Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Soho Sessions: Innovation on show at NDA’s Dragons’ Den-style pitch event

Last month saw three of our industry’s most innovative tech companies enter the dragon’s den to pitch their services to media agency leaders in NDA’s latest Soho Sessions.

Soho Sessions is NDA’s Dragons’ Den-style pitch event, which over the last three years has helped spark a raft of new business relationships and revenues for contestants.

At the event, Adform, Wunderkind and Nano Interactive took turns in pitching their solutions to a panel made up of Geoff de Burca, Chief Strategy Officer at EssenceMediacom UK; Jasdeep Mondae, Head of Demand Generation at Performics @ Starcom; and Jackie Lyons, Head of Planning, Havas Media Group.

Following the initial pitch session, capped at 15 minutes per contestant, each company then took part in a deep-dive session of 25 minutes with each judge and their wider team.

Geoff de Burca, Chief Strategy Officer at EssenceMediacom UK. said: I really love the format, the constraint of having to present in just 15 minutes focuses on what is central to their composition, and their quality.”

He believes lessons can be learnt in how focus can dramatically improve new business presentations.  

“The sales presentations I see normally actually go into far too much detail,” he said. “Whereas a presentation like we saw today  gives us a chance to get to the core of the proposition and I feel like I’ve got a very clear understanding of what the three companies do.” 

The complexity of the digital advertising ecosystem means discovering and forming relationships with the right tech partners and often be a difficult process. 

Jasdeep Mondae, Head of Demand Generation at Performics @ Starcom, says, ‘It’s quite a long process, usually, to meet new companies. We have our Publicis Groupe Verified vetting and certification process which is thorough but lengthy.” 

“So today’s format was great and I’m so fascinated to understand how we can work with the contestants and understand more about testing these solutions and understanding how they work versus some of our incumbent partners.“

Geoff de Burca agreed the normal method of finding new tech partners is ‘“pretty tortuous”.

“There are so many potential people out there we could be talking to. I get approached all the time and I just simply don’t have the time of day to be speaking to everyone.

So I generally will rely on recommendations from my colleagues. But our digital leaders have the same challenge in being able to balance the client work, managing the complexity of the business, maintaining existing relationships with suppliers, and finding the time to find new partners.”

Jackie Lyons, Head of Planning, Havas points out that another issue is that each different department will be looking for different capabilities. 

“For example, our partnerships team will be looking for partners who are coming through from a content perspective, while our biddable team might look for more efficiency-based partners to help performance improvements for example. So every head will be bringing people in in a different way.”

The contestants, faced with an incredibly competitive and ever-evolving market, also felt the Soho Session format was a very positive addition to the new business models in their command.

“I don’t think there is any right or wrong way to do new business, said Amy Pearce, Head of Advertising, Wunderkind  “But it’s certainly interesting to see live feedback We’re launching a new company in the UK, so just to be able to get advice in terms of the best way to tackle entering the market is great.  It’s been invaluable.”

Phil Acton, Country Manager UK, Adform, agreed the format made a refreshing change for new-relationship building.

“The format really works and the people we met were very engaging. We’ve already, days after the event, been speaking to two of the judges’ agencies, so watch this space!”, he said.

Niall Moody, CRO at Nano Interactive was similarly enthusiastic about the format. 

“ I absolutely loved the format, it encouraged focused, meaningful discussions. The judges were all super engaged and clearly took it seriously which meant the quality of discussion in the break-out sessions was really high and very productive,” he said  “We left with three very real and very different opportunities to pursue as a result of the discussions. It was amazingly useful to hear some of the exciting projects or challenges that we could work together on.”

Soho Sessions

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