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The Shiny New Object Podcast: 5 things I learned from Pandora's Lizzie Widhelm

By Tom Ollerton

March 27, 2020 | 5 min read

Interviewed in the latest installment of the Shiny New Object Podcast by Automated Creative’s Tom Ollerton is Lizzie Widhelm, senior vice-president of ad innovation and sales enablement at Pandora. Here are five things Ollerton found out as a result of the conversation.

Pandora 'Sound On' branding

The Shiny New Object Podcast: 5 things I learned from Pandora's Lizzie Widhelm

Identity monetisation will change our lives

Widhelm is pretty progressive in her views around data use and her Shiny New Object is ‘identity monetisation’. She believes that while current momentum takes us towards regulation and privacy, the future will be all about brands using our data to get to know us better, while allowing us to monetise it. She gives the example of grocery shopping made easy - if a brand knew how many mouths a household needed to feed, preferences, allergies, comings and goings, they’d be able to create a week of tailored menus and deliveries with no effort from the consumer. And in exchange, the buyer would then be compensated for their information. We talk for a long time on this subject so it’s worth checking out the full podcast for more context - could this be the future of a data-led world?

Brands aren’t ready for a data-led future

On the flip side of the concept of identity monetisation, Widhelm points out that in reality, not many brands are ready to act on this, even if consumers were happy to give over their information. They need the plumbing - a couple of years of hard work to get compliant and ready to handle information before they can even begin to think about getting creative with it. Her hope is that the current privacy pressures force brands to sort out their systems so that when the world is ready, the identity monetization can sit on top of it.

Let your voice be heard

Widhelm’s best investment of her own time and money is an interesting one for me, given my dalliance with stand up comedy. She said that over a decade ago, she had a colleague at Pandora who pushed her into public speaking. Not particularly comfortable with the idea, Widhelm spent a lot of time and money in becoming a confident and natural public speaker. She now loves it and says it’s proven great for her career - but also that it’s benefited her outside of work to have the confidence to make sure her voice is heard.

Check your attitude

Widhelm says she’s learned a lot from her fuck ups. There are so many lessons in life where you screw up and pay for it, but you should make sure you never repeat it. “Never buy a lesson twice” is one of her favourite sayings. I challenged her on what fuck ups she’s made - she admitted she used to trample all over people when she believed she was right and everyone else was wrong: “I scorched the earth with my attitude”. She’s since learned that being a good leader means you have to bring people along with you as collaborators, not forced participants.

You can’t always do everything

She may come across as a force of nature, but Widhelm very sensibly says she puts limits on how much she can do. She’s a mum of three, married to a successful entrepreneur, and she knows that she can’t be all things to all people, all the time. She claims that she can do three things well - any more than that and she loses the balance in her life that she needs.

For example, she used to run a podcast, but had to park it a few years back when both she and her husband went through busy periods at work and her son started high school. She says she’d love to start it back again when she has more time - having chatted with her I have little doubt that if she wants it, she’ll make it happen.

Listen to the podcast in full below.


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