Harmony Murphy is head of UK advertising at eBay. We caught up with Harmony to discuss how she has adapted to working life during the pandemic.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
As the GM of advertising UK at eBay, I look after the operations of the entire digital advertising team here in the UK. This includes overseeing the sales team – from how they connect with agencies and brands to the types of material and messaging they use – as well as ad operations, and our eBay Ads marketing team.
My job focuses on ensuring that there is cohesion across all of the teams, and that we provide the best insights, inventory, and campaign performance to our brand and agency partners.
How has your typical day been impacted in the short term by the pandemic?
Like most people, the biggest impact on my typical working day has been the lack of physical contact with others. I’ve missed not seeing my team and being able to collaborate with people in a physical environment – both within the business and outside of it. Before the pandemic, visiting clients and agencies was a really important part of my week – whether for meetings, or workshops or lunch-and-learns.
Although some things have been harder due to this lack of contact, I have enjoyed rising to the challenge and finding ways to make these meetings engaging and fun online, such as hosting Zoom quizzes and interactive lunch-and-learn webinars. It has been good for my creativity to be forced to think outside of the box when it comes to engaging people.
What trends have you seen in the last few weeks in your sector?
Brands and agencies alike are realising how important it is to have access to good publishers with quality first party data. Consumer behaviour and attitudes are changing so much and so frequently that freshness of data is crucial right now, in order for brands to reach people with ads that actually resonate with them.
Similarly, advertisers are carefully constructing their messages to be relevant in times of COVID-19. Unsurprisingly, in this difficult and worrying time, our recent research found that people would prefer to see ads that are in touch with reality, informative, and reassuring.
As discussions around brand safety have moved on to brand relevance, ensuring that adverts are placed in the right environment is also a key focus right now. Brands want to ensure that their ads are being placed next to quality, relevant, and appropriate content. This is not only to prevent reputational damage, but also to increase positive engagement with the brand.
What advice would you give a marketer right now?
With so much change going on, marketers should embrace it. Now is a time to be open to new things. This period can be used by marketing teams to gain a deeper understanding of their consumers and try new strategies or approaches – this is a test and learn phase to be made the most of.
It’s also important to consider how the coronavirus pandemic has shifted people’s priorities; away from the superficial world of buying the latest goods and gadgets, to the importance of the people in our lives. And with Christmas fast approaching, our recent research found that for 57% of people, their top priority this year would be spending time with their loved ones, and more than half said that they would be focusing on buying thoughtful gifts. Marketers should definitely consider this shift towards sentimentality when planning their upcoming campaigns.
Which companies have impressed you during the pandemic?
Clearly, I would say this, but as an employer, eBay has genuinely really impressed me during the last few months. Earlier this year they did a great job of communicating with employees on a daily basis around the pandemic, and since, they’ve continued to keep us in the loop when it comes to what’s going on with the business, and access to the office.
Also, when lockdown first happened and the world felt particularly scary, we were all sent a gift hamper full of pick-me-ups such as plants, chocolate, and toiletries – all sourced from local businesses and charities. It was a complete surprise and really touching.
Many of the agencies we work with – such as Mediahub and Mindshare Worldwide – have also really impressed me in their creative approaches to communicate with each other. These include quizzes and team building exercises, and their methods have definitely inspired me when it comes to ideas to take to my own teams!
What are your favourite tools and techniques to help you get your work done at the moment?
Like the rest of the world, I have been very reliant on video call platforms such as Zoom for keeping in touch with colleagues and partners. That being said, I’ve also enjoyed switching back to old-school phone calls with my team. Having regular chats on the phone with everyone just to check up on if they are okay has really brought us together. I think it’s very important for wellbeing to not communicate solely on work matters, and it provides a nice break from the screen!
Beyond technology, time management has become an invaluable tool for me over these past few months. As my days are no longer structured how they were before – for example, waking up at a certain time to make my commute to the office, or leaving my desk to make coffee etc. – I have found it really helpful to create my own timetable while working from home. Even small changes, such as ensuring I go for a walk in my lunch break or get up away from my laptop to walk around my house, really help to give my mind a much needed reset.
What changes are you making to help your brand connect with how people are feeling and experiencing the pandemic?
Our role is to help our brands connect with their audiences, so throughout this time of upheaval and change in consumer behaviour we have been sharing relevant trends and data insights to help them really utilise our platform and reach people in the best way, and with the most appropriate message.
It’s also been clear that human connection is more important than ever, and this applies within the eBay team, to our agency partners, as well as to our customers. Simply picking up the phone and getting in touch to talk and listen to people has been invaluable.
What does long term planning and strategy look like now at your brand?
eBay has just had its 25th anniversary, and during this time we have gained a great understanding of how people shop and behave.
As we look forward, the customer experience has to be a priority for all ecommerce businesses. From an advertising perspective, this means that we are making sure that we harness this knowledge to offer relevant, holistic, and organic advertising solutions that will really enhance the user’s journey.