The CMO Show:
Anny Havercroft on seizing opportunities...

Anny Havercroft, Director of Brand Innovation and Marketing at Verizon Media ANZ, sits down with Mark Jones to discuss how to build brands that people love, interpreting global messages for a local audience, and how marketers can connect people to their passions with storytelling.

Anny Havercroft, Director of Brand Innovation and Marketing at Verizon Media ANZ, believes that marketers drive value within the organisations they are part of by seeking out and creating opportunities to learn and lead.

“[Board experience] allows me to be a part of that solution from a board advisory point of view, but it also allows me to take inspiration and energy back into the business and to be able to inject that back into brand strategy we’re creating or feedback to the commercial opportunities and the partnerships that could be created off the back of that,” says Anny.

“It’s about the value I bring to those businesses and providing a different perspective.”

With a career to date spanning global marketing communication agencies and consulting to top tier ASX, FTSE and Dow Jones companies across the UK and Australia, Anny recognises that diverse experiences have enabled her to not only accept change, but embrace it – and use her influence to help lift others up too.

“This is now my opportunity as a leader in the industry to be able to bring a different perspective, a different train of thought and challenge some of the norms and to open the doors for other people who want to participate fully in the conversations – in media, in marketing, in ad tech – and give them an opportunity and platform to talk about it,” Anny says.

To learn more from Anny and find out why marketers should seize opportunities to learn and lead, tune into this episode of The CMO Show.

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The CMO Show production team

Producers – Charlotte Goodwin & Stephanie Woo

Audio Engineers – Tom Henderson & Daniel Marr

Got an idea for an upcoming episode or want to be a guest on The CMO Show? We’d love to hear from you: cmoshow@filteredmedia.com.au.

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Transcript

Host: Mark Jones

Guest: Anny Havercroft

Mark Jones:
When we seize opportunities to learn and lead – such as working across different industries, seeking collaboration and mentorship, joining a board or committee, or investing in lifelong learning – we’re better able to drive value within organisations. Marketers who feel personally and professionally fulfilled, heard and seen by their leaders, and empowered to make decisions – are able to have a more meaningful impact on customers. Are you seizing opportunities to learn and lead? 

Mark Jones:
Hello friends! How are you going? Mark Jones here.Great to have you with us again on The CMO Show. My guest today is Anny Havercroft. She’s Director of Brand Innovation and Marketing at Verizon Media ANZ. On this episode, Anny and I discuss how to build brands that people love, interpreting global messages for a local audience, and how marketers can connect people to their passions with storytelling. Let’s go to my conversation with Anny.

Mark Jones:
Anny Havercroft. Thank you for joining us.

Anny Havercroft:
Thanks for having me Mark.

Mark Jones:
Now, I want to jump straight into the brand. Verizon is not a particularly well-known name in Australia, so what is Verizon Media?

Anny Havercroft:
So Verizon Media is actually the media arm of the US telco business, Verizon. So in Australia, we effectively own consumer brands that you might be familiar with, like Yahoo. We also have a suite of ad tech that help our advertising customers connect to their audiences.

Anny Havercroft:
It’s publishing as well as ad technology. I think that’s our sweet spot. We straddle this intersection of culture, which is publishing and all the Yahoo brands that you are familiar with, and code – what we call the technology side of the business. So the ability to identify and target audiences, and to be able to scale that for our advertising partners. So it’s that intersection of culture and code, and how to really truly connect with an audience for our advertising partners.

Mark Jones:
The interesting thing for me about that is Yahoo7 was quite well known in the media in the Australian landscape if you go back a few years. I think it was in sort of 2000, 2005, earlier anyway, there was a whole series of different mergers and acquisitions. We saw the Seven group depart. So there’s been a huge amount of change from a legacy Yahoo perspective, all the people who’ve been part of that organisation in the merged entity and so on.

Mark Jones:
So if you think about it over the past four or five years, huge change and developing a new brand. Really that’s the fascination for me is how have you come into the business and thought about that? You’ve got a global entity with a direction and a vision and then you’ve got all the unique aspects of how the brand has existed in the local marketplace. So how did you begin that journey?

Anny Havercroft:
So the journey for me personally with Yahoo started about four or five years ago. What drew me to the business was technology and ad tech side of things, it was dynamic, it was innovative in terms of what we were providing advertisers and how to connect with our audiences. The part of the business that was creating content was also incredibly powerful because you were having household names like Yahoo, connecting to your consumers. I think Richard Branson talks about it really nicely in terms of legacy, and it’s about building something that is fun that you pass on to the next generation so that they have the freedom to do what they want with it. And that last piece of freedom, I think is what I hold on to when I think about legacy. Yahoo was there right at the beginning of the internet, back in ’94 when it was Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web.

