Debbie Morrison

Debbie Morrison is Ebiquity’s managing director for global partnerships and events, based within its London office.

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Debbie Morrison: building relationships, sharing insights and strengthening bonds

It’s now a year since I took my first commercial role in 30 years, moving from ISBA to Ebiquity to run global partnerships and events. Before I made the switch, I was naturally a little apprehensive about what the change would mean for what I do and how I do it. But 12 months in, I’ve noticed far more parallels and similarities than differences, despite the very different commercial imperatives of a membership organisation and a consultancy.

Looking out with optimism at the start of 2020, I wanted to share three of the most important things I’ve learned through experience in the past year, a year that’s been dominated by the central themes of generosity, mutuality, and relationship building.

Share that wisdom

When peers come together to share knowledge and experiences generously, they can help one another understand that they’re not alone in the challenges they face. By parking egos and competition at the door, they can learn from one another about how to deal with emerging trends. Sharing builds relationships; it creates and strengthens bonds. It also empowers members of the group to share the kinds of insights that can make an ecosystem better for everyone.

Last year, I helped to establish an Ebiquity Media Management Procurement Group, bringing marketing procurement specialists together to look specifically at the issues that dominate procurement of media today. By creating a permanent forum that allows brand owners to come together, learn from each other’s deep perspectives, and share information and experiences, we’ve established an informal grouping with close ties to ISBA and WFA. So far, it's brought together 120 advertisers. We are now spreading this template across five major European markets – the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain – and into the emerging powerhouse of the Middle East. This approach has sensitised many advertisers to know what behaviours and actions from different players in the ecosystem mean and what they can do about them.

Make listening a priority

Getting time in busy marketers’ diaries is next-to-impossible without meaningful return and exchange on all sides. Early last year, we also established a new client council at Ebiquity. This select grouping of 20 of our most influential global and local customers again provides a sage forum in which we openly discuss the issues that are keeping the industry awake, free from competitive concerns – just as I experienced many times with committees and working groups at ISBA. The advice that comes from this council – about everything from proposed new products and services to topics for thought leadership – is invaluable. Some of the smartest brains in modern marketing help to shape and co-create our output. Leaving egos and competition at the door is to everyone’s advantage.

During our twice-yearly meetings, I’ll often interview our clients – on camera – because they are genuine thought leaders in the field. Some of this content we share just with council members, others more broadly.

Be generous with your thought leadership

The spirit of collaboration and partnership has to be a two-way street, and sharing thought leadership content to trigger and stimulate debate was always a key part of my role and philosophy in trade association days. That’s a major role that industry bodies can play. But it’s also a role that we’ve embraced wholeheartedly at Ebiquity, in part – of course – to build our profile and reputation, to generate and share points of view. But in part, equally, to provide our clients and the marketing ecosystem more broadly with a growing and dynamic library of opinion pieces on the issues that matter to the industry.

Thanks to our procurement forum and client council, we have an inside track on what’s keeping marketers awake and where they need guidance – and quite often just the facts. There’s little point creating content and then jealously protecting it with a firewall to keep those who are interested out. If you’re going to develop something of value, our philosophy is to share it broadly.

Among the most widely-read publications we produced last year were: an innovative research paper titled TV at The Tipping Point, a new, evidence-based assessment of what’s happening to TV viewing and how this will shape the effectiveness of TV advertising in the medium-term future; the Ebiquity Media Model, a new framework to help CMOs make sense of media management; and, a provocative Viewpoint paper titled The end of the golden ratio in planning marketing investment. This paper shows brands why – in the increasingly complex, ever-more digital media and marketing ecosystem – 80/20 golden ratios of working vs non-working media have had their day. At a time when CMOs are spending almost as much on customer experience as they are on media, brands need smarter approaches for optimal budget allocation.

My first year in my new role at Ebiquity – a new role for the business, too – has been dominated by three things: building relationships, sharing intelligence, and strengthening bonds. There’s a virtuous cycle that comes from sharing, openness, and generosity of spirit. I’d observed and worked with these characteristics through my time in trade association land. What’s so gratifying is that these same principles and approaches apply every bit as much in my new role as they did before. It works in formal partnerships with other associations, including the ANA, ISBA, and the WFA. And it works with the world’s leading advertisers too. I can’t wait to get my teeth into 2020.

Debbie Morrison is managing director of global partnerships and events at Ebiquity.

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