So You Want My Job? Colin Gottlieb on becoming LadBible’s chief growth officer
Welcome to The Drum’s new series, So You Want My Job? Each week, we’ll be asking the people working in some of the industry’s coolest jobs about how they got where they are. And, along the way, we’ll dig into their philosophies, inspirations, processes and experiences. Hopefully, our interviewees can help inspire you to pursue (or create) a job that’s just as exciting.
“I’ve always admired anyone who has the balls and vision to start their own business”
With fluctuations in the economy threatening the security of many marketers’ jobs, we have launched a bi-monthly newsletter (Working it Out) to map the trends in the wider jobs market.
Featuring regularly on the newsletter will be our So You Want My Job? series, which this week speaks to Colin Gottlieb, the former Omnicom media boss who is now tasked with ‘putting Lad on the moon’ as social publisher LadBible’s chief growth officer.
What did you want to be when growing up?
As a 60s child, I grew up glued to the telly, watching in awe the Apollo space programme, Thunderbirds and Batman. As a young kid, my imagination was fed concentrated curiosity. Dreaming of landing on the moon, being Scott Tracy and flying TB1 and calling out ’battery to power, turbine to speed’ as I fired up that insane Batmobile. I learned to always ask myself ’why?’, and why the hell not?
That creativity, using your imagination to join seemingly unrelated things to make something that’s cool, is beautiful.
How did you get into the industry?
I never went to university. I started in the business in 1980 as a 19-year-old trainee at Time Buying Services on £2,750 per annum. It was tough – a vertical learning curve.
The big international agencies wouldn’t even see me as small media independents were seen as ’not quite the thing’. Funny how it worked out. The irony today for young talent is information and content creation have never been more available and accessible. Yet for some reason those applying for new roles use very traditional language and zero video. They might post on LinkedIn, but that’s becoming more like Insta.
And how did you get your current job?
Back in 2018, Jonathan Durden, a good friend but someone I respect greatly, asked if I’d lunch with Solly [Solomou, LadBible’s co-founder] because he wanted more revenue from Omnicom Media Group. Having started my own agency with Nick Manning in 1990, I’ve always admired anyone who has the balls and vision to start and successfully build their own business.
I accepted the invitation easily. I thought it might be good for OMG too – ideas before advertising. I had also started my own Instagram page in 2016 around a deep passion area (not in my name) to better understand social content. I quickly learned that to do social well is really hard – within 60 seconds, you know if your post is going to work or fail miserably, and comments and shares will only happen if your audience is engaged. So curiosity was high with this entity called LadBible Group.
I was deeply impressed with its story and went back to my office with my mind racing. The rest, as they say...
OK, so what do you actually do?
There’s nothing better than coming up with a beautiful idea to solve a fiendishly challenging question. And when you’re part of a wonderful team who all have this mindset, nothing is impossible. As Wayne Gretzky said “skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been”.
Do your parents understand what you do?
Yes. My father Ronnie Gottlieb created his own agency in 1960. It was called Progress Advertising. He had some really cool accounts and, as a six-year-old, I loved messing around in the creative department. It was an Aladdin’s cave of art pads, magic markers and cow gum; I caused chaos by drawing over work ready to go to a client. Perhaps it’s why he told me to do ’media’.
And what advice would you offer someone entering the ad industry at this weird time?
2020 has been unprecedented. I’ve worked through three previous recessions and nothing compares to this because it isn’t only a financial crisis.
This touches everything and everyone. But we will emerge from this and what history has shown us is, radical new thinking flourishes after a storm. If you’re entering the business now or you’ve painfully lost your job, keep strong, stay curious, absorb everything, use the time to think and know that, when the sun comes out, there will be a huge release of creative energy. Change is happening. Acceleration is everywhere. Look forward, not downwards. Be ready for it. Because the business you’ve chosen to be in is unbelievably rewarding to those who challenge the status quo.
And you never stop learning. But today, the amount of information available (good and bad) is astonishing and growing, so be very clear about the things you want to learn about, break down the list into bite-sized chunks, be prepared to play the long game and aim to land in a place where there’s a good chance you’ll love what you do (OK, right now that might be impossible, but ultimately always follow your heart).
Above all, follow the advice my first boss gave to me: “Colin, if you don’t understand something because it sounds like bollocks, that’s because it probably is”.
Come back next week for another interesting job talk, and sign up to our jobs newsletter, Working it Out. Last week, Aifric Lennon, a senior project manager and, get this, a ’music and mind researcher’ at MassiveMusic talked us through her role.