Anny Havercroft:
And we have a wonderful brand that people are familiar with. My role is to make that contemporary and relevant to audiences today. And what you see from a consumer point of view is brands that we’ve invested in for the last few years like Yahoo Finance, had a lot of potential. We were just at the bottom of the top 10 in terms of finance news sites in Australia with huge demand for financial information from a consumer point of view. And the vision we had there and the mission that we wanted to deliver was to empower Australians to take control of their finances. So as a digital brand you kind of interact with your consumers on a 2D basis. And a few years ago, we embarked on a journey to bring the brand out and to personify it.

Anny Havercroft:
So that was above the line advertising investment, huge marketing campaigns, as well as bringing out amazing editorial team like Sarah O’Carroll who’s our editor in chief, out into the world to meet the readers. So we launched Yahoo Finance Summit which was the pinnacle of our brand. It was a one day opportunity for us to share with the Australian consumers all the big issues from a macro economic point of view, the future of work, the financial advice that you need to know about to improve your finances and all the various things that really matter to Australian consumers. And it’s been a wonderful journey, we’ve seen a massive growth in our following from a Yahoo Finance perspective.

Anny Havercroft:
What was really interesting was that we spotted this particular segment in the market – so it’s all Australians we want to empower – but what we noticed was we had feedback from female readers who wanted to find out more about finance and they weren’t seeing the information and the content that they were reading on Yahoo Finance was really simple, straightforward, and practical. So at the start of last year we launched an initiative called the Women’s Money Movement for Yahoo Finance, just to cater to women and we recognise an opportunity to skill up women and help them with their finances.

Mark Jones:
I think what’s interesting to me is that’s really quite visionary and opportunistic in terms of creating opportunities for each of those different entities. And as you say, personalising and connecting them to important causes or movements, and creating opportunities for communities to come together. And before we get sort of too far down into the individual brands, I was interested to connect that to – if you like brand strategy, because I think this is something that a lot of marketers wrestle with is that I’ve got two brands that I’m thinking about or in your case, multiple, but in a simplified version, we’re thinking about Verizon Media and then you’ve got Yahoo and the suite of products, what comes first and how do you think about how they’re positioned? And I’ve seen this go both ways.

Anny Havercroft:
I think it depends on the context in terms of what comes first. From a corporate point of view, we look at the mission of what we’re trying to do and Verizon’s mission is about creating the networks that move the world forward. And that is the spine that kind of pulls everything together in terms of the assessment and the criteria of,  “Is what we’re doing helping people connect? Is what we’re doing moving the world forward for good, for the better?” And so from that everything kind of leeches  off from that particular point.

Anny Havercroft:
We’ve got a programme that’s been running for years in its various guises, it’s called the Verizon Media Academy. And it started as a two day boot camp on the basis that we saw our advertising customers wanting to upskill their next generation of leaders and their rising stars. And it’s an exclusive boot camp that we work with our advertising customers and partners on and it’s all about building that class and that cohort, helping them build their personal brand because these are the next generation of leaders.

Anny Havercroft:
They’re building their customer’s brands, they’re building their agencies’ brands, they’re building their client’s brand, but they’re not necessarily focused or know how to develop their own professional brand. So that was a really interesting area for us to help them move their world forward and move society forward. What we discovered when the world broke last year as we were flying all these – or planning to fly all these – people in from across Australia and New Zealand, was that we needed to think really quickly and differently in terms of how we deliver the programme and whether the programme went ahead or not. So we had a lot of conversations and we looked internally in terms of saying, “Right, well, the programme needs to go ahead. Actually, does the programme need to be exclusive?”

Anny Havercroft:
Or was this a moment when we were facing lockdown and changes in terms of how we worked and everyone was stuck at home? Could we turn this into a open opportunity for everyone in the industry to learn about how to build their professional brand through Verizon Media Academy? And it was a really robust conversation that we had internally to say, what’s our guiding light? What’s our strategy in terms of our mission for what we’re trying to do for our customers? And if it is moving the world forward, the world is our community, the world is our society, the world is not just our immediate customers, but it’s also people in the industry.

Mark Jones:
Yeah. So you went wider, a more inclusive and all sorts of good things. Yeah.

