10 Questions With... Gavin Stirrat, vice president of partner services, Europe at OpenX

Gavin Stirrat

The media and marketing sector is ultimately about people. In this weekly series, The Drum speaks to professionals across the sector who are bringing something a little different to the industry and talks to them about what little insights they can offer the rest of us.

This week's 10 Questions are put to Gavin Stirrat, vice president of partner services, Europe at OpenX.

What was your first ever job?

I started life as an associate in the Information Systems Risk Management team at Price Waterhouse. Basically, back in the late 90s, the accounting firms started to audit the computer processes that businesses were putting in place to replace very manual processes, to determine how much work was needed from the accountants that would follow us in to do year end audits.

It was a great place to learn how businesses run, what sort of things commonly go wrong, and how to reduce risk.

Why did you get into the ad industry?

Towards the end of my time at PwC I was spending increasing amounts of time auditing visitor log files of websites that were getting crazy valuations based purely on site visits. As I was living in Glasgow, but all of the work was in London, and as it seemed like there was huge opportunity in digital, I started looking for a new opportunity down here and landed on advertising.com.

I joined the company in January 2001, just before the dot-com bubble burst…

What’s the most surprising thing you have learned about the industry since working within it?

I think our industry is very good at beating itself up for not solving the next problem. We sometimes need to be better at articulating the value that digital brings, the huge leaps in progress we have made, and celebrate that success. Of course there is always progress to be made, and we have a tendency to 'weaponise' certain products which we collectively would benefit through collaborating on.

Which person/people would you most want to spend a day with in the pub? Family and friends not allowed.

It’s perhaps somewhat timely but I think it would be really interesting to spend a day listening to Sir Martin Sorrell talking about the journey in advertising he’s had. I remember the first IAB Engage back in 2005 where he spoke of the massive change coming and that one of the obstacles facing digital was that there were a bunch of agency heads who were nearing retirement and did not want change in their final years.

It’s amazing to think how the industry has evolved, and the role that WPP played, throughout the last 13 years.

What have you learned from any mistakes you’ve made in your career?

Sometimes progress is not as quick or as easy as you think, whether that’s related to your own career progression, trying to make a change in a business, or trying to develop a feature or product. It’s always important to look at situations from the angles of the different stakeholders to try and figure out different approaches that help you get what you want.

What is the most exciting thing about your job?

Having worked in a number of ad networks and DSPs, I’m really loving working on the supply side of the industry with the biggest and best publishers across Europe. The experience and networks that I’ve built up predominantly on the demand side bring a perspective that is incredibly useful, but I’m also getting the opportunity to further my own understanding of the industry – something I did not necessarily expect to be doing after 20 years in digital.

You’re stuck in a meeting that is dragging on and on and not going anywhere. What do you do?

Politely attempt to note down the items that are a sticking point, give them an owner and a timeline, and then suggest going for a coffee or bite to eat.

If you could ban one buzzword or piece of jargon what would it be?

“Let’s take this offline.” Although the sentiment makes sense, too often it’s used to get past a difficult topic in a meeting, and never properly revisited.

iPhone or Android?

Both - I alternate between the two every time I upgrade as I like to keep on top of tech, and feed my gadget addiction!

What's the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Back in my university days, I failed a module that resulted in me being suspended from uni for a year to let me resit that exam. I was going to do this, until I went into my part-time role and my then boss told me to swallow my pride and do whatever it took to stay in full time education.

I applied for a course I was not particularly keen on, at a university I was not that keen on, and ended up being invited to join the honours degree course which was Business Studies with Marketing. I successfully completed that over the next four years and the rest is history. Definitely a ‘Sliding Doors’ moment in my life!

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