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CMO50 2020 #26-50: Anny Havercroft

  • Name Anny Havercroft
  • Title Director, brand innovation and marketing
  • Company Verizon Media ANZ
  • Commenced role 2018
  • Reporting Line Managing director - Verizon Media ANZ
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 8 direct reports and staff
  • Industry Sector Media
  • 2019 ranking New to CMO50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    If Anny Havercroft could sum up the lessons of 2020 it would be to expect the unexpected, be more agile and, even with the best plans, be flexible in approach. “This requires a change of mindset as a leader in how we work - connecting with disparate teams and being empathetic to changing needs of customers by building marketing programs that are inclusive,” she said. “What doesn't change through any of this is the fundamental principles of marketing.”  

    "There is adapting on-the-fly and then there is operating in utter chaos," Havercroft said. During the initial weeks of the first COVID-19 lockdown, the focus was on shepherding her team through the emotional rollercoaster akin to the stages of grief - denial, bargaining, acceptance - in order to take advantage of what was an extraordinary opportunity to serve customers. "This allowed us to withdraw, adapt and then relaunch marketing programs within a space of two weeks. The speed-to-market coupled with the underlying sentiment of being human and helpful enabled us to cut through in a time of crisis," she said.

    And in this environment, heightened empathy is the new superpower. "There aren’t many moments in history where humanity is facing the same dilemma simultaneously yet our personal situations are all so different. My team comes from diverse backgrounds and a major learning from COVID-19 was navigating and recalibrating expectations of each other when we started remote working. Without the structure of a typical working day in the office, the need to empathise with people’s various circumstances is necessary to build strong and productive relationships. It’s also a skill that will enhance the way we connect to our customers and consumers," noted Havercroft.                             

    Marketing effectiveness

    Agencies have struggled to train and retain key talent amidst shrinking profit margins. "While young industry professionals build brands as their day job, most don’t think about their professional brand. We launched Verizon Media Academy as part of our B2B marketing, to inspire up-and-coming talent to build their personal brand and, in turn, help customers retain talent," said Havercroft.                             

    Her vision for it was simple: two days of inspiring ‘career-hacks’ from innovative companies like Atlassian, TV personalities from Gruen and Verizon Media’s own creative technologists, as well as one-on-one mentoring sessions. "Our inaugural year was a hit," she said.                                 

    "For year two, we planned to repeat the format. COVID-19 changed everything - our budget was slashed in half. We saw the industry needed support in adopting new working practices, communicating and maintaining mental health. We had to move quickly, so I led the team in adapting the existing program in a way that was ‘Human and Helpful’, opening up a series of webinar masterclasses to the whole industry."

    Within a week of lockdown a retooled the program was developed, with fortnightly webinars featuring leading thinkers from Havercroft's ‘little black book’ on topics such as leading and collaborating remotely, mental fitness and making a brand kick-ass. "The response was phenomenal. To date, the series has amassed 40x the target we’d originally planned to engage," said Havercroft.

    "For marketing, we grew our database by +37 per cent and learned to move fast while executing seamlessly. This success elevated the brand, giving our sales team reasons to continue connecting with clients during lockdown. This led to an equal first-place ranking in Media-i NPS in May and our 2020 revenues grew against a market that was back -14.1 per cent. Pivoting the program exceeded all original goals and established us as industry thought leaders. Most importantly we provided practical help at a time it was needed most."

    Influencing change

    "‘Create what’s next’ is my personal mantra. What motivates me is leveraging the power of marketing to find new ways of driving business growth but, more importantly, finding ways to integrate this innovation into business-as-usual," said Havercroft.

    "This incubation approach comes from my experience working with tech startups and I’ve been passionate about ensuring this philosophy is injected into the company’s strategic agenda," she explained.