Anny Havercroft:
Absolutely. And we discovered that it wasn’t just about nurturing the next generation, it was in a time when people just wanted to learn. So we had senior people join the academy as well and learn about the neuroscience of resilience. We had senior people really lean in and understand how to redefine the barriers between work and life now that everything is all mushed together. And it was a continuation of that this year and we had people from across international borders join us as well, so it’s not just an Australia and New Zealand thing. And when international speakers like Cindy Gallop, who is the founder of Make Love Not Porn and also the founder of BBH in New York, talk about how we can challenge the industry to make it better.

Mark Jones:
So if I think about this from a market sort of comparison point of view, on one side on the B2B you’ve got the telcos and sort of that Verizon world, you’re speaking about a publishing world and a community world. What strikes me that’s coming through in the flavour of what you’re talking about is just how personal you want this brand to be or these suites of brands, in quite a remarkably different way to very traditional notions we have about telco and media and tech in particular.

Mark Jones:
And the reason I bring that out is an interesting part of the Yahoo story that you touched on just briefly.The interesting thing about Yahoo story was that it was this curated version of the web, so it was inherently personal. It was actually about these two founders and then obviously a team of people. Of course, the downside is they discovered humans don’t scale and that’s the Google story where machines took over from that thing, but what I love about that was the personalisation aspect. So in a sense what I’m doing is drawing a connection here to that really exciting part of the Yahoo history, the legacy, the origin story. Was that an intentional thing or it’s just an interesting way to understand how things have come full circle?

Anny Havercroft:
So I think this is the magic that we have for Verizon Media, having Yahoo, is that we do straddle both, there is a publishing side that is tapped into culture. As a publishing business, you need to understand what is making your readers tick and what important agenda to be driving there, so that cultural aspect of our business is really important. And then there is the scalability and the technology and the connectivity that you use and that’s evolved over time. That is the code side of our business that enables that connection to our readers with information that’s useful for them or advertising messages that are helpful to what they’re looking for as a consumer.

Anny Havercroft:
So sitting against the two, between the culture and the code, I think it is important, and being truly connected because we’re one business ultimately with a lot of partners that we work with to deliver out these aspects. I think that’s really, really unique in the marketplace. And it’s the evolution. We talk about legacy brands and as I said before, it gives you the freedom to be able to make it relevant. To make that relevant to our commercial partners and customers, and to make that relevant to consumers. They might see Yahoo Finance content completely differently to how they see other financial news because it talked to them and it is important to what they’re looking for, which is about taking control of their finances and that’s really my job and my team’s job is to enable that connectivity.

Mark Jones:
I love that idea you just mentioned culture and code, it’s like you’re taking the best bits of those worlds and how you sort of bringing those together. And I think that’s really awesome, it’s a really good way to think about the connecting points between different parts of an organisation. And so to that point, what are you learning from the code side? And I know that you’re on the board of the IAB, right? So you’ve got sort of two lenses about how you think about this I’m sure, which is that the industry, the trends, the governance aspects of it, but also I’m sure quite a granular view of what’s happening in our business, “How do we enable that? How do we tell the story of what makes us different?” So give us a little view into your world there.

Anny Havercroft:
So I think it is a very complicated world and it’s a complex world in terms of technology, regulations evolve, consumer expectations are also evolving and changing and our role as part of the industry is to make it simple for our customers and make it simple for our consumers. What we are really, really focused on is providing diversity of voices.That’s a really important part – certainly for me as a senior marketer in the business is to champion diverse voices in the industry. And what we’ve seen from things like the media code and the inquiries that we’ve had is a growing need to keep it open and a need to educate the consumers about choice. We’ve launched the Yahoo Search Campaign to just remind Australians that they do have a choice when they’re navigating content online.

Mark Jones:
You mean Yahoo Search is still there?

Anny Havercroft:
Yahoo Search is absolutely there. And it comes full circle because once upon a time at barbecues I would say to people, “I work for Yahoo,” and they would say, “Oh, isn’t that a search engine?” Then you kind of go, “Well, actually, no, there’s all these other brands, Yahoo Finance.” But yes, we are absolutely still a search engine and we are still connecting people to their passions and the content that matters to them. And it’s a reminder that people have a choice in terms of how they navigate this internet today and it’s important that they know that there is a diverse suite of tools available for them.

Mark Jones:
This culture, the inclusion, the diversity – all these aspects that you’re bringing into the brand – it seems to me quite clearly differentiating yourselves in the marketplace. So what are the challenges that you face in terms of getting your message out there? What were the steps that you went through to get the story told?

Mark Jones:
What was the thought process?

Anny Havercroft:
I’m glad you asked this question, it’s actually a really interesting question. I am from an immigrant family. 

