The one about perceptions


Welcome to Salmon Theory, a weekly space where marketing meets philosophy.

I’m Rob. Thank you for your attention. Let’s do this.

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My guest this week comes from a different world than mine.

And yet, whenever we meet we have the most fascinating conversations.

Not because we always agree on things, but despite our different world views.

I’m trying to get better at debate, and chatting to Henry at the pub always helps.

(Remember chatting at the pub? What the fuck’s that?)

Henry Innis is the Managing Partner of Mutiny and an all-round fascinating guy.

In this conversation, we cover work obsessions, commercial knowledge in marketing, changing industry perceptions, assigning value to creativity, and going to space.

Without further ado: take it away, Henry.

How did you get to where you are?

I began my career in advertising, mostly because of my dad. He thought it was a space that was interesting for someone who loved both computers and the written word, particularly with the rise of digital media. My old man is a media guy — so he kind of pushed me into it. I owe a lot to him. Dad was the one who shaped a critical view and a love affair with work. Some people say I’m too work obsessed, which is probably fair.

I quickly fell in love with the profession. I thought the lack of commercial knowledge and analytics in advertising was kind of weird, given how everything around me growing up was always about commercial outcomes. So I started to build a career in it.

I worked my way through WPP and an indie, then back to WPP and I was really lucky to have a number of mentors who helped me all the way through (Adam, Tim, Dave, Aden, Billy and Rose, to name a few). They all taught me how to navigate politics, how to hone your craft and how to be a better strategist.

I still saw commercial analytics, or lack thereof, as the big opportunity, particularly as CMOs got kicked out of the boardroom. Giving them a platform as simple to use as Google Analytics, which could analyse, model and predict media outcomes, seemed like a fascinating tech problem to me. It was like software was born to eat this up. So I started Mutiny to build that and bring the software revolution to advertising. 

I love the idea and romance of being an entrepreneur. It’s lonely at times, and you’re constantly pressured to deliver. But there’s something tormenting and wonderful about doing things for yourself, for your own reasons. It’s a special kind of stoicism.

Why do you do what you do?

I’ve always been obsessed with changing the world. And in a funny way one thing that has frustrated me is the lack of respect marketing gets in the boardroom. I think in a sense it comes back to my school time a bit – I was always an outsider – and that same frustration exists for me in marketing and boardrooms.

I think it’s unfair and bullshit that marketers get called cost centres, not revenue generators, and I could feel the disdain people used to feel for me when I said I was in marketing. So I almost wanted to change how that perception felt for myself, which by extension, changes the perception of an industry. In my view, we’re all driven to some degree by our desire for perception. Only our internal actions can change that.

How do you speed your brain up?

Tough one. Sometimes I don’t want my brain to speed up. Ever. It feels very fast in there at times. My thoughts probably race too much and sometimes your mind can torment you with overthinking – something that has constantly caused problems for me in my life. If there’s one thing that always does it for me though, it’s music. Music can control my entire mood. I have specific songs to ramp myself into different states. For example ‘Shoot to Thrill’ by AC/DC whenever I’m walking into a business meeting. Or ‘Shake That’ by Eminem when I’m walking into a club. Dorky as hell, I know. 

How do you slow your brain down?

I’m a big believer in nature. I spend a lot of time freediving and exploring remote headlands by boat. I dive probably 2 to 3 times a week if I can help it, getting down 10 meters to explore reefs and ledges. For me diving is the ultimate quiet. You have to focus on your breath, your movement, be alert to every sound in the water. It’s a completely present moment. And every part of your body slows as you go down. It’s an incredible experience and I think more people should do it.

Which two fields should talk more to one another? What should they talk about?

I think creativity and analytics really need to find a common language. They’re so complementary. Yet the analytics people frown on the creatives, and vice versa.

I’ll give you an example. Creatives are forever moaning about their inability to get bigger budgets. Well, you know who can get you a bigger budget? The analytics guy. How? In WarChest, for example, we can identify if ad decay is high for an execution. If so, that means media dollars don’t stretch as far. So we can begin to model this decay curve and simulate the improvement good creativity can have over long-term revenue.

You can apply this in many ways. Understanding business challenges in unique ways, and framing solutions into the underlying assumptions of a model. Once your solution becomes an assumption in a financial model, you can project clear value to clients.

My genuine belief is if these two disciplines come together we’ll change marketing from being seen as the ‘arts and crafts’ department to the driver of revenue in large businesses. That’s a far better reflection of who we are and what we do.

What’s something everyone could do with a bit more of?

Listening outside of your filter bubble. Pick 15 people to listen to who you disagree with lots, and understand why you disagree.

What’s something everyone could do with a bit less of?

Social media. I fucking hate it.

What’s the last thing you changed your mind on?

Yoga. I love it now!

Everyone’s a bit mad. How are you mad?

I’m eccentric. No filter. I think it’s a superpower to say whatever the hell you think.

What gives you hope?

Many will hate this, but I admire people like Elon Musk and Bill Gates, who believe in a species-wide view of things and how we can push ourselves to the next frontier. I really get excited thinking about how in our lifetime we may be an interstellar species.

Thanks Henry!

You can learn more about Henry on Twitter, LinkedIn and on Mutiny’s website.

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Stay safe. Stay sane.


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