April 7, 2022
Josh Krichefski in conversation with Arif Durrani, Media Consultant
Welcome to My Media Life, where we chat with the movers and shakers in the world of business, marketing, and media to find out how they spend their days and what has influenced their lives. This week, we’re delighted to be joined by Josh Krichefski, Global COO & EMEA CEO, MediaCom.
You’re following Sir Martin Sorrell who you worked with for quite a few years and. Are you still in touch?
I’m not in contact with Martin anymore, not for any specific reason. Martin was a brilliant leader at WPP, and massively helpful when he was running the group. He’s quite famous for being always on and always available, and he was for people like me when we needed help on clients or pitches. He was excellent, but obviously we don’t work together anymore, and now we have a brilliant WPP CEO, Mark Read, who’s equally helpful, and WPP is doing well under his leadership. And S4 Capital’s doing really well too, so Martin’s doing great things in his new life.
What does the media industry mean to you?
I’ve worked in the media industry for 24 years now and I’ve always been on agency side. I’ve done all sorts of different roles within agencies. I had my own agency at one time; I’ve worked for independent agencies; I’ve worked for group agencies. I’ve always been grateful for all the different opportunities that I’ve had over the years.
I think the media industry is filled with brilliant, creatively minded people, who have got their feet on the ground. I think that’s quite a universal trait of media industry types – down to earth, smart people with small egos. And that’s what we look for at MediaCom when we’re hiring people. I think the industry is full of people like that. I feel I owe this industry quite a lot.
Is Global Chief Operating Officer an internal facing role or are you seeing clients as well?
I don’t think anyone in an agency doesn’t work with clients in this day and age. I know COO could mean so many different things for different people and in different types of companies. Really, I’ve got two jobs, I’m global COO and I’m a EMEA CEO.
The EMEA role is working with the local markets and all of the local market CEOs. I have a central team of specialist leaders, and together, we work with the local markets finding ways to surface all of the innovation and smarts and spread it across the region as much as possible.
We’ve got a very strong network culture. I speak to the local market CEOs together every two weeks. That’s a benefit of what happened in the pandemic – technology brought us all together and we’ve kept that going. We have a very open dialogue where we will talk to each other a lot. That creates a culture where everyone will do things for each other; nothing’s done through force. People genuinely want to help each other out. My role is to try and facilitate that and try to create a culture where people want to help each other out.
Obviously, I’m very competitive. My biggest KPI when I took over the CEO of EMEA role was always to make sure that MediaCom was the number one agency in EMEA, and we are! That’s about driving new business, both locally and at a regional level. I’m client facing, so I have a relationship with all our lead European clients.
My global COO role is about trying to balance global objectives with local realities. We have lots of important global clients, with global client needs, and those global clients execute in the 96 different markets we’re in across the world. Often, the objective of a global client and of MediaCom globally might be different from what a local market reality is. My job is about trying to harmonise that as much as possible, and particularly across the G12, our biggest 12 markets.
That’s a part of the COO role. The other part of it is making sure we’ve got strong global client hubs in London, New York, Paris, Dusseldorf, Amsterdam, Singapore. My job there is about making sure we’ve got strong leadership in all of those different places and that wherever they are, they’re going to get the same experience.
What’s your favourite thing about your current job?
I love working with local markets – I really do. I’m going to Madrid today. I love meeting people on the ground, our clients, our leaders and our teams – I really enjoy that. And I’ve missed it massively.
I also really love having a global footprint and being able to make decisions with the team, with Nick Lawson, my boss, and with the people around me that really impact the globe. That’s what I love about having a global job.
The media business has expanded significantly in the past 25 years. If you were starting out in the industry today, where would you like to begin?
The first job I ever had was as a TV buyer. I then went into planning, then I joined a strategy consultancy at St Luke’s, the ad agency, and then I went into digital. So, I did a few things that were really good grounding before going into digital.
In answer to your question, the great thing about our industry is you can do anything, and then you can move to something else, and all the experiences that you have in whatever specialism you do are valuable. So, it doesn’t really matter – there is no wrong decision – and that’s why it’s fun.
I was on a call earlier today with our UK team and over the last 12 months, they’ve established, quite quickly, a scaled e-commerce offering where they do everything in e-commerce and they’re doing it at pace and at scale. They’re starting to service some of our global clients out of the UK and other markets.
Now, what I love about that is it shows the entrepreneurialism of a scaled operation that we’ve already got at MediaCom, so that entrepreneurial spirit is still there. When you were asking where I’d like to begin nowadays, the first thing that popped into my head is that e-commerce is a great place to be right now. But it doesn’t have to be [a starting place]; you can move into that down the line as well. My advice for anyone coming into the industry would be to just try and find something that you think is interesting and get into in, and the world will open up for you to try different things.
What do you think your own superpower or special talent is?
Well, the thing I have always had, that’s been very consistent in my life for as long as I can remember, is I’m a pretty good judge of character. I have a pretty good feel for people. My wife and I joke about it quite a lot. She often comes to me to get my perspective on things, and that’s something that’s always been true to me and is true in my career as well. I think I just get people.
What’s the one piece of advice that has helped you in your career?
The thing that I learned quite early, and that I say to other people, is to take yourself out of your comfort zone as much as possible. It feels like quite an unnatural thing for people to do, but it’s the thing that I did. I always put my hand up for stuff that I naturally felt like I didn’t want to do.