Anny Havercroft:
I’m Taiwanese.

Mark Jones:
Okay.

Anny Havercroft:
So my family immigrated to Australia when I was six. Didn’t speak a word of English when I first moved to Brisbane. Media was very much my language learning, watching Play School growing up, as a teenager reading Girlfriend, Dolly, Cosmo, you name it. And the one thing that was really interesting throughout that whole time and growing up with Australian media was the lack of diversity.

Anny Havercroft:
I wanted to be blonde haired and blue eyed, and there wasn’t anyone that looked like me. And the only person that did look like me was Lee Lin Chin from the SBS News at the time.

Mark Jones:
You know, I love brands and marketing and advertising, and that’s what brought me into the industry because I love the media I was consuming. And as I was moving through agency world, through my early parts of my career, what I was finding is every time I stood up in front of the company, every time I presented work, I would have people milling around after the presentation and saying,”That was amazing work coming from you but amazing to see you, an Asian woman up on stage.” And I think that is the thread that has pulled through my entire career today is around not just delivering effective work, but also delivering it as a female Asian leader in the industry. And what that means for other people who are coming up through the ranks, who have someone that they can relate to or understand in a very diverse way and giving them the opportunity.

Mark Jones:
It’s clearly given you a fuel for what you’re doing and I wanted to ask you about this because you’re on the boards of all these amazing organisations. A board member of Dame Changer, the IAB, Angel Investors, Scale Investors and activator at SheEO.

Anny Havercroft:
SheEO is a wonderful network supporting female entrepreneurs. And I think in terms of the involvement of how I select my side hustles, it’s about the value I bring to those businesses and providing a different perspective. Growing up and wanting to be assimilated into a culture that’s so rich, but not as diverse as it could be, this is now my opportunity as a leader in the industry to be able to bring a different perspective, a different train of thought and challenge some of the norms and to open the doors for other people who want to participate fully in the conversations – in media, in marketing, in ad tech – and give them an opportunity and platform to talk about it. And it really beautifully ties into our corporate strategy and what drives me in terms of getting the Verizon Media brand out there but also getting the Yahoo brand out there.

Mark Jones:
So there’s a really great synergy between the brand strategy and your own personal journey. What are you learning from those board experiences? How is that informing the work that you do? I imagine a lot of people would actually think the other way around, I’m going to go out there and give, but I imagine you’re actually receiving quite a lot.

Anny Havercroft:
It’s both. I chose to accept those board roles on the basis that I can give back to smaller startups, scale-ups, not-for-profits. I’m learning a huge amount in terms of staying up to date with innovation and technology. As I said before, the market moves so quickly and you have different ways of doing things because there’s startups that are trying to solve the problem that’s always been there but in a different way. And that allows me to be a part of that solution from a board advisory point of view, but it also allows me to take inspiration and energy back into the business and to be able to inject that back into brand strategy we’re creating or feedback to the commercial opportunities and the partnerships that could be created off the back of that. 

Mark Jones:
So what advice would you give to somebody who would be thinking, “I need to sort of widen my sphere of influence here, I need to get connected into some other board experiences?” What would you say to them?

Anny Havercroft:
I would say start by networking, start by going to various networking opportunities like startups and scale-ups, sort of looking for industry or corporate relationships. I think it’s not about just walking straight into a board role, I think it’s about understanding what startup businesses need and where you fit in terms of providing that value exchange.

Mark Jones:
It’s a learning journey, right? “Where do I fit in? What do I like? And what are the people that I can kind of bounce off and maybe get connected to different opportunities?”

Anny Havercroft:
And it’s also chemistry. Startups are really at the core, so close to their brand values, right at the beginning. The founders, they are at the singular personification of that brand strategy and you’ve got to buy into that, and you’ve got to believe that and help them perpetuate, and propagate that across new members that they’re bringing on, new customers that they’re signing on as well, you’re starting at the ground level when it comes brand strategy with startups.

Mark Jones:
Are there any decisions that you’ve made in your role at Verizon Media which have really taken inspiration from some of those people or all those experiences that you’ve had?

Anny Havercroft:
Many. I think the principle of what it is, is around, “How do I do something innovative and fresh and different? And what are the things that I’m seeing out in my other capacities that can come back into the business?” Whether it’s partnerships, whether it’s a new way of reframing a value proposition for a consumer or whether it’s how we do things internally as well, as a marketing team and how we market ourselves internally to our stakeholders and how our broader business can connect from an internal corporate comms perspective.