    One area where ‘creating what’s next’ is incredibly important is around new ways of diversifying revenue. "While programmatic advertising has enabled advertisers to connect to audiences at scale,  advertiser insights from trade marketing research has shown that alignment with premium brands is also key to building salience and memory structures. To provide  advertisers a way of accessing brands in our portfolio such as HuffPost and Yahoo Finance, I was responsible for launching and localising a new branded content service offering, RYOT Studio."

    "Propagating this fledgling branded content team required a lot of energy and diplomacy. In order to grow the team initially, I brokered a partnership with our editorial team to bring across and re-train content editors to become branded content strategists as they had the skill-set to deliver audience-worthy work for our commercial clients."

    The partnership worked well as the team built traction with advertisers which resulted in branded content contributing sizeably to total revenue after 18 months. No longer in startup mode, Havercroft transitioned the RYOT team under the leadership of the head of commercial sales so that it can continue the next phase of growth integrated with the sales part of the company. Shortly after transition, RYOT was shortlisted as B&T Media Brand of the Year 2019 and revenue contribution continues to grow."

    Data-led marketing

    "As a digital media business, we have a rigorous digital marketing program where we know ROI for each channel. However, we were missing robust data and insight into how traditional media such as out-of-home drove our business performance metrics such as online audience (namely monthly active users) which was particularly important as we secured a sizable investment in a significant above-the-line brand campaign for Yahoo Finance - a first for the brand," explained Havercroft.

    "For a media business which has scarce resources, proving ROI for all marketing investment was critical to future ongoing investment. In order to do this, I challenged the team to evolve our understanding of channel attribution beyond digital channels," she noted.

    Engaging a business science analyst to look at the impact of online visitation across offline and online channels through econometric modelling, the analysis was able to identify the contribution of offline activity, as well as the lag time for them to positively impact online traffic. "This not only enabled me to demonstrate at management level the value of brand building investment from offline campaigns, but I was also able to correlate their contribution to important company performance indicators such as monthly active users (MAUs)," she said.

    "Ongoing use of the econometric model allowed us to have fact-based conversations and scenario plans for budgeting and flighting on subsequent brand campaigns. It has made the marketing team more effective and efficient with investment, while demonstrating the link between investing in brand and driving business metrics."

    The result over the judging period has seen audience increase NPS +15 points, with Yahoo Finance now deemed a ‘leading brand’ with the target audience, adults 25-54.             

    CX capability

    2019 was a defining year for Yahoo Finance. In order to bring the brand to life, it needed to come out of the two-dimensional confines of digital screens and engage  consumers and community in the real world. Working closely with the MD, the team built the business case to expand the marketing team capabilities by adding event management into Havercroft's remit.

    After a year of planning and preparation, they launched the first Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit in September 2019, a day-long event bringing the best of the brand to the audience. Top speakers, including former Federal Treasurer Peter Costello shared their insights on the future of finance, drawing hugely positive reactions from the audience.
    "For 2020 we have moved the event online due to COVID restrictions, with ticket sales already tracking ahead of last year despite these physical limitations," Havercroft said. Online events have been the unexpected bonus for  brands during this period. "We had to re-organise a planned sell-out Women’s Money Movement event into an online initiative, creating a webinar series with strong engagement since the start of lockdown," she said.

    "We took the opportunity to expand the portfolio launching the Yahoo Finance Breakfast Club, a collaborative effort with the editorial team, interviewing top leaders on relevant issues." These initiatives have all moved to humanise the brand and create even more loyal readers - newsletter subscribers are up 38 per cent for Yahoo Finance and Net Promoter Score +15 per cent, with readers now ranking it as a leading brand.

    Commercial acumen

    "I’m proud to have led my team in spear-heading growth for Verizon Media during the judging period, despite our marketing budget being halved. We’ve built a meaningful brand in the market, created new products to monetise and transformed the way we engage with our B2B audience," Havercroft said.

