Digital Minds: 60 seconds with the BBC’s Tom Bowman

Digital Thought Leaders

tom%20bowman.JPGWhat impresses the man in charge of BBC’s worldwide ad sales? As part of our new Digital Minds series, we caught up with Tom Bowman, VP of strategy and operations at BBC Advertising Sales. Here, he talks with Danny Meadows-Klue about the emotional connection we have with mobiles, the possibilities of a Rwandan tech support team and Man City’s chances next season...

How does your business help people or markets be more efficient or more effective vs traditional approaches?
By the terms of its Royal Charter BBC must have no political or corporate agenda, it’s famed impartiality has made it trusted for news reporting the world over; digital distribution whether by PC or Mobile has increased ease of access to our information the world over. Technology lets you segment, target and influence 50 million highly engaged users with ease, just at the moment when they are gathering information and learning. Perfect.

How did you get into the digital sector?
I was at Ziff Davis the computer magazine publishers. In 1995 our US office launched ZDnet and one of the team came to London to talk about it, I was hooked, one million page views a month sounded like a lot compared to our magazine circulations, little did I know what was coming! Our parent company Softbank had a holding in Yahoo and we were soon involved in launching that in the UK, Germany and France too.

What's most impressed you recently and why?
Peter Sells from BBH nailing the emotional connection we have with mobiles

Blurb because it is a neat idea

Atlas Solutions work on the ‘long road to conversion’, intelligent thinking illuminating the power of data and showing us the future and informing media planning.

What frustrates you most at the moment in digital?
Last Click thinking

What’s over hyped and under hyped right now?- and why?
Earned media (publicity gained through editorial influence) is overhyped in the short term. Despite all the false ‘year of mobile’ we have suffered it is hard to underestimate the imminent impact of devices getting smaller more powerful and portable.

Many senior directors still just don't get the scale of what’s happening. How do you convince them?
By making it human for them, the sample of one (them) often works. A few years back many people were booking holidays online whilst simultaneously saying they didn’t shop online – humans don’t talk or think in slogans.

What's different in the formula for creating successful teams / companies / products in the digital space?

What’s the most common mistake people make in digital media or marketing?
Not understanding what the data is actually saying is a common error. Failing to track is another! Marketing is marketing and all the principles hold whichever technique is used, on or offline. Look at the parallels between PR and earned media.

If you could go back in time to a key 'digital moment', where and when would it be – and why?
Two points – I would undo the early sales pitch ‘online is the most measurable media’ which we couldn’t back up at the time and was a millstone for ages. Ironically, 10 years later the media lives up to that promise, but early on it was an over-promise that left advertisers confused and disappointed. Secondly there was a moment in the ‘dotcom crash’ when desperate ad managers started sharing the risk with advertisers, accepting CPC buys for the first time, and unfortunately a crucial imbalance in the process of negotiated display came into being (the genie has never gone fully back into the bottle).

Where do you spend your time most online, and why?
In my areas of passion, in research and communicating.

What are the big changes yet to come, in marketing, media and beyond?
The full impact of ‘web on the go’ is yet to be seen, the power professional social networks gives to individuals will grow, infrastructure (like the fibre optic cable down the East African coast) will allow new countries to compete in the provision of services globally. Fancy a Rwandan company as your tech support?

Social media that creates value: If applicable, what’s the role for consumers in creating content and value in your sector?
In the news sector they have done so for a long time – eye witness accounts have always been crucial, as has comments and feedback. Nielsen hold that the site is the 11th largest social network in the UK driven by the traffic and engagement of our blogs and services like ‘Have your say’. A key digital moment in the UK: the first images of the bus broadcast on July 7th came from a mobile phone

Who should own digital strategies in an organisation (brand/marketing director, agency, technology team, CEO, operations director) and why?
The CEO’s job is to balance competing interests and mould them to pursue the chosen strategy

What’s will be mainstreaming by this time next year?
Manchester City

And any final words of advice to people developing their own digital careers?
Becoming a student, this stuff moves fast, embrace that with enthusiasm. The harder you work the luckier you get.

My Digital Journey

Tom Bowman | VP Strategy and Operations | BBC Advertising Sales

· 2007-09 Launch Sales VP for

· 2004-07 Regional Sales Director MSN Asia & MSN Latam

· 2001-04 Head of Revenue Strategy MSN International

· 1999-01 Head of Sales MSN EMEA

· 1997-99 Head of Sales MSN UK

· 1996-97 Launch Sales Director Yahoo UK

· 1995-96 Commercial Director ZDNet

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