Mark Jones:
Yeah, that’s fascinating. It just seems to me like a big hot tip, if you’re not actually on other boards or thinking beyond yourself as a marketer or in comms, you’re kind of missing this, you can talk about diversity, diversity of thought, diversity of experiences and all the other forms of difference and change that we can embrace and learn from. How are you sort of thinking about that in the context of the leadership team at Verizon Media? So I think you bring an extraordinary ability to influence the senior executives as well, right? So that peer relationship at the C-suite, how are you finding that dynamic? Because I imagine you would be something of a game-changer or an innovator or sort of pushing, is that sort of what’s going on?

Anny Havercroft:
Absolutely. It’s doing it in a productive way. And we have an amazing leadership team led by Paul Sigaloff who’s our managing director across ANZ and also in CA. And the culture that has been developed from a leadership point of view is one of support and one of doing good, we were all signed on. Like I said before, the startup journey and a corporate journey, there is parallels. And we signed up to creating the networks that move the world forward, we want to truly connect our customers and our advertisers and consumers and all that sort of stuff and I think that’s the galvanising north star for the whole entire leadership team. “Is what we’re debating going to move our world forward? Is what we’re doing or the strategy, is this on brand for us, on strategy for us?” And my role is to continue to challenge that in a productive way, provide external perspectives as well from a customer point of view and a consumer point of view. I represent the consumer insight, what do our consumers look for? What are they wanting from our brands? And that’s the voice I bring to the table.

Mark Jones:
And clearly the voice of diversity too, by the way. 

Mark Jones:
It’s got to be part of leadership, it’s got to be the way that we think, it’s got to be a normalised inclusive view, right? Is that sort of how you think and what you’re pushing?

Anny Havercroft:
Yeah. It’s funny, isn’t it? Because I’ve wanted to be blonde and blue eyed for so long and now I’ve finally embraced my superpower and my ability to give different perspectives, to take different considerations.

Anny Havercroft:
But that is certainly providing different perspectives, my role in any situation, and to also galvanise the team around change and shifting in a positive way. And again, that guiding light is so important, “Does this move our world forward for the better? Does this improve our situation? Does this help our customers?” Through last year, we talked about this phrase often around being human and helpful. And I think that human aspect is so important because every human is different, and respecting that humanity is incredibly important off the back of the year that we’ve just had. And that means respecting inclusion and being diverse in thought, and being respectful of that. And being able to just drive the agenda forward for the leadership team.

Mark Jones:
Wow. Well, I guess maybe in wrapping it up, what’s the one big thing maybe that you haven’t done yet or that you’re pushing towards? I mean, you’re bringing together all of these brands and we’ve talked about the leadership perspective and we’ve talked about how you bringing together, B2B and B2C. I imagine there’s still a journey to go in maybe more tightly or neatly tying all of that together and presenting it as a unified whole. But is there any other aspect of your journey that’s really like the big dream or the vision as to where I want to take this organisation in the coming years? 

Anny Havercroft:
Yeah. Great question to finish off! I want to take it to a point where our marketing and what we say in the messages that we have, where we talk inclusivity, where we talk about diversity, is normal, that we don’t have to actually have this type of conversation anymore.

Mark Jones:
Yeah. We don’t have to headline it.

Anny Havercroft:
Exactly. And that I don’t have to talk about my background in this way to help people understand because they already know they’re respected and I think that’s the society and that’s the industry I think we need to be driving for. Where this type of conversation is normalised, that we have full representation, and that we have a media landscape where we celebrate, not just the big, but the small voices and the diverse voices that we have across the board. I think that’s a big dream that starts with all of us and what we can do every single day in terms of championing inclusivity, diversity.

Mark Jones:
Anny Havercroft, thank you for coming on the podcast and sharing your story. I’m inspired, I quite imagine everyone has learned more than a few things from your story and the way that you particularly approach brand strategy from a much wider, more inclusive perspective than we most commonly see. So again, thank you very much.

Anny Havercroft:
You’re welcome. Thanks for having me, Mark.

Mark Jones: 
I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Anny Havercroft. Verizon Media, I think, is a really great example of a brand that draws on diverse experiences and ideas to deliver content that consumers want, and of course, build brands that people love. I loved her advice, in particular for CMOs and senior executives when she talks about investing in their people, and her belief that a workplace where every employee is empowered to share their authentic selves, and feel seen and heard ultimately leads to more meaningful connections with customers.

Mark Jones:
Before I go – sure you “subscribe” to The CMO Show on your favourite podcast app – if you haven’t already. Thank you for joining us on The CMO Show. As always, it’s been great to have you with us. Until next time.

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