Interviewing the Interviewers: Ben Davis, Econsultancy

One of the privileges and joys of journalism is meeting and interviewing truly inspirational people.  The new digital age has meant this privilege has now opened up beyond professional journalists, with some of the most thought-provoking interviews now conducted by numerous industry thought leaders in addition to our most respected journalists.

In NDA’s Interviewing the Interviewers series, we caught up with some of the best interviewers in our industry, from journalists to independent content creators, turning the tables to find out what makes them tick.

Ben Davis is Editor of Econsultancy, which this month celebrated its 20th anniversary.                 

What was your biggest personal industry highlight of 2018?

Writing about the GDPR without suffering an existential crisis.

Who was the most inspirational person you interviewed in 2018 and why?

I chiefly interview people who work at martech companies. While I am always impressed by their knowledge of such a byzantine industry, they are not usually that inspirational – mainly because I am often asking boring questions about how certain technology actually works.

The people that inspire me are UX professionals. They are usually passionate and call bullshit when they see it. Will Grant is one of the best who I speak to from time to time.

What is your biggest hope and your biggest fear for the digital industry in 2019?

Being in marketing and advertising has never really been cool, but I fear that a lack of transparency may continue to make the industry seem shady in the eyes of young creatives – whether it be greenwashing, data privacy or advertising funding dubious content.

As for my biggest hope – to see fewer TV adverts featuring average poetry and more that are genuinely funny or bizarre.

What one technology are you most excited about this year and why?

I listened to Lorenzo Wood from Publicis.Sapient talking about social VR at Econsultancy Live. His excitement was infectious.

That’s probably not a 2019 thing though, so I’ll go for natural language generation – Open AI’s fake text results are really cool, it’s poetry is twice as good as anything on a TV advert.

What was your favourite ad or digital experience of 2018?

This may sound retro to some, but I still enjoy every new Compare the Market TV ad. Insurance ads get slated, and the meerkats are seen by some as a gimmick, but I genuinely laugh every time I see AutoSergei upstage the real Sergei in the latest ad to promote the company’s EnergyCheck feature.

If you don’t believe me, ask my wife. Consequently, I use Compare the Market every time I renew my car or house insurance.

What is the buzzword or phrase you’d like to ban forever?

I don’t like it when words become convenient catchalls that allow people to dodge the details. So, ‘content’, ‘customer experience’, ‘personalisation’.

I use them all but often with a slight sense of shame. They have their place but are often used by people who don’t really know what precise thing they are talking about.

Who’s the one industry figure you’d most like to interview you yet haven’t?

I’ll go with Jonathan Glazer, just to ask him about the new Apple Watch ad. I couldn’t mention it earlier because you asked about 2018, but it left me reeling.

It was high art to me, the noise of it, the buffeting, and the beauty of the human form, if that doesn’t sound creepy.

How could someone persuade you to interview them and what would put you off completely?

If PRs seem human and can communicate well, I usually feel obliged – not rocket science I suppose.

Bizarrely, the offer of lunch might put me off. It’s quite difficult to eat well and talk at length (unless you block out two hours).

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