Is the Big Apple Still the Hub for Media & Advertising… Amidst all the Disruption Originating from the West Coast?
Here’s an Interview with Dr. Hannu Verkasalo, Verto Analytics Founder!
Why did you feel important to land here in NYC, given your team/background is in Europe? Pros and cons in this choice, thinking it from now?
From Verto’s point of view, NYC is an obvious choice. First, when preparing the business for Verto Analytics, our core founding team did spend lots of time in NYC, talking to advanced customers, thought leaders of advertising and market research, and “catalyst type of younger people” who portrayed ideas about the future of media. Beyond all of this, a huge number of industry people in NYC were becoming hungry for new types of media measurement, single-source and cross-platform ideologies, and they were intending to spur all kinds of changes to keep the media time spent and advertising better balanced (5-7 years ago digital was the quickest growth area for reach and time spent, but TV still captured much more ad revenues).
This great input from friends and prospect clients, in NYC, helped significantly in building the plan for Verto, and reflects in many of the things we do today. NYC is certainly a hot pot for talent and thinking in this area.
Second, NYC is a capital of advertising. There used to be the sentence that half of the world’s advertising takes place in the US, half of that in NYC, and half of that being allocated on Madison Avenue. This is not far from truth, NYC is home for the decision makers of the world’s biggest media companies, tech giants, but specially agencies, advertising, and the whole adtech ecosystem of today is strongly based geographically in either the Bay Area or NYC.
Today’s consumers are evolving quickly with media behaviors. I am always saying that consumers have changed more over the past 10 years in consuming media content, than over the previous 50 years. If somewhere – new trends, services, devices, and tests by big tech giants, start from NYC. NYC is home to an active population of media-hungry people, and industry people and insiders, who are ready to embark on new experiences and journeys with media. There could be no more lively places to have educated talks in this area than NYC! There are big corporations, start-ups, clients and vendors, partnership opportunities, and a healthy influx of venture capital over the past 10-15 years, rivaling in some segments (like media, adtech, advertising), even Silicon Valley!
What are the key things to focus on, and in which order, when moving your business here?
We started by having experienced local people joining into the Verto team. We then started making sure that we know, and can talk to the right prospect customers here. Business development and sales were the first things to do. We also made sure there are connections to our headquarters in Finland – and we have enough technical people in the US, enough commercially oriented people in Finland – and the right weekly calls and quarterly workshops, to ensure the communications between product and sales worked. We naturally then expanded to make sure that we replicated some of our customer-facing operational work to the US market, into our local market teams that are nowadays managed by local management, too. Finally, we have moved ahead to make sure we have proper account management, and marketing, in the US nowadays, too. We have now a healthy balance between the work and contributions done here in the US, vs. our global headquarters in Helsinki, Finland.
Do you maintain operations back in your home country?
Yes, we do. We have decided to keep our R&D and product management, and a good bulk of our operations in Finland. In the US, we do all the things related to our customer work, sales, commercial work, business development. However, in between there are many things, like channeling market intelligence and competitive information to our executive team in Finland, collecting and managing customer requirements, doing account and project management, mapping out priorities for local go-to-market plans and making sure that our product strategy supports the market strategy etc. – which need lots of good communications and coordination!
What cultural differences you see between the US and your home country, how does that influence your thinking or behavior today?
Americans are more talkative and social, more money and explicit benefit oriented – which are all things that I hugely appreciate and value here. Finns, to be a bit provocative, are more reserved, more technology and product-oriented vs. customer benefit oriented (=Americans). The societies are different, too – in the US it is important and acceptable to make money… lots of money, but all people acknowledge that nothing comes easy – that makes people more competitive, and the culture of “pushing forward in one’s career” is very clear in the US. Finland has some elements of socialism, the government takes care of people, there are safety nets, and hard work does not necessarily convert to more income so quickly always… though they correlate well which is anyways a foundation for all market-oriented economies. This more easy-going, reserved, technology-oriented, paper trail based culture, sometimes contrasts with the US culture where the customer is always in the center of the business world. But, we manage this well, and our teams on both sides of the Atlantic bond well together and appreciate each other.