Seller Forum

Six Questions for Dave Morgan.

Morgan - jacket-blue CU - MG_0361 medium close cropOur theme for The Seller Forum on October 28th will be leadership, and a big part of leadership today is disruption: causing it, managing it, preparing for it.  Across his career, keynote interview Dave Morgan has been the disruptor-in-chief for companies focused on ad technology (RealMedia), audience targeting (Tacoda) and now the economics of TV buying (Simulmedia).  Here, some of his abridged thoughts on disruption in our world.

1.      How can you tell that an industry or a sector is ripe for disruption?

The easiest path is to find industries or sectors where emerging technologies are virtually certain to solve big problems or create new value for consumers and major industry or sector participants. By the early 90s, it was pretty obvious that the news, information, advertising and entertainment world would be disrupted by networked digital computing. We didn’t know it would be driven by the Internet. We didn’t know how long it would take to hit each sector of the industry and what the results would be. But, it was obvious that disruption was coming.

2.      Many companies who claim to be disruptive and revolutionary turn out to be just iterative and incremental.  Any way to tell the difference up front?

I think that to be truly disruptive or revolutionary, you need to either create something that didn’t exist before to upend a market structure or major market leaders by doing something in an entirely new way.

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3.      Sales and company leaders in the digital and media worlds are having to deal with and plan for disruption all the time.  What have you learned over the years that could help them?

Study your market intensely, from all sides. Put yourself in the shoes of all of the different market participants. Generate a personal point of view on the market, and how it is likely to evolve – or devolve – and make sure that the point of view guides your actions every day.

4.      Is there a personality type or background you try to hire for a disruptive company like Simulmedia?

Yes. We want people who are curious, mission driven and have shown themselves as real risk-takers. We want people who are impatient. If they have been at a large company for more than five years, we tend to avoid them unless they have also demonstrated real success at a true start-up.

5.      How do you sustain a disruptor culture as a company grows?

It is much harder to be disruptive as your company grows its team. You start institutionalizing practices. You have to work really hard to make sure that you are still promoting and rewarding disruptive behavior, though not just for the sake of it. You have to attack you own products, your own processes and push your folks to raise the bar every day.

6.      You’ve said it’s important to have a personal point-of-view on the market.  Explain.

Too many folks in our industry pick jobs based on compensation and titles, not the problems they are solving or the changes that they will make in the market. Developing a personal point of view on the market you work in is a good way to be sure that you’re in the right job, working for the right company, and playing the right part in the market’s development. If you don’t have a personal point of view, you’re no surer of anything in your future than your last paycheck.

If you lead national sales for a team that sells media or marketing services to advertisers and agencies and would like to request an invitation to The Seller Forum (10/27-28, Manhattan) send us a note.   Seating is very limited.

The Right Questions

When we convene the Spring 2011 Seller Forum tomorrow morning in New York, we’ll be joined by 50 top digital sales leaders all seeking clarity and context for the very important decisions they make every day. But given the complexity and dynamism of the digital, media and advertising landscapes, we’re not so much solving a puzzle as framing a set of mysteries. When one solves a puzzle, accumulating data and drilling down to firm answers is the way to go.  But when it comes to framing mysteries — the Middle East, economic trends, our world — it’s really all about asking the right questions.  So for public consumption — and as a focal point for those at the Forum — here are some of the questions that i hope will help light the path.

The Drift is proudly underwritten this week by PubMatic, which provides one holistic selling platform to protect publishers and increase their online and mobile ad sales.

As Linda Gridley offers her thinking on the crowded digital landscape, I hope we’re asking “Beyond which companies are going to win or lose, or which sectors rise or fall, what are the underlying hard trends that will shape the landscape?  What’s causing all of this?”

As we debate the value and validity of ad verification, we should ask “In embracing  — or at least acquiescing — to current verification demands, what genie might we be releasing from its bottle?  Are we really enabling greater spending or applying a gloss of ‘truthiness’ to a flawed buying process?”

As we host two top agency executives in a candid discussion, I hope we’ll ask “Is there a dramatically different model for the media company/agency relationship that we haven’t yet considered?  And what would it take for us to move beyond platitudes about ‘partnership’ and really abolish the processes and roles that serve neither of us?”

In the time we spend talking about the publisher’s response to demands for audience buying, I think we should ponder the question of “Is audience buying an innovation that brands are screaming for, or is it fundamentally driven by the needs of the agency for a more profitable transaction model?”

And as we entertain six innovative new companies that serve publishers, I hope we’ll be thinking “What is the cost of one more bit of complexity, one more alliance?  And should we at this point be thinking about fewer and deeper relationships vs. ‘one more interesting opportunity?'”

It’s likely there will be no firm or uniform answers to these questions. But I think we’ll all be better sales leaders and better business people for having asked them.