Found People Thursdays – GUEST BLOG – Michael Aniballi – Digital Practice Lead/Managing Director JWT
Thursday, May 2, 2013


Michael Aniballi steps in as our second Guest Blogger, he’s a true pioneer in Canada’s digital strategy and delivery space, and we’re really glad to have him here.

Having built and lead some of the highest performing agencies and teams in the industry, we figure he’s one of the best people to talk to about the business and how digital communication and social media are affecting how we relay/receive information as a society.

Here’s his bio: Michael has spent over ten years, providing measurable online success for his Canadian and US clients. In spite of his predilection for dressing like an accountant and speaking like a lawyer, Michael’s broad digital strategy experience has been instrumental in helping large North American brands venture risk free in to the complex digital ecosystem. By building digital teams with expertise in strategy, design, production and technology, mobile, social, search and analytics, he ensures his client’s make one phone call when they have challenging digital problems in need of smart solution. Michael sits at the forefront of the Chief Digital Officer evolution with a broad skill set almost unparalleled in the Canadian marketplace.

FP – You left banking during the dot com boom what lured you into Digital?
MA– At the time I had been sponsored into the Ivey MBA program by TD Bank. The program opened my eyes to the unbelievable opportunities in the Internet space and it was easy to see how big it was going to be. I wanted to be a part of that excitement so I began my search into US based Internet companies until I found one that excited me with their vision and prospects…then I pursued it with a passion.

FP– From Rare Medium to Publicis then Wunderman, and recently JWT – damn that’s good! What’s the key to your success?
MA– First of all, THANK YOU for the compliment. I have been very fortunate to have worked with some of the best companies in the space. Rare Medium was the first publicly traded Internet Professional Services firms in the US so when I joined as an early employee the excitement was palpable. Within a short time however the euphoria of the dot com bubble was over, but a surprising outcome was that advertising agencies now wanted to be part of the digital space as did their clients. The Rare Medium Canada team joined with Publicis Canada and we founded their digital division. After 8 years and much success I wanted to explore the data and analytics side of the digital advertising realm so I joined Wunderman which was and still is one of the leading eCRM companies in the world. After three years at Wunderman I was approached by JWT who needed assistance in getting a digital group started so I joined and brought a small team together and built the group from the ground up. Today JWT Canada digital is one of the fastest growing digital groups in their network and the team is second to none with great client wins under their belt. I suppose I should answer your question though, my success has been predicated upon finding, hiring and working with some of the smartest people in the business, I’m pretty good at what I do, but I am nothing without the great teams that we have assembled. The key to my success is finding and hiring good people, who can work TOGETHER as a team.  In every team I have ever assembled, each hire knows at least 25% of the people they will be working with….no one is a stranger and that is a recipe for great team work.

FP– We live in a 140 character world now, thanks to Twitter and Texting. How does saying more with less influence your business?
MA– This answer won’t be in 140 characters or less! Advertising especially digital has always been about the newest shiniest object, so technology has been rapidly adopted by brands across the globe. Twitter is another shiny object and it has created quite a bit of confusion for brands as they have no control over their brand within the Twitter-sphere. In essence the community owns the brand and will say and do what THEY want. I am of two minds on this. First it challenges brands to be MORE, in every way. If they are unable to please a small minority, that minority could be quite disruptive to their brand, and this has been demonstrated many times over the past 3 years.

This means brands have to be MORE, products have to be MORE, and companies have to be MORE….I like that and think we ALL benefit from this in the value we receive as consumers. Second, I don’t believe Twitter will last long and I still believe that slow and accurate is an infinitely more valuable news model than fast and inaccurate. Twitter has made us “accepting” of bad information because it is quick…even though it is most often not accurate…in the end, this is inevitably a bad value equation for those who want accuracy, and transparency and honesty from their news and information feeds…this close but not close enough phenomenon will eventually erode the value of Twitter…in the end there is too much noise already…we need to simplify our news and make sure it is right…it is why the evening news still has the highest rated viewerships on TV. As communication models grow, and information becomes more rapid, yet more abbreviated, the SIGNAL to NOISE ratio will increase. The company that solves this problem of FILTERING the exorbitant amount of information will WIN…so far GOOGLE is my bet.

FP-When you have something to say do you, A-Blog B-Tweet C-Update Your Status D-Other ..please explain
MA-I am probably different than others in this area. I use each and every one of the new technologies/tools as they arise in order to understand the value of the tool. Sometimes the greatest insights come from using new technologies BEFORE they gain mass adoption as the experience is purer.

I don’t have an overwhelming need to be heard, and I certainly don’t think my opinions are so valuable that they need to be disseminated to each of my 10,000 + followers on an hourly basis. I am also not sure if my followers WANT to hear from me unless I have something particularly original to say. In fact I am not even sure why I have 10,000 followers; perhaps I should send a survey out to them? I was one of the original members of LinkedIn back in 2006 which is ironic given I am member #39,959, which doesn’t seem very new unless you realize there are now over 100,000,000 users of the tool now.

As far as technologies and tools, LinkedIn is one of my favourites. Facebook on the other hand is not one of my favourites. I was an early adopter when it opened up beyond university students back in 2006 but I determined years ago that the tool was irrelevant to me and how I live my life so I stopped using it personally and now only use it to gauge its effectiveness for clients. What I have discovered is that how we use these tools impacts one of the most intriguing aspects of digital marketing, and that is SEARCH. Of all the insights clients can glean from new technologies and tools, their impact on search is the most valuable.

FP – What’s the next big thing in digital for clients to overcome when it comes to innovation and staying ahead of the curve?
MA– The next big thing is SIMPLICITY. If a digital tool or technology does not make our lives easier, simpler, safer, more productive, more enriched, then it should be avoided as it will most likely do the opposite which is to distract us from what is really important in life. I think clients need to simplify their approach to digital, I think they need to use new tools as soon as they are available then test learn and optimize their value. If there is no discernible value to the client, or most importantly their CONSUMER, then it should be discarded, regardless of how COOL it may be…

FP– What keeps you up at night besides too much coffee?
MA – Our youth and whether we have prepared them properly for what they are about to inherit. By inherit I don’t mean money, but rather the state of the world and how we have left it. As early adopters of the WORLD, we had a pure experience of the Earths beauty. But with the population growth has come a loss of its value to us, the Earth’s consumers. I think about history and how we look back at the Holocaust, or segregation, even apartheid and tell ourselves that in 2013 THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN. Then I think about my children 30 years from now looking back on how we treated the planet with the same level of disdain, and disbelief, saying HOW COULD YOU LET THAT HAPPEN. Whether one believes in CLIMATE CHANGE or not, it is certain that change is afoot and it is also certain we caused many of these detrimental effects. Hopefully we do not use up and throw away this legacy like so many MySpace’s before.

FP Thanks Michael…you’ve given us some thoughtful perspectives and a lot to think about.

Michael’s LinkedIn profile is:

His Twitter handle is @maniballi

You won’t find him on Facebook 😉


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