Last January I moved from the creative agency world to a very different one. To Jellyfish, a full-funnel marketing performance company at the forefront of the convergence of brand and ‘performance’ marketing, media and creative, content, data and technology.
A blog post I wrote soon after about the move (‘I’ve never heard of Jellyfish’) got a surprising amount of interest, so whilst I don’t usually write about myself I thought I’d write a follow-up to that, covering my first 12 months here.
The most common questions people asked me when I started was ‘who are Jellyfish? and ‘why did you go there?’. A year on, people now ask things like ‘what are you getting up to there?’, ‘what are you learning?’, and ‘are you still enjoying it’? So this is an attempt to answer those.
TL;DR: the answers are loads, loads and loads.
Apologies if this all seems a bit self-indulgent. And I know I’m definitely biased, but I’ll try not to make this too sell-y.
First day. Catch-up with JP, the Chief Solutions Officer of Data & Planning here and my ‘Capability Partner’. JP reassures me that I’ve got a few weeks to get my head round things before getting into any client business as I’ll find things pretty different here.
First week. Full of slickly-run onboarding sessions and intro’s. Learn that Jellyfish clients include all of the FAANG (now, erm, MAANG?) companies for whom we do a wide variety of things. Strong sense of Jellyfish being an unusually unified global business, in many ways more tech platform than agency, with a tonne of very smart, very nice people.
Meet the three people in my Personal Support Network (PSN). Jellyfish is dismantling old hierarchies and structures, including line managers and the classic agency ‘pyramid’, which perpetuates an ‘up or out’ mentality and puts an artificial limit on the talent you can have at different career stages. Instead all 2,150 Jellies have a dotted line to three individuals – a capability partner, a mentor, and a people partner – their PSN. Jellyfish is essentially a network of experts organised by a wide range of capabilities (across Media, Data, Analytics, Technology, CRM, Brand, Creative, Training etc).
Meet my brilliant peers on the Brand Planning ‘Steering Group’ – Tania, Amy, Michael and Matt. They have a wide range of backgrounds, including media, social, creative and consultancy. Without a pyramid structure there are no ‘heads of’ so there’s no need for people to move elsewhere to get promoted, to compete or be political to the detriment of the company. So a group who might be ‘Heads of’ or CSOs in competing companies can co-exist and collaborate extremely happily here.
Meet some great new colleagues in Data and Analytics. The brilliant Alex Davies, shows me Jellyfish’s Share of Demand Dashboard which incorporates Share of Search tracking as well as actual traffic data. Very cool to see something close to what Les Binet and others have written about actually in real operational use for clients.
Meet some of the c400 Creative & Experience team, including creatives, producers, designers, content creators and other specialisms. C&E would be roughly equivalent to a creative dept if Jellyfish were a creative agency. Get a real sense of our creative people being closer to the platforms than in other places. Hear the phrase ‘in-platform origination’ for the first time – meaning creating and making things in the platforms, not in isolation of them. ‘Big’ ideas aren’t really what they do – ‘scalable’ ideas is more like it – ideas that start in one platform and evolve and grow across other platforms. Meet some familiar faces from past lives. My imposter syndrome had been flaring up but temporarily goes into remission.
First client work includes a project with one of the tech giants, helping define the role of social within their overall brand strategy and making organic content across key social platforms. Start working on this with the creatives responsible for Jellyfish’s (Emmy award-winning) social work for Netflix.
Another project is to define the brand and communications strategy for a new global brand in the fast-growing ‘social audio’ category. We were already doing their ASO (app store optimization: driving visibility and conversion in the app stores) but they now needed a better defined brand, and a full-funnel media and creative approach to help take growth to the next level.
Things feel good. Maybe moving to Jellyfish wasn’t so crazy after all.
Pitches this month include a fun (and ultimately successful) creative one to make some Facebook video ads for TikTok to help them cast off their reputation for only being used by lip-syncing teens. Present a new brand strategy and brand platform to the ‘social audio’ brand’s clients on the US West Coast. Goes down well. Start briefing creative people to bring the new brand strategy to life across the platforms. For the app store copy it’s the first time I’ve briefed a copywriter who’s thinking about how the algo’s first and humans second.
Meet the team responsible for case studies across the business. Identify a potential story in our work for a major US university, a 10 year client relationship that started out in acquisition channels but has grown to encompass brand-building activity too. See potential for this to become a great long-term marketing effectiveness case – feels unusual in the typically short-term, project-based world of digital marketing. Start warming up my IPA Effectiveness case study-writing muscles.
Begin thinking about some of the brand planning hires we need to make and the very particular sets of skills we need in different markets. Get the roles live on our jobs page (200+ roles currently available here across Jellyfish). Start meeting potential new hires.