If someone said, “Do you want to work on this pitch?’ for example, I’d say yes, even though I didn’t want to work on it, I wanted to hang out with my mates! But I’d put my hand up and say yes, to stretch myself, push myself and make myself feel uncomfortable.
I think that was the best thing that I could ever do. And it’s the thing that I still do now, actually. When I talk to Nick [Lawson, Global CEO of MediaCom], he will often say what he likes about working with me is that I throw myself into the stuff that’s really hard – I get a bit of a buzz off it. That’s what I encourage people to do as much as possible because that’s when you really learn what you’re about. When we’re growing, that’s when we’re at our best and we should always be growing.
Where do you get your daily news from?
I’d love to be more of an internationalist than I am but I’m all about UK media, honestly, when it comes to the media I get my news from. I occasionally read The Guardian and the FT online, particularly during the week, if I’m traveling.
I always read the Saturday Times and the Sunday Times, which come to my house at the weekends. I listen to Radio 4 in the mornings, less so if I’m traveling, but I like to listen on the way to work to the Today Programme. I’ve got Sky News on constantly and I often have Sky Sports news playing on the TV during the day. For industry news, I tend to read Campaign, The Drum and Ad Age.
In terms of media brands now, which are most important to you?
I think the US streamers are getting more important in everyday life. I watch TV and I watch drama a lot and it’s coming from all US-based streamers now. So that’s taking up an increasing amount of time in my day-to-day life.
The media brands that I’d call out are probably more UK ones where I live and where I consume my media. Sky is always the first one that comes to mind, partly because they’re my client and have been for over 10 years. I’ve got a very close relationship with them as a company and as brand, and I want them to be successful.
I’m also quite impressed by their culture. I talked about a scale of business that is innovative and entrepreneurial. I think they are a very innovative company and a disruptive company and yet they’re a scale company. I love them. They challenge us and reward us in equal measure so they’re an important media brand to me.
I come from a family of Lovies. My dad was a drama TV producer, my brother is an actor, and his wife is Abi Morgan, who’s a playwright / film writer. I can watch TV drama all day long and I love any kind of media broadcaster that creates good drama – and I’d say loads of them do now actually. I’m probably not loyal to one brand more than another, but I think all of the commercial broadcasters are doing fantastic work in drama right now.
Channel 4 is a company I admire. They’re very focused on inclusivity, now more than ever; it’s uncompromising and it’s incredibly impressive. I think some of the work that they’ve done over the past 12 months has been amazing.
I like Global. Like Sky, they’re a company that has quite a forensic approach to the customer experience and it’s always interesting to see how that, as a media brand, is evolving.
When I think about the digital brands, I probably spend more time with Google and YouTube than any of the other digital players. I don’t spend that much time on social media. Obviously, I recognise how important social is in the world of media now and what impact it has on people’s lives, both positive and negative, but personally, I don’t spend that much time on it.
How do you switch off from always being on?
I struggle if I’m honest. Like most people, I tend to think too much, and when things are stressful and I’ve got a lot going on with work and I’m feeling anxious, I suffer from insomnia. I get bouts where I can’t switch off in the middle of the night.
The US is quite big part of my role, and when I’m spending time with the US, I have to work quite late into the evening. I struggle with switching off at night and switching off for me in the evening is really important. I meditate, I practice yoga. I go to the gym, I read, I cook. I watch loads of TV – probably too much TV!
I really like podcasts – the ones that are just like chats. I’m not into true fiction stuff, but the podcast I’m loving at the moment is Smartless – it’s hilarious! I love things that make me laugh because things that make me laugh chill me out. I’d recommend the Smartless podcast to anybody. It’s three actors who hang out with each other. One of them invites an A-list celebrity onto the podcast and the other two don’t know who it’s going to be, then the three of them interview that person and rib each other while they’re doing it. It’s brilliant; really funny and I’d recommend it!
Who or what inspires you?
I’m surrounded by people who are smarter than me, both at home and at work. I’m inspired by everyone around me really. I work with all the specialist leaders who are world-class at what they do. I’m constantly surprised and inspired by them.
I also worked with all our local CEOs who are amazing, and we deal with some of the most innovative clients in the world. So again, I’m constantly learning when I’m dealing with people and I’ll often pinch myself and say, I can’t believe I’m talking to people like this, and I get to spend my days with them.
And then at home, my wife is a real inspiration for me. I talk about personal growth and I’m always growing with her. I’m very lucky to have her and my kids to keep me on my toes and keep me humble. I’m the least important person in the house and they make me realise that every day. I’m very lucky. I’m inspired by people, day in, day out.
Do you feel like a seasoned old timer now or are you still as passionate about the media business?
I feel like a pretender. I don’t feel like a seasoned old timer. I’m probably a little bit seasoned, but I feel like I’ve still got so much to learn, and I’ve still got a lot to give. I’m really excited about the future, genuinely. I think our industry is thriving right now and I think there’s so much change happening. And it’s incredibly exciting. And I think there’s a lot of stuff for us to do to be better. In terms of diversity and inclusion, there’s a long way to go. I think there’s a lot more that we, as an industry can be doing for society but I’m excited by that challenge. I feel really good about where we’re going.
If your children wanted to go into the media business, would you encourage it?
I would. I might not have always said that, but I definitely would say that now – it’s the land of opportunity!
Thanks so much for your time today, Josh, we appreciate how busy you are and it’s been great talking to you.