Kevin O’Connor is a recognized American entrepreneur, founder and co-founder of several billion-dollar companies, such as Graphiq, his most recent company, which was acquired by Amazon in 2017; and DoubleClick known for being Google’s largest purchase, for $3.1 billion dollars in 2007.
He is also an investor and director of ScOp, his Venture Capital that supports Saas startups in scaling up their businesses. He shared his views on the use of technology to develop businesses, how to face challenges and opportunities within a crisis, what is the root of a company’s success, the influence of new trends in advertising, and the importance of establishing a strong corporate culture.
In a world where the Internet was a barely experienced concept, O’Connor revolutionized the advertising industry with DoubleClick, without having any knowledge of that area at the time. He saw the potential of advertising and marketing within the Internet, a field that had not been conquered until now.. The problem of working in a growing area, such as the digital world, is that it does not have enough revenue and that was the first challenge. The idea was clear: to get the highest monetary retribution, with an effective turnaround for the brands, getting the client to enter with the premise of getting a free connection. The breakthrough for DoubleClick came when it created an advertising landing, where each interaction could be counted and thus provide feedback to the agencies on the outcome of their work.
The impact of new technologies on advertising
Capturing and maintaining the interest and intention of the users is the objective, today this can be achieved more precisely with tools to know the customer. “It is often thought that user data is the most valuable asset, when in fact the value is to be able to achieve a consortium on the intentionality of that data obtained.
This is where a personalized experience can be achieved, introducing other means of advertising, to accompany the client in a process that transcends the merely digital. This can be particularly useful for products and services that represent a large investment for the average user. In this universe of population, where the user visits a website but perhaps does not make a purchase, it is possible to extract the necessary data to move the campaign to other channels. The challenge here is to be able to read this information in a conscious way and observe the intersectionality of the client, generating a greater facility in the advance of the sales objective. In addition, it allows to open new possible universes with just the crossing of data: What other problems or needs does the person who is interested in this product have? All this, according to O’Connor, will be possible to realize in a bigger scale by means of the Artificial Intelligence.
It is difficult to deny the help of technology when it comes to managing a company. Thanks to its experience in dealing with a variety of crises, the investor has valuable insight when it comes to thinking about the ideal time to invest in technology and development. All areas of the market have companies that make specialized management software, but it is in a context of crisis where companies stop and pay real attention to the efficiency of their production chains. It is in these moments where more is necessary to invest in technology, to be able to make a correct tracking of hours and to be able to appraise correctly the completed work. When the crisis ends, thanks to the tools achieved, it will continue as a competitive and well positioned industry.
Trends in advertising
“Differentiating between a trend and a tendency in technology is a vital distinction”. O’Connor points to markets that directly connect the customer to the product as a trend that will not stop. Considering the pandemic context, the world turned to a remote work overnight; therefore, the platforms and products that manage to speed up these modalities will be a very valuable asset.
So is digital learning through Artificial Intelligence, which in the future can solve many tasks concerning data analysis and customer service through help bots. This would allow the most common problems to be taken in an automated manner, freeing up customer service representatives and technicians to take on more complex queries.
To be able to differentiate a trend it is important to see if it is scalable and produces an improvement within the current situation. O’Connor, on the other hand, explains that he does not consider crypto currencies as a solution to a problem, with most of the world’s money existing in digital form, he analyzes it as a trend that will fall; recognizing also that you can never know 100% when something is here to stay.
Recommendations for surviving the crisis
O’Connor conceptualizes advertising and marketing agencies as the canary in the mine, the first alarm that something is not working right. It’s always easier to cut advertising costs than to lay off employees. A halo of hope lies in the fact that the cost of publishing in some media has decreased, positioning itself as a good option for these times, in a context where the population consumes more television and finds more time with its cell phone.
The main job of a CEO is “Doing business to keep doing business”. For example, in the .COM crisis, O’Connor lost 70% of its customers to bankruptcy, and even though his company DoubleClick did not go bankrupt, it had to make major cuts. Resizing is part of any economic crisis, no matter how painful, it is a part of the business world. When the time for readjustment passes, only the best companies, who have managed to make difficult decisions, will remain on the map.
How to build a company from scratch
O’Connor asks, “What is the purpose of a business? It is not about money, but about solving a problem in the best way that it exists. It’s about finding a great problem for a population along with its most effective and efficient solution, which usually involves technology. By being able to solve it in an exceptional way, value is added for the client, and part of that value returns to the company.
There are certain biases that afflict entrepreneurs, such as thinking that the last idea is always the best or not being able to choose the best option and trying to realize all the ideas they have, which is impossible. Being able to decide and direct resources towards the best aspects of the project is vital. It is essential to get the best possible team: intelligent and ingenious people, competitive, with a great attitude and humor.
The last point is to raise enough initial capital which should not be too much or too little. Collecting massive amounts of investment can be fatal, the ideal is to get the resources to be able to launch the product or service and prove its effectiveness, as it may not be a good idea after all. It is not a question of a specific amount, but of being able to quantify the resources and income needed to be able to sustain it.
Business culture for a better development
“A company’s culture is not changed by hanging up posters with motivational phrases”. Not everyone fits into every company culture, each one is different; for O’Connor it means a way of solving problems, being inventive, meritocratic.
For example, Amazon has a great culture of leadership, at all levels. Internal movements and promotions depend on its culture. It is important to be able to trust that the employees can do their job, assuming good intentions, being able to demand control of it. This must be sustained throughout the company. Today it can also be maintained, even though there are certain aspects of office work that are irreplaceable, by continuing with a line of culture in a virtual way.
The advertising of tomorrow
Thanks to new technologies, we obtain a massive amount of data from the users with whom we interact. It is in this space where one of the biggest changes for tomorrow’s advertising is found. With this information we can create a unique experience for each client, being possible to accompany them in a personalized way from the first contact until the sale.
The most demanding challenges are found during a context of crisis and in order to overcome them it is important to have good employees who do their job well. He says he calls them the Micheal Jordans. With 40 seconds left in the game, who do you pass the ball to? Micheal Jordan! “Who are those individuals in the company that you pass the ball to? They may not win every game, because there are games you can’t win. But they’re going to give it their best shot. The key is to get to know them and promote them. The real crisis is a crisis of employee competition. O’Connor also stresses the importance of a leader being able to navigate a problem smoothly, solve it while remaining calm, and quietly accompany his team.
The future of the agency is very much linked to technology and that is why it is necessary to adopt new technologies and tools that will generate a better positioning. Not doing so, within the free market, is to be at a disadvantage. It is important to be able to get the best solutions, it is possible to find a great internal resistance, but it is necessary to be able to continue. O’Connor ends his idea with the following question: “Are you ready to use a competitive advantage or are you ready to use a competitive advantage?”.
You can see the entire Podcast here: