things I loved most was the variability, like I said, being able to work with different businesses and jumping in between, but then the other side of it is that that can be intensely stressful at times as well and really feel like a yoke on your shoulders that you will never express or never be able to escape. And then suddenly you get through those pinch points and it’s open road again, to jump into another cycling analogy. It’s just clear, open roads that are beautiful and wonderful and you can smell the breeze and it’s lovely again. So yeah, I think the clients and the clients when I was in agency are the most exciting, but also the most challenging part.

Nathan :

That’s great. What excites you most about your current role as head of insight for the DMA?

Tim Bond :

I think the exciting times we’re in. Not just coronavirus, but even before that. I think we’re in a period of a really interesting change and innovation. I think data is being used and there are some really interesting discussions happening around how it can and should be used as well as actually some of the technologies. We’ve touched on podcast, which is an evolution of radio, one of the oldest kind of broadcast mediums there is, right the way through to audio being implemented in our houses, in our other devices and being built in. So I just think it’s a really exciting time to look at how brands and companies can engage customers in new ways through new formats, and which will and won’t work, I think is something that the insight that I get to produce and see is really exciting to see [inaudible 00:32:59].

Nathan :

Really, really fascinating. And my final question, Tim, what’s the single biggest thing that you’ve yet to achieve that you’d like to achieve in your career?

Tim Bond :

In my career? Gosh, I don’t know. I don’t know, being invited to one of these very posh events that I like to go to, to speak. I think that would be [crosstalk 00:33:18]

Nathan :

I thought you were going to say be invited on our podcast.

Tim Bond :

Oh, of course, of course, this is [crosstalk 00:33:26] a stepping stone. I’m looking beyond this now. This was clearly a highlight. I think being able to speak on that level, I think would be something that I’m personally quite ambitious to do. I think being able to continue develop the insight offering that we have at the DMA is something that is ongoing, but it’s really exciting. I know what it is in my personal life because it just got canceled because of coronavirus. But I had the objective this year of cycling what used to be the Chiltern 100, it’s 100 miles and Chiltern’s out near where I live, which is about 160 kilometers with 2000 meters of climbing, which is very unpleasant, which instead, I’m going to do by myself next week, but that’s all to build up for my ultimate goal, which is at some point I want to be able to do London [inaudible 00:34:26], probably before I’m 40.

Nathan :

That is super [inaudible 00:34:29]. Best of luck. Best of luck with all of that.

Tim Bond :

Thank you very much.

Nathan :

Super interesting. Tim, thank you very much for being on ClientSide.

Tim Bond :

Thanks, Nathan.

Nathan :

If you’d like to share any comments on this episode or any episode of ClientSide then find us online at fox.agency. If you’d like to appear on the show, please email milly@fox.Agency, the people that make the show possible are Milly Bell and Natasha Rosic, our booker/researcher. David Clare is our head of content. Ben Fox is our executive producer. I’m Nathan Anibaba. You’ve been listening to ClientSide from Fox Agency.

 

 

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