„I didn’t hesitate, I packed”
You haven’t been in London too long. What are your responsibilities in the new position?
I am part of Vodafone’s global team of marketing communication experts (Brand Team) and I’m in charge of creating and coordinating Vodafone’s international digital media strategy. Our goal is to use and build on digital media as much as possible and develop digital marketing to its full potential. The company’s Vodafone brand is present in twenty-one markets and all of these countries are at a different developmental phase when it comes to digital communication, which makes my job very exciting.
You did a brief stint as an advisor after leaving Origo. Did you think you were going to end up on the brand owner side?
I left Origo at the end of 2013. We had had tough but productive years behind us and it was a difficult decision to make but I felt like I needed new challenges and a more international role. I hesitated for a long time trying to decide whether it’s smart to leave into the unknown but on a Thursday I made up my mind. Consultancy basically found me. All of a sudden I found myself surrounded by advertising startups and small businesses. We started working on the concept of Mosaic Academy and in the meantime I had friends and acquaintances come up to me asking for help. So I caught myself spending more and more time working while I was meeting interesting people, became a part of exciting projects. But after a few months I started asking myself why I had left Origo and what was it that I really wanted. That’s when I started looking again.
Why do you think you were the right man for the job?
Well, I had ample opportunity to elaborate on that during the multiple interviews with the company. But I think lately I’m getting more reinforcement on the things I only hoped for before. This position has the ideal balance between the values and components I hold most important in my job. I work with excellent people who are experienced and are specialists in their own fields. My job includes everything from knowledge management, organizing workshops and trainings and developing advertising technology to affiliations with global partners in a very intense and fast-paced environment. I have to do well on a lot of challenging market with very different cultures. Educating and training have always been a significant part of my career and I wouldn’t want to give them up. That’s why I enjoy spring semesters at IBS where I have a digital marketing course for masters students. My curiosity and engagement with the world of digital media have lasted almost ten years and I work well with different cultures, I enjoy diversity and challenges. Last but not least, I can use my experience from Origo and Magyar Telekom. I believe this industry has huge potential in marketing communication, since we have all this data and all the channels that we’ve built to reach the consumers.
What are your first impressions on life in London? What are people like, how is their mood as consumers?
I love London. I used to come here whenever I got the chance to spend a few days in town. I have friends and family in London so I couldn’t be luckier finding this job. I didn’t have a specific desire to move abroad but it’s easier to find a complex position involving international markets here. London is very versatile and exciting but it may be even more exciting as a professional.
Our office is just like London itself. The Vodafone Global Headquarters are located in the heart of the city, at Paddington, and I have colleagues from all around the world. It’s a truly multicultural, multiethnic environment. Our team includes Italian, German, British, Turkish, Australian and Indian colleagues, as well.
Whatever is important in the advertising world, you can be sure that you’ll find it in London or Great Britain. This is one of the largest advertising markets in Europe so we’re really close to the action. And since they are leaders in digital media it’s easier to experiment.
I have a chance to collaborate with a lot of agencies – mainly with their global or regional headquarters. I am always amazed by their level of knowledge and skills in certain niche areas because they can specialize. The chance to specialize might be the advantage of larger markets compared to smaller ones. Here in Hungary we specialize in digital or online, perhaps search marketing or performance based campaigns. Meanwhile, globally present or British teams specialize in all the details in e-commerce, data mining and data structures, social media, mobile and even their subdivisions.
Looking from here the UK is light years ahead of us in market size, development and maturity. But are we really light years away? Do we have the same problems and challenges or very different?
The challenges and buzzwords are very similar. They are dealing with the same questions that we consider important in the Hungarian market. Programmatic buying, Google and Facebook’s hegemony, data based technologies, display and performance based campaigns and corporate digitalization are all hot topics just like at home.
The light years question is relative. It’s a two-and-a-half hour flight, there is one hour time difference so if I plan it right I can leave Budapest in the early morning hours and be in my office by 9 a.m. There’s a greater distance professionally than there is physically. But it’s important to note that Great Britain remains only one of the twenty-one markets I’m responsible for. I see exciting things happening in Spain, the Netherlands, Turkey, South Africa or India.
There’s a lot of hype that we say is present in the Western markets but not in Hungary yet. Is that true?
There are definitely areas where the Western European markets are more developed. The question is: why? It’s not necessarily because they are smarter or more talented or better. We’re simply a different market size which affects our opportunities. If we had the chance to multiply our budgets in Hungary, we too, would have more money for research, data technology and experimenting. Larger markets have seemingly astronomic budgets compared to smaller markets. But that’s not true, it’s simply that the media market is different, its structure is different and the similar amount of players have far bigger reach so cost per reach is much lower and there are more options.
