Sun setting over the ad industry? M+AD talks to Xero’s Andy Lark

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This week marks the start of Xerocon, Xero’s annual accounting conference, held at the Viaduct Event Centre in Auckland. The conference showcases the latest in product innovation, Xero’s product roadmap for the year ahead, current thinking and provides a strategic update from a local and global perspective. Ahead of Xerocon, M+AD seized an opportunity for a quick Q+A with Xero CMO Andy Lark. Advertising was our focus.

Lark is an award-winning marketer and online leader, with more than 25 years of experience across the B2B and consumer sectors. He has built successful businesses and run leading marketing programmes and teams for Fortune 500 and Times 100 companies, global technology brands, start-ups and some of the world’s best advertising and communications agencies.

His blog – thedailylark – is in the top 100-ranked marketing blogs globally and he is an internationally acclaimed speaker. From industry conferences to internal events and team workshops, he’s a go-to man for his inspiring insights on technology and consumer trends.

What are some of the challenges you face in your role as CMO at Xero?

Hiring great talent at a rate to support growth. Sweating every dollar to drive performance. And doing that across four major markets. These are all awesome challenges to have.

How do you see the role of ad agencies within the NZ economy?

They are valuable providers for elements of the marketing supply chain, but they will have to adapt from their current form to survive.

At Xero we’ve built our own, and partner with others for creative solutions that complement our capability. We need a new generation of agencies that aren’t preoccupied with the mediums but instead driven by engaging customers in amazing products and experiences.

What challenges have you faced marketing in the US compared to New Zealand?

I’m probably more familiar with the US than NZ. We are very clear on what it takes to win. That means staying true to our business model, driving hard on digital, building the brand through experience and engagement. It’s a similar playbook to NZ, but amplified and concentrated in markets within markets.

Do you prefer to work with independent agencies or agencies that are part of a global network?

We don’t care what kind of agency you are. Our preference is to build our team at Xero and then complement them with world-class resources.

May agencies live long in some form, but it’s the beginning of the end for the current business model, as it is no longer consistent with the way in which we need to go to market.

How do you see the role of advertising and marketing, especially for New Zealand businesses?

Marketing is crucial. It’s marketing’s golden age. The sun is setting on the advertising industry as we have known it. Our primary mediums have changed to mediums of interaction. Engagement is crucial. You can’t shout through integrations. You either engage or die. Primacy shifts to conversations, content and customer experience. You can’t fake beautiful in product design and experience.

Can you tell us about opportunities coming up for Xero?

We’ve only just begun in meeting the needs of small businesses. Small business owners have been under-served and ignored for too long. And yet they are the lifeblood of the economy. The opportunity is to boost their success – to help them thrive. We do that, and we create jobs, new businesses, and amazing new opportunities. That’s what fuels us, helping small businesses thrive.

Thank you.

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