Marshall Manson | The Innovator 25

Marshall Manson

The Innovator 25: Marshall Manson

Managing director, EMEA, Social@Ogilvy


Influence & Engagement

"Never be afraid to speak the truth to leadership. Be polite and respectful, but direct."
Manson builds big digital practices that make money and do serious work. After doing just that for Edelman’s biggest digital operation in London, he left for Ogilvy PR in 2013, and has since taken on a new level of industry leadership, particularly around the concept of Facebook Zero. Social@Ogilvy is already a major contender in EMEA, but Manson is aware of the heightened possibilities that come from working within the Ogilvy Group, where he has access to a new level of creative technology, data and insight.

In what area of marketing/PR do you see the most innovation?
Social media & online marketing.

How would you describe the communications/PR industry’s level of innovation?
About the same as other marketing disciplines.

Where do you see the greatest opportunity for marketing & PR to become more innovative?
Social media & online marketing.

Who most influences how innovative a brand’s marketing/PR is?

How do you define innovation?
Innovation is the act of synthesising a combination of insights and experience to create something new that's practical in the real world and addresses a client business challenge. It's not doing something new merely for the sake of newness.

Most innovative PR/comms campaign you’ve seen in the last 12 months?
Campaign for Ikea's Cardiff store. Explored whether Facebook could drive offline footfall, and actually quantified the uplift in footfall using connections between Facebook, consumers' mobile devices and geo-fence around the Cardiff store. Essentially, the tech could tell whether someone who consumed the Facebook content actually visited the store. 

What brands and/or agencies are most innovative when it comes to marketing/PR?
R/GA, 360i, O2, British Airways (client), Unilever (client)

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider ‘innovative.’
1) In 2005, broke new ground by engaging bloggers at scale for a big retailer — Walmart — in the US. Was the first brand outside of the tech sector to do so. Walmart was under political attack from trade unions who wanted to organise the company's employees. We aimed to make friends and provide the company's point of view. The fact that bloggers were including the company's point of view or even writing whole posts about it spurred a New York Times article in 2006. 
2) In 2008, after arriving in Europe and recognizing that the culture of blogging hadn't caught on in most European markets the way it had in the US, drove a pivot in Edelman's European digital offering towards community building and branded community engagement. The resulting business shift saw 400% revenue growth over the next three years. 

Who is your mentor and why?
I've been lucky enough to have a number of mentors over the years. In my political days, Fred Wszolek taught me about staying calm under pressure. At Edelman in Washington, Mike Krempasky taught me a lot about strategy and non-linear thinking. In London, Robert Phillips was a massive influence in my thinking about the PR industry and the role of social across the marketing and comms mix. 

How do you get inspired?
I need a mix of quiet time to reflect and think through problems, followed by the stimilus of an animated conversation with smart people with a range of perspectives. But I suppose nothing inspires me like a great idea that’s practical and valuable for a client's business. 

Advice for people seeking to bring new ideas, ways of doing things to their organizations?
Be hard headed. Know the rules, policies, and procedures of your organisation well enough that you can bend and break them effectively without causing controversy. Most importantly, don't be afraid to fail. Never be afraid to speak the truth to leadership. Be polite and respectful, but direct. And make sure that your ideas have practical benefit for your business or your clients.  

In your opinion, what’s the most innovative place in the world?
London is one of only a few truly global cities. It's attracted an unparelleled mix of the best marketing talent, creativity, and technical expertise. It's intensely competitive, a force which drives constant innovation. And it's got a fantastic culture with a mix of history and modern cutting edge thinking. Having said all of that, the most innovative place in the world is any where that a couple of folks are working on a cool new idea. These days, that could be the coffee shop down the street. 

What’s your favorite time of day and why?
630am to 9am in the morning. It's the time before meetings and the distractions of the day, when my mind is fresh from sleep and my subconscious has been working on problems all night. It's the best time for writing, thinking and problem solving, and the most productive period in my day.