A discussion about my choice of socks wasn't how I'd expected The Guardian: Masters of Monetisation seminar to begin on day 3 at Advertising Week Europe. However, the 'sock-off' between the ten homogenously dressed men on stage, really brought home just how little diversity there is amongst the commercial leaders of our industry - an issue we all need to address.
This was a jam-packed seminar and a jam-packed stage, with lots of passionate views. So congratulations to moderator David Pemsel for quickly popping the arguments over "who had the biggest data"... and focusing instead on data as an enabler.
Phil Stokes, a partner at PwC and their Entertainment and Media Leader, identified one of the biggest challenges for advertisers as finding the little data that gives you big insights - and that struck a chord with me, given the approach that we take at LinkedIn.
Our data is based on the 200 million members we have around the globe and the data stream that our member profiles create is an exceptionally powerful asset. But having all this data isn't an end in itself; it's the relevance of that data that matters and, crucially, context. Our members don't want their Saturday night to meet their Monday morning - a maxim we always apply when thinking about how we monetize our audience. We have to respect their mindset as we enable brands and companies to communicate with them.
The discussion inevitably featured a bit of a tussle over whether data or creativity matters more these days. Facebook's Christian Hernandez Gallardo joked that they have a sign in the office that reads, 'data always wins arguments', but it's my view that the two don't have to stand at opposite ends of the spectrum: just look at Da Vinci who created incredible art, underpinned by the greatest scientific rigour and knowledge of the time.
By the same token, content today is as critical as the data that's used to target the right audience. Consumers don't think about "data"; they're simply drawn to creativity. Data is only really valuable when it enhances and helps to deliver that creativity and as Rupert Staines of RadiumOne put it during the session: "I don't think 'that's an ad', or 'that's content'. I just see information".
The importance of context was especially apparent as the discussion turned to mobile - when I joined LinkedIn two years ago, only 9% of visits to our platform came from mobile devices; today its 27%. Helping brands and members to connect effectively through these channels is something that occupies a great deal of our thinking.
We differentiate between handheld and tablets and we believe marketers need to customize the experience taking into account differences in screen size and consumer behaviour on both devices. The two are not the same.
Take tablet usage, for example. We've analysed consumption and identified what we term calling a 'coffee to couch syndrome': usage peaks in the morning, dips in the day then picks up again in the evening. So the way we set about engaging somebody on a tablet should be very different to how we set about engaging with them on a PC, or smartphone, which they use at very different moments and in very different mindsets. At LinkedIn we believe mastery in monetization stems from really understanding your audience, the context of the platform (and device) then using this knowledge to deliver relevant, insightful content and experiences without demanding your customer or prospect leave the activity they're already engaged in.
If you missed the session, you can catch up with it on demand here.