Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

NDA’s Soho Sessions: from the judges’ perspective 

A selection of senior ad tech execs and agency leaders gathered recently at The Union Club in London’s Soho for the first-ever live Soho Sessions, the Dragons’ Den style pitch event organised by New Digital Age (NDA).

Teams from adtech providers Lotame, Fifty and and The MediaGrid (part of IPONWEB) delivered their 15-minute presentations to an expert panel of lead judges, consisting of Sophie Strong, Head of Display and Social, Wavemaker; Leena Vara-Patel, Managing Director, 13minutes, part of the7stars Group; and Shannon McDonald, Head of Search, Commerce and Performance Product, at Performics. Each team then joined each of the judges and a selection of the judge’s colleagues for breakout sessions where the solutions were discussed in greater detail.

NDA caught up with the judging panel to find out what factors motivated them to take part in the Soho Sessions and what they had thought of the pitches they had seen. 

“It’s good to see what’s new out there,” said Leena Vara-Patel.  “We’ve come from two years of lockdown and not getting much input. Meanwhile, the world has moved on and so has the digital marketing industry. Events like today’s provide an opportunity to figure out what areas of innovation we should be looking at as an agency and where tech has got to in tackling some of the bigger challenges marketers are facing right now.”

“I found it interesting that all three of the platforms who presented today have travelled from very different starting points and taken different routes in their evolution to where they are today. It’s great to see where they’ve come to in terms of their development, and their solutions to the challenges that we’re all facing now.” 

Commenting on the format of the Soho Sessions event, Wavemaker’s Sophie Strong said: “I really like speed dating type events where you hear quick, short, snappy presentations. And I like hearing them side-by-side, so you can start to compare.” 

The feedback

So, what did the judges make of the initial pitches (and follow-up breakout sessions) they heard on the day? 

On the subject of Lotame’s presentation, Shannon McDonald of Performics commented: “Lotame has an excellent narrative for an extremely complex solution and the team has defined their Product Market Fit. The thought-provoking process the team went through helped give confidence in both them as a team and the product.”

Guy Vernon, part of Wavemaker’s judging team, added: “It was great to see how Lotame are pivoting to tackle the ever-increasing challenges in the identity and audience space – their Panorama solution is looking to help brands create a single view of consumers across multiple devices; and through their probabilistic ID graph, allow advertisers like us to tap into cookie-less environments cross device. I am really excited to see how this product develops, and how they approach demonstrating the effectiveness of this tool from an ROI point of view.”

Turning to the pitch delivered by Fifty, Sophie Strong said: “Fifty is a company that I’ve been speaking to for some time. Their product is really interesting in the way it uses social conversation, following and interests to create tribes for targeting in a privacy first way. What most excited me about the product is how the data can now be activated across a range of channels that fall outside of traditional programmatic display, including social.”

McDonald commented on Fifty’s “really strong sales approach with a manifesto type narrative”. He said: “The platform was intriguing although it quickly became apparent that the product market fit was geared to a very niche subset of the industry. I think the team at Fifty are onto something and have a great ‘startup’ approach to the product offering. I think the ethos around the solution is strong.”  

Responding to the pitch from The MediaGrid, McDonald said: “They had the complex task of pitching a monumental platform offering in a very short space of time. I think the team did an exceptional job in the 1-2-1 sessions where we were able to explore the solution in more detail. I think a pithy elevator pitch may be needed for this complex but impressive solution offering.”

Sophie Strong described The Media Grid as “a powerful tool which will help put the supply back into the hands of agencies”. She said: “For me it became exciting for two reasons: firstly, with more control over the inventory supply, as agencies we can build a more inclusive supply, reflective of our society. Secondly, problem-solving becomes easier to manage as we can get to the cause much quicker when we own the responsibility of managing the supply.”

Overall, said McDonald, he had been pleased to hear the pitches from “three impressive companies on a mission to redefine the martech space”.

Would your organisation be interested in taking part in our next Soho Session? If so, email to say hello and we’ll get back to you with the relevant details.