Bigger markets of course mean louder players and they can argue the pros and cons of certain values. Viewability (the actual visibility, appearance of the ad for the visitor of the site – sic.) is not a question anymore but an expectation just as much as using mobile optimized ads is. Viewability is still a taboo in smaller markets because there are no business solutions for it yet. The market wouldn’t accept a 30-40 percent price increase to cover the consequences of having only 60-65 percent of their paid advertisement on screen. I have to add, of course, that the media works very differently and media owners have very different reactions in a market that has no shortage in inventory and where quality ever so increasingly trumps quantity and prices are low. That doesn’t mean they have the answer for this trend; just like I couldn’t present anyone with a concept when they asked how much we charged for visible inventory in my previous job.
It’s very interesting to see attribution and econometric models at work. It is also the privilege of larger markets that they have the resources to build these models and the opportunity to use them constantly. As marketing moves toward being an exact science, this is becoming a very relevant topic. We have been talking about measurability and ROI for a long time but to see actual working models that follow the consumer from his first brand contact to transaction, we have to look at larger markets. Even if these models would have added value in smaller markets, as well.
So there really are a few things or hypes that are already part of the daily routine in Spain or the UK or in the Netherlands while they are just becoming a challenge or even remain taboo to talk about at conferences in Central Europe.
What does the Hungarian market and the Hungarian consumer look like from a market that has global significance?
The Hungarian consumer is no different from other consumers of the world. Hungarian consumers are just as diverse, there are geeks, early adopters and laggards among them just like everywhere. The consumer segments are very similar in every category including telecommunications. Maybe it’s surprising but our decisions as consumers are not necessarily defined by culture. That doesn’t mean of course that the same product will be relevant in Australia, as well as Romania and Ghana. But the consumer segments, especially in technology, are very similar while the ratio of these segments is different.
What’s very different from Hungary is the British morale. London is a global city. People are open-minded, diverse and they accept it. They don’t judge someone coming from a distant country and they don’t smile because you have an accent; they try to understand you. It’s a city that’s always alive and there’s something happening all the time. And while I say this, I still love Budapest and it was a hard decision for me to leave because I love the rhythm of the city and I love that there’s always something happening. I love that people are adventurous, that everything is nearby, that you have space, that I know this place and I love how it develops and changes.
What are your main career goals? What keeps you busy this year and the next?
My goal is for Vodafone to become a market leader in digital communication. I want to be a part of campaigns where we successfully experiment with new solutions. Digital media is constantly changing. I spend most of my days working with data, programmatic buying solutions, viewability and technology. Focusing on new developments and in-house knowledge sharing are also important. My main goal is to create an international community within the company that is dedicated and able to achieve change in digital marketing in line with the company’s goals. And I’d be happy if we could introduce a few digital solutions that are recognized as innovative in their respective markets.
Is there something you wowed to do differently in your work than before?
I don’t like to make resolutions because I’m not good at keeping them. I believe in acting according to your own moral standards, being yourself and if this doesn’t work out, well, you’ve been at the wrong place. I’m not doing anything differently, I like talking to people, figuring out others’ point-of-view and I enjoy efficiency and promptness. These are not things that depend on the system; they can be valuable or annoying at any company.
Many people asked me if I was going to miss the team. It was weird at first that there was no team to lead in a hierarchy. It was hard to explain why it’s a challenge to work in a position where I’m not leading at least thirty or forty people. I enjoyed being a manager and a leader and I did my best taking care of my colleagues – more or less successfully. I do believe though that you don’t need the strength of hierarchy to lead people. Perhaps we can lead with our ideas, our actions and through the fact that we put all we are into a job because we believe in its success. That’s it.
You haven’t been in London too long but is there anything you miss the most from Hungary?
It’s only been six weeks that I moved here and I didn’t give myself much time – I had two weeks between getting the job offer and the actual move. I knew this was what I wanted to be doing so I didn’t hesitate, I packed. I go home on a regular basis so I don’t feel like I’ve lost touch. Of course I miss my friends, the night we spent talking, my favorite restaurants and the crowds of Budapest but I’m compensated by the professional challenges and the new perspectives opening up for me.
How long are you staying?
I’m not planning ahead. I’d like to prove myself and be good at what I’m doing. I want to keep doing this as long as anything else before: until I have the sense that I’m contributing to the company’s work and I can learn and grow and be excited about what the day is going to bring on a daily basis.