In NDA’s Interviewing the Interviewers series, we catch 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.
Bill Fisher is Senior Analyst at eMarketer, where he is responsible for the editorial output for eMarketer’s UK coverage. This includes in-depth trend reports covering themes ranging from programmatic ad spending to social media use.
What is your biggest hope and your biggest fear for the marketing industry in 2021?
I hope that the conversations around diversity, equality, and inclusion continue in a positive fashion. I often feel somewhat on the periphery of the marketing industry (as an observer looking in), and so it was horrifying to read the essay from Zoe Scaman about the sexual harassment and assault that seems endemic in the ad industry.
My fear is that the industry doesn’t listen and learn, and we see more hatchet jobs like the Daily Mail did on Jo Wallace at JWT.
What was your biggest personal industry highlight of 2020?
Getting through 2020 was a pretty good outcome, actually! I know that I had it better than most (during the various lockdowns I was holed up with my family, so I was never really alone), but everyone faced challenges, myself included.
Two full-time working parents and two schoolkids wasn’t an easy equation, and as much as I loved helping with the home learning/teaching, there were only so many 12-hour days I could cope with. The way that tech was able to flex and make home working as painless as possible was also a sight to behold.
Who was the most inspirational person you interviewed in 2020 and why?
Rachelle Denton (now at Lego, formerly The Storm Collective). Inspirational because she is just the nicest person you could wish to interview. Honest, accommodating, knowledgeable, and just so willing to help.
For very obvious reasons, most of the people I speak to are looking for a favourable outcome for themselves and their company (it’s the nature of the beast). When you speak with Rachelle, though, there’s no sense of that whatsoever, and that’s such a fantastic quality.
What one technology are you most excited about this year and why?
I’m a bit of a lapsed gamer, but with two sons who waited patiently for a PS5 (Santa was a little late last year—thanks Brexit/Covid), I can’t believe how far the technology has come on. The Unreal Engine 5 from Epic Games (the company’s latest upgrade on its games engine), which has already been released to game developers, looks incredible.
We’re talking photo-realistic imaging; it’s almost like watching a movie. Aside from the pure entertainment value, it’ll be interesting to see how gaming positions itself from a marketing standpoint to really take advantage of the new technology, or how the technology itself extends beyond just gaming.
What was your favourite ad or digital experience of 2020?
I liked that Sainsbury’s risked the wrath of the (overtly and covertly) racist element of the UK with their Christmas ad featuring a black family. Holding that mirror up to society was really interesting and very brave. And, of course, it led to the wonderful show of solidarity from other grocers.
What is the buzzword or phrase you’d like to ban forever?
I have a linguistics degree, so I have a quite nuanced view of buzzwords. Language is very organic, and buzzwords and phrases don’t just appear out of thin air. There’s often some kind of utility in their creation and use (even if it’s misplaced!).
All that being said, I’ve struggled with the phrase “social distancing” since its introduction early in the pandemic. We’ve been physically distant, sure, but in some cases, we became socially closer than ever, albeit these interactions have been mediated via digital means. For example, as part of a geographically-dispersed wider family group, weekly Zoom calls were a revelation, and I have subsequently never been as close with my family since I left home 25 years ago.
Who’s the one industry figure you’d most like to interview you yet haven’t?
Reed Hastings would be an interesting one. The way TV/video viewing has changed in the past decade or so has been incredible, and given the ramping up of the competition in the SVOD space, it’d be interesting to try and tease out what he thinks might be next. (And what would it take for him to consider the platform carrying advertising?)
How could someone persuade you to interview them and what would put you off completely?
I’m always looking for a new take, or at least a viewpoint from left of centre. So, if someone reaches out with a hackneyed pitch, I’m unlikely to get particularly excited.
That said, I’m no big fan of contrarianism for the sake of it (because that’s not particularly original either). I guess what I’m looking for is honesty and original thinking. If you can convey that in a pitch, I’m in!