Discuss themes for future blogs and articles with JP. Write one on why I moved to Jellyfish. It starts getting used by our People and Talent Acquisition teams to help candidates and new hires understand more about what we are and what we do. Several client prospects get in touch to see if we could be a fit for their needs. (Content marketing works, people).
We decline to take part in a couple of big pitches. Both were large, well-established brands that didn’t really seem ready for a totally new approach.
Meet more of our analytics and measurement team, including the incredible data scientist Di Wu, to understand more about our campaign measurement tools, creative testing platforms, and our new ‘Hybrid MMM’ measurement approach.
Introduce my new data friends at Jellyfish to the brilliant Dr Grace Kite. I really hope we’ll be able to intro her to our clients where relevant, as her ‘classical’ MMM could be nicely complementary to how we work.
Meet some of the great team at Uncommon with whom we’ll be collaborating on a major tech brand. Uncommon will be looking after the ATL creative and we’ll be doing the social. Hopefully just the first of many similar collabs on other great clients with other great creative and media agency partners.
Creative presentation to a leading global travel platform. Creative and production on a scale I’ve never seen before, potentially several hundred thousand videos a year (every destination x every major market x in every major language). Our hybrid approach (human creativity plugging into automated production and adaptation) out-performs some purely technology-driven solutions in creative testing. Humans+tech=better.
Meet some great new potential hires – including Cleef Chong from MullenLowe Singapore for our new Singapore office, Vincent Johnson from Wieden+Kennedy for our new Amsterdam office, Josh Reidy from Adidas for London.
Meet Phil Lloyd, the CMO of our new property platform client Boomin, for whom we’re doing PPC and paid social. Very smart team with an exciting vision to disrupt their category.
Take part in a Marketing Society panel discussion about ‘balancing marketing investment in the short and long term’. Marketing Week cover the conference, and afterwards they get in touch to ask if I’d be interested in writing a regular column, to which the answer was an immediate yes.
Meet a really interesting new client, US/UK aviation start-up KinectAir, with a vision to be the on-demand flight network, the Lyft/Uber of aviation. Discuss doing their brand strategy, media, creative, and programmatic. This isn’t some fantasy about flying cars – it’s tech that can work now. Everyone’s especially fired up about this one. Great opportunity to show how the right & left brains at Jellyfish work together.
Present a version of my blog about balancing and uniting brand & performance, ‘The Wrong and the Short of it’ at a Facebook conference.
Record an interview with digital consultant Neil Perkin for his Google Firestarters series, reflecting on my thoughts about the future of agencies and my move to Jellyfish. Not normally at my best on video but this went ok.
Take Jellyfish’s two day digital marketing training course. Realise I know more than I thought, but with some specific gaps in my knowledge which I need to start filling soon (especially search/PPC, ecommerce). Imposter Syndrome flares up a bit.
Creative pitch for the launch campaign for a major new SME retail platform. Our CX team in the US were already working on the design of the platform itself so it made sense for the client to ask us to pitch for the creative for the launch campaign. Present a strong brand idea and executions across all the key platforms.
First visit to my actual office in the Shard. Incredible views, very cool bar, coffee machines controlled with an ipad. Meet some of the leadership, JP and some of my actual team face-to-face for the very first time. Everyone’s exactly like they are on screen, just some of them are taller/shorter than expected.
Film a version of my ‘Wrong and Short of it’ article for a virtual marketing conference. Meet Dr Grace Kite for the first time which is crazy given all the work we’ve done together. Do a filmed interview with her talking about the value of econometrics in ad measurement.
Get stuck into the brand positioning work for KinectAir, with the awesome Alessandra Pinho, a new Brand Planning Director in NYC, and meet all their key people including their hugely charismatic, ex-military pilot CEO.
Present a piece at the Zeemelt marketing conference in India entitled ‘In a world of change, what won’t?’, on the unchanging principles of creative effectiveness that will remain true regardless of the technologies we use in marketing communication.
Invited to pitch for the brand media planning on a global online secondhand fashion platform. Experience the joy of working with our whip-smart, fast-talking VP of media strategy, Jenna Cummings, and an international group of media and brand strategists based in NYC, London and Paris (including Marlie, Josh, Celine).
A common theme is emerging from many of the great opportunities presenting themselves: brands, often platforms themselves, often more experienced in the world of performance marketing, who are looking to take growth to the next level by developing a more unified brand & performance approach to media and creative. This chart often seem to resonate with these brands:
Pitch our brand planning and media strategy approach to a DTC mattress brand in the US. We were already doing their programmatic, but the new CMO had seen one of the Marketing Week articles and they got in touch to talk about brand stuff too. Attend sessions with the IPA’s Share of Search working group run by Les Binet and James Hankins, as they develop their research work in this area.