    "Our focus on Yahoo Finance saw us build out programs that served to empower Australians to take control of their money and careers through every stage of their lives. These properties have attracted major sponsorship dollars, targeted new audience segments and driven engagement for the consumer brands in person, on social media and on our pages including New Investors video series, launching All Markets Summit, major ATL outdoor campaign targeting office workers, launched Breakfast Club and Women’s Money Movement event series."       

    Ramping up B2B marketing, concentrating on meaningful thought leadership content with the Verizon Media Academy and Decoded series, gave the sales team reasons to connect with clients during lockdown and drew vast new B2B audiences to engage with the brand.                                 

    These events have featured the likes of ex-Unilever CMO Keith Weed, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Brittany Kaiser and personal branding guru Maz Farrelly. "Our B2B programs continue to be the foundation the sales teams have used to leverage incredibly strong results with Verizon Media equal first on the media agency industry survey, Media-I," she said.                           

    COVID-19 innovation

    "I channelled the business pressure caused by COVID-19 into positive energy, creating positive results for the company. My top priority was reassuring my team their jobs were safe as we halved our budget in order to preserve headcount in the first two weeks of lockdown - a global mandate, but no small feat. Our live event plans lay in tatters, but we remained true to our strategy," noted Havercroft.

    Rather than wait to respond, they seized the initiative, relaunching the events series with a renewed ethos: ‘Human and Helpful’. "We helped our industry colleagues at a time of immense hardship, opening up invite-only events, tailoring training programs to fit what people would find most useful as they adapted to changing circumstances," she said.           

    Alongside the efforts with Verizon Media Academy, the Decoded series was rapidly pivoted from a one-off in-person thought leadership event series to a digital offering of regular webcasts, which drew enormous engagement. Giving unprecedented access to proprietary insights and some of the biggest names in the industry, Identity Decoded starred former Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Brittany Kaiser, the Optus CMO and an ex-hacker. The event attracted more than 850 live viewers, a massive number for the Australian industry and considerably more than a major conference keynote address. The subsequent Recovery & Reemergence sessions involved ex-Unilever Global CMO Keith Weed in an exclusive interview, and a practical recovery planning workshop.            

    "I believed we needed to lead with thought leadership and avoid overtly salesy messaging, providing tangible insights and arming marketers across ANZ with tools and insights to help them drive their businesses forward at a time of critical importance. In a testament to its effectiveness, this hugely successful strategy is now being replicated in Verizon Media’s other global markets," she said.

    Cross-functional collaboration

    The Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit is a marketing-driven initiative that has required a huge amount of collaboration with every team in the business. Held in September 2019, the inaugural edition was its first large-scale event in Australia, attracting 400+ C-suite delegates to hear from an array of top speakers including Peter Costello and Paul Scurrah.                

    "My team was responsible for organising and programming the event. To ensure we hit the right editorial tone and attracted top speakers, the key to our success required close collaboration with the Yahoo Finance editorial team, leaning into their expertise to build a world-class line up of experts who could talk across a range of important issues," said Havercroft.

    Commercialising the event was also a key priority. Ticket sales was one key revenue stream, and the team worked closely with the business operations team to work out the optimum models for ticket pricing and partnerships for sponsors. It then launched a coordinated marketing campaign ensuring they drove a strong audience response.    

    "A successful event requires the backing of commercial sponsorship dollars. We worked in partnership with the sales team, creating dedicated sales assets, identifying potential targets from the client base and liaising to get deals over the line," she explained.       

    "In all, the event was a huge success, making front-page headlines the next day across rival publications and generating positive sentiment and revenues for the business. Along with demonstrating cross-functional collaboration, it also yielded notable commercial value to the business."

    In 2020, revenue from Yahoo Finance All Market Summit and other event spin-offs such as Yahoo Finance Breakfast Club increased by a massive +349 per cent year-on-year, showing growing interest and traction among brands and advertisers. This also resulted in the business investing in additional headcount to manage the growing demand in events.                    

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