Message spreads across the globe

Shaun Gregory interview at Telefonica London for Sheffield AStar Business Magazine
Shaun Gregory interview at Telefonica London for Sheffield AStar Business Magazine
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It’s a sweltering day and as the mercury keeps rising a text lands on your phone suggesting it’s time for a Heineken.

Walking past Starbucks your phone vibrates with a money-off voucher.

The new Range Rover Sport has just taken the Pikes Peak hill climb record, be one of the first to watch the video – as you wait for your bus.

Advertising – like so many things these days – has gone mobile.

Shaun Gregory, aged 45, from Sheffield is helping to pioneer this new platform across the planet.

He is the global chief executive for Telefonica Digital – owners of O2 in the UK - and an £80bn turnover company operating in 26 countries.

He said: “We are at the cutting edge of a technology which is changing advertising from a dark art into a science.”

But if that sounds a bit Big Brother, bear in mind you have to ‘opt-in’ in the first place, says Shaun.

And data is used anonymously – so they target adverts at you based on your usage without knowing precisely who you are.

Some 96 per cent of texts are read within the first five minutes, it is claimed.

Telefonica Digital also works in internet television, video, outdoor advertising, social networks, loyalty, payments and analytics – with global revenues on target to pass £5bn by 2015.

Not everyone is comfortable with this level of personalisation - and the privacy that must be surrendered, but many large companies have long since made up their minds.

Shaun reels off a list of global firms he works with, including Visa, Fifa, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Land Rover, The Co-op.

But although it’s a global operation, local subsidiaries are vital.

Shaun added: “A lot of my role is as an ambassador. In my first six months I visited every country and every team.

“I make it my business to understand what everyone is doing. You have to stay grounded and build relationships so people trust you.”

How hard work paid dividends

At the tender age of 15, Shaun Gregory was told by his teacher at Ashleigh Comprehensive in Sheffield he was unsuitable for ‘O’ levels and would not be entered in any.

Was he crushed by the blow?

No. He took and passed nine after his parents paid the entry fees. It was an experience which reinforced a lesson drilled into him: hard work pays.

“I wasn’t naturally academic. But if I get a knock I come straight back. I was determined to prove it to myself,” he says. When he was 10 the family moved from a terrace to a semi in Gleadless, Sheffield, thanks to his parents’ graft.

Later, while working as an advertising rep at The Star he won ‘salesman of the month’ 16 times on the trot. But it was the car that really flicked his reward button.

He said: “People like me didn’t get company cars. I washed it religiously every weekend. This made the link between hard work and reward almost like a belief.”

He joined local commercial radio station Hallam FM and in 1994 was headhunted to join Emap. It was the start of an ascent through its family of companies over the next 12 years until he ended up back at Hallam FM as managing director.

“We had a fantastic few years, I also met my wife Ruth there. It was probably the best time in my life.”

He eventually left to join the Daily Telegraph as director of new media charged with turning it into a ‘digital first’ operation.

“We put everyone through a training programme, the whole company. This old newspaper went open plan with a hub and spoke layout. It was breathtaking.”

He joined O2 and built O2 Media “from scratch”. The move into operating globally for Telefonica followed.

Today he lives in Sussex with Ruth and their daughters, aged 12 and nine.

He is up and working from 4am every day.

“I sometimes talk about slowing down but Ruth rolls her eyes – she knows it’s not going to happen.”