Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Soho Sessions: Cutting through the noise with NDA’s ‘speed dating dragons’

Spring was in full swing when the latest Soho Sessions event took place, featuring three industry tech providers, Mantis (Reach plc), Brave and Nano Interactive. NDA’s own version of the Dragons’ Den, Soho Sessions has helped contestants not just refine how they bring their products to market, but forged a slew of new relationships into the bargain.

As ever, contestants had a single 15-minute slot to pitch to all three judges at once, demonstrating their offer and inviting questions from the panel. The following 25-minute ‘deep dive’ sessions gave the contestants an opportunity to really get into the details with a single judge, showing how their proposal could help the agency and their clients.

There’s no doubt that pitching to a group of top level agency bosses and distilling the essence of your latest innovation in 15 minutes or under is a daunting task, but both competitors and judges agreed that it was an excellent way to cut to the chase.

Speed can’t be at the expense of great research and a concise yet comprehensive understanding of a potential client’s needs. Celine Saturnino – Chief Operating Officer, Total Media, noted that tech companies trying to get in front of her really need to research their proposition and understand how it matches the vendor’s “These sessions have been wonderful, I’ve been rapidly writing down [ideas], talking about how you use emotion and understand intent.”

“The deep dive sessions allows teams to get into much more detail and it really helps us focus on our own brands and how it can work for them.”

The efficiency of the Soho Sessions was a constant theme, with Saturnino noting “we’ve managed to get through a lot in a really short amount of time”.

For Sean Betts, Chief Product and Technology Officer, OMG, this approach could well be one way to solve his ‘time poor’ challenge when it comes to exploring interesting new suppliers. “It’s a bit like speed dating. We got a feel for the challenges they’re trying to address and the opportunities that can give our clients.”

With those challenges ranging from a cookieless future and cleanrooms to adapting to the organic needs of clients as they arise, there is plenty scope for the contestants as well as other third parties to join in Betts’ ‘dating game’.

Adam Chugg, Head of Data and Tech, the7stars, concurred, adding: “It gives us the opportunity to see multiple vendors in the market. Even if we’ve seen them before, there are lots of relevant updates.”

Chugg spoke about the challenge of constant change in the supplier market and how important it is to have help navigating that change. Agencies can help their clients understand that complexity and so events like Soho Sessions really help agencies like the7stars keep abreast of developments.

“More often than not, a sales outreach just happens to be getting to the right person at the right time. But my clients are always looking for something new. Part of my job is making sure we’re up to date with the landscape.”

Speed was certainly of the essence but that didn’t seem to impact the value the judges and participants got from the Sessions. “The format was great,” Chugg adds. “It was a good opportunity to take a deeper dive, see a different perspective from different team members. We’re seeing different approaches to the cookieless problem. Lots of food for thought and potentially some follow up conversations.”

And as for the contestants, was it a worthwhile exercise? Mayling Barr , Sales Group Head, Nano Interactive is optimistic: “I definitely hope something good will come out of it.”

Andy Squire, Regional Vice President EMEA, Brave has already seen positive results from the Soho Sessions, having already participated in the Manchester event earlier in the year, Salford Sessions. With one meeting in the bag and others potentially in the offing, he’s a fan of the networking element.

“It’s a great way to meet agencies, get talking about conceptual ideas and bring them to life.”