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Meet the Media Minds: Craig Tuck, CRO of Ozone Project

Craig Tuck is the chief revenue officer of Ozone Project

Adland has a penchant for celebrating creative, but often forgotten are those planning, buying and executing the campaigns. Meet the Media Minds sees The Drum address that imbalance and dig into the models and strategy of the world’s biggest media agencies.

This week, Craig Tuck, chief revenue officer of The Ozone Project, is in the hot seat.

What would be your first lesson for a newbie media type?

Really embrace every opportunity that comes your way. That could be the chance to meet someone new in a different part of your business, or an introduction to a new client who at first you may be nervous to meet. It could be an encounter at an industry event or a few words in passing in the office kitchen. It could be a massive pitch where the stakes are high, or perhaps a less significant meeting that could otherwise pass by uneventfully.

My advice would be to take in and appreciate every single one of those experiences from the very first moment. Time does, and certainly will, fly by very quickly – but it’s these early experiences that create lots of connections and lots of opportunities to learn. For as long as you can, treat every encounter like it’s the first one you’ve ever had.

What are the biggest challenges facing the business?

From an Ozone perspective, it’s very much about the responsibility we have to multiple stakeholders; our advertisers and agencies, our publishers and our consumers. While we are on an incredible journey to build something very exciting, it’s really important that we remain humble and engage with our stakeholders in a way that works for them – we certainly don’t have all the answers. This also means understanding their challenges and working with them to create solutions that deliver value for both customers and publishers.

When it comes to the consumer, they are often an ‘afterthought’ in the digital advertising industry – especially as many businesses have no direct responsibility for this relationship. While it’s very important to the Ozone team, consumer satisfaction should be a key consideration for every business in advertising – happy consumers mean a better return for both advertisers and publishers.

What platform or channel excites you the most and why?

Outside of Ozone, I would say TikTok excites me the most. It lives up to its promise to bring joy at those times when we need it most. I think it faces huge brand safety challenges and data privacy issues, but knowing some of the people that work there, I think the platform is here to stay and will do really well, competing and indeed taking market share from others.

What’s the most clever or innovative use of media you can think of?

For me, the industry has lost its way on activation from the heady days of the Orange-owned cinema gold spot. Activations like these were bold and sure-footed moves that played to the game of longer-term brand impact, whereas today those levels of commitment seem to have made way for a rush to try the new shiny thing.

That’s why the recent ‘ownership’ of Virgin Radio’s Breakfast Show by Sky is a real standout for me. It’s a bit of a coup from the talented team at News UK, and one that reiterates the importance of having a solution that works for the advertiser, for the media owner as there is guaranteed revenue for a flagship program, and for the consumer, who gets to hear Chris Evans’s breakfast show with less intrusion than other commercial rivals.

How is your business evolving and how’s that differentiated from the competition?

Ozone has been created to provide advertisers with an alternative digital platform, and one of the areas that differentiates us the most is that we come from a place of true transparency. Not many others can genuinely say that they pass revenue back to publishers in the way we do. As we are owned by publishers, we operate in the way that any other internal function would do – our focus is on creating a more sustainable future for these businesses.

This is not true of intermediary platforms. While some do drive genuine value and deliver great service, they are independent and have a whole different set of shareholders to satisfy. The only way this can be satisfied is through revenue retention.

Is tech making your job easier – or complicating matters?

Technology like ours makes everything easier, but only when combined with huge amounts of human care and attention. For example, we are centralizing the nation’s content consumption habits into one single view, making it easier for advertisers to understand and leverage those behaviors in one place. What’s not to like about the numerous efficiencies, and ultimately more effective communications that come with that?

Where’s the money going? What’s the shift over the years?

The money has shifted and very much flowed in the direction of huge platforms and social channels, away from what I call ‘the destination’.

I would liken the current situation to being on the motorway and spending all your money on the service station experience as opposed to the boutique beachside hotel in Cornwall. This destination is where quality time is created and I like to think of our sites as the place where quality engagement is created for our customers – and that’s where they should invest.

Yet the ease with which a buyer can access audiences at scale and drive outcomes in social platforms is unrivaled by any one single ‘media owner’ – it’s hard to blame the advertiser for investing there. But not only does this put the free information economy at risk, it creates legislation and regulation that we all have to navigate together. Ozone is designed as a response to this, with an attention-rich, highly powerful and easy-to-deploy alternative for advertisers.

Make a big prediction about the sector.

Despite their recent reprieve, third-party cookies will be gone quicker than we all think and ID solutions will not be a worthy replacement.

This means there will be no workaround other than to partner directly with scaled publisher offerings to drive any return from digital advertising outside of GAFA – a situation Ozone is already helping our clients prepare for. Inevitably this means I foresee a major consolidation of digital budgets to as few partners as in other channels, such as TV, OOH and radio.

Last week Matt Read, group head of digital at Space & Time, shared his views.

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