Write an article on the ‘sales funnel’. Seems to strike a chord with people and surprises me by becoming Marketing Week’s second most read piece of 2021: Why the sales funnel is the cockroach of marketing concepts.
Start the 12 week Mark Ritson Mini MBA course along with a large cohort of other Jellies – part of our plan to make sure Jellies of many different, but predominantly digital backgrounds, get the best training in the marketing fundamentals too.
Start working with the DTC mattress brand to plan an ATL media test across key US cities, and also optimise the creative assets they’d developed in-house with our creative asset optimisation team led by the very smart digital video expert Abi Howson.
Present a new brand strategy, media and creative thinking to KinectAir, to help position and launch the brand and get their crowdfunding campaign off the ground. Especially pleased with the brand platform we come up with for them, ‘Open The Skies’: an invitation to everyone to be able to experience the true joy of flight [see KinectAir’s wefunder page here]. The feedback from the CEO in the meeting was a humbling endorsement of the Jellyfish proposition:
“I have worked with really great creative and I’ve worked with really great quant marketing and lead gen, and I have never seen it fused like this before. Never. This is magnificent. To actually have Matthew present the left brain of the project, and then…going over to the right side, into the creative studio and start figuring out how to actually get into the hearts of people…I have never seen it in the same brain before. You are mindful of both hemispheres and how they interact. I continue to feel in great hands!”
The sales funnel article is getting a lot of interest from our clients so we start presenting the thinking to a number of existing ones, and discussing how we can start applying it to their media and creative output.
Very interesting conversation with the Organisational Design team at one of the big 4 management consultancies who are interested in writing up Jellyfish’s innovative org structure as a case study.
Publish my next Marketing Week piece, on the 7 principles of creative effectiveness. Seems to go down well.
But the highlight of October by a mile is sitting on Jellyfish’s Business Case panel. This is the monthly panel that assesses anonymised written cases by Jellyfish employees laying out their evidence and data in support of a salary increase or job title promotion. Everyone can do this 1-2 times a year and it’s in addition to the separate annual inflationary raises guaranteed for everyone. The Business Case process is a central part of Jellyfish’s progressive approach to talent management and one that’s leading to a more diverse and inclusive approach to career and salary progression. On average 82% of female business cases get approved. Sitting on the panel was a genuinely inspiring experience. The process beats having to beg for a pay rise from your line manager and witnessing only their favourites succeed any day.
Great planning session with property portal client Boomin. Great to see the CMO bringing their long-term vision to life on flipchart paper covering a wall of a large room in the Shard.
Talk at a media conference on creative effectiveness in video. Luckily Abi had taught me a few things about best practice in the different platforms.
Fun evening at the top of The Shard for the launch of Orlando Wood and System1’s great new book ‘Look out!’.
Fascinating question from the COO and founder of an EU-based unicorn who gets in touch to ask: could we help with Podcast SEO? Answer from the SEO genius Nick Fettiplace and our Earned Media team: yes and here’s how you could get started…
A pitch covering brand strategy, acquisition media, CRM & creative for a buy now pay later app looking to scale and launch the brand across EU markets. Another great new opportunity to stress-test the Jellyfish proposition.
A great new social project comes in for one of the FAANG brands. Help assemble an EU-wide team and get cracking on the strategy work. Vincent in Amsterdam nails it before he hands over to the fabulous Ann-Sophy in Paris and Ingmar in Germany, and heads off for a well-earned holiday.
Talk with JP about the growing need for people with strategy/planning skills but also deep experience of the platforms themselves and where we’ll find them – social agencies, client-side, at the platforms themselves? Draft a new Job description for a Platform Strategy Director.
We launch the new Jellyfish brand positioning led by Tania and the brand planning team: ‘We give brands a platform to perform’. It’s a promise to help brands thrive in the platform world, which includes a bit of a re-framing of what performance means today: goodbye performance marketing, hello marketing performance…
So those are some of the highlights from my first 12 months here. Hopefully this sheds some light on what I’ve been up to and gives a sense of the diversity of what we do here in Brand Strategy. It only really covers a small fraction of what goes on at the intersection of brand, creative & media where I usually hang out, and only a tiny fraction of what Jellyfish does as a whole.
I probably couldn’t have predicted any more than 5% of it. I knew I’d do some brand strategy work, some pitches, write some briefs, make some campaigns, write some blog posts. But mostly I knew that a lot of it would be completely new to me. And 95% of it was. In 2022 maybe a bit less will be new, so my imposter syndrome may be a bit more manageable.
My predictions for what 2022 will hold for me personally include more work on what combining brand & performance really means in practice (not just theory), more on how you really get media and creative working together, more on what it means to help brands orchestrate their activity across the platforms, more on the new kinds of partners that clients need to help them do all this stuff better. And lots more learning. I’ll let you know in 2023.