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Microsoft VP: ‘Remember, we are all consumers’

Mark Richardson, Regional Vice President and General Manager, EMEA & LATAM, Microsoft Advertising joined us for a quick chat as part of our Marketing Maestro interview series in partnership with Press Gazette. We talk achievements, generative AI and mastering social media.

What’s been the proudest achievement in your current role?

My most recent highlight would be the launch of Bing chat. Incorporating AI in search has been a game changer for the industry. Microsoft was in a unique position to reinvent the way we search, and seeing the ‘wow’ light up on our clients’ faces as they comprehend its impact on the industry has been an incredible and defining moment for us.

Reflecting on the many proud achievements with Microsoft Advertising, there’s a common thread running throughout, and that’s our incredible team. They are the driving force behind all our successes. Managing such a remarkable team and being able to support our clients has been an honour, especially during challenging times like the pandemic and the subsequent shifts in the economic environment.

Which media channels do you see as most important and best value when it comes to marketing spend and activity?

Today’s dynamic marketing landscape, characterised by increasing complexity, privacy concerns, regulatory pressures and a rising need for consolidation, can be overwhelming for marketers to navigate. Even more so as we’re seeing audiences become more fragmented, scattered across multiple channels.

When considering what media channel is most important, it will naturally depend on the target audience, goals against that audience, and where that audience is in their overall decision-making process.

At Microsoft Advertising, we aim to address this growing pressure head-on, and offer end-to-end advertising solutions across CTV (connected TV), video, display, native, social and search, including desktop, mobile, gaming and the web. This allows advertisers to maximise their full-funnel marketing to target both B2B and B2C audiences in different stages of consideration, all with one single partner, with a broad reach across the digital advertising ecosystem.

What is your advice for mastering social media? 

Consistency is key. It’s crucial to establish a regular cadence to maintain your brand’s presence, ideally posting once or twice a week.

Next, it’s very important to communicate a clear messaging. You wouldn’t want to overcomplicate your platform by trying to cater to everybody. Most people have clear and specialised areas of interest within their industry; it’s important to identify those and focus your content on that to build your platform.

Engagement is another essential aspect. You’ll really want to generate conversations by interacting with posts – like asking the author a question or tagging someone in your comment to ask them a question about the post. Utilise your existing network and find your communities – interact with colleagues, tag clients to direct them to content of interest, use the correct hashtag or keywords that may be of interest to your potential audience.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to get creative. Play around with video assets, polls and different social media features to help spark interactions among your followers.

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In your opinion, what is the main difference between B2C and B2B marketing? 

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that we are all consumers so your marketing content should be engaging for your audience as humans. Whether you are selling a product direct to a consumer or a service to another business, it’s still people you are communicating with. It’s helpful to remember this.

How important is technology in modern marketing?

Technology plays a fundamental role in modern marketing. It not only enables marketers to reach and engage their audience more effectively, efficiently and creatively, but also helps marketers collect and analyse data, measure and optimise their campaign performances, innovate and adapt to ever-changing customer needs and preferences.

I believe that marketers should actively lean into and embrace technology, from using AI to automate the mundane tasks behind ad campaigns, to augmenting creativity. We shouldn’t think of it as a substitute for human creativity and intuition, but rather businesses should consider it as a strategic priority to embrace technology as a partner in their marketing efforts, and leverage the potential to create value.

Looking at the evolution of online advertising, we are already seeing how technology and automation have played a crucial role in improving efficiency. Programmatic technology, for example, allowed marketers to optimise their time and focus on creativity and innovation, leaving the technology to do the arduous and repetitive tasks like auction bidding.

Which future marketing trends will become mainstream before too long? 

Generative AI will have profound implications on marketing. It has the potential to revolutionise content creation by automating the generation of campaign assets. It also offers unprecedented opportunities for marketers to personalise advertisements in real time, tailoring them to individual contexts.

For the wider business, it can also streamline workflows and boost overall efficiency in the marketing processes by enhancing customer service with customised chatbots.

And finally, if you could ask your peers for one piece of advice or help, what would it be?

In such a fast-paced industry, coupled with broader social and economic challenges from recent years, it is crucial to actively seek advice and insights from our peers. One area that consistently arises in conversations, and a topic I would very much like to discuss with others too, is how to balance competing priorities and manage time and resources efficiently so that we continue to deliver the utmost value to our customers.