30 Best Leaders To Watch 2020

Code: Aiding and Abetting Clients Invent a New Future for their Marketing through Data and Technology


“We want to be innovative, radical, and challenging, but we also need to be stable, responsible with good governance,and delivering for our clients and co-workers.”

Technology, as we all know, is moving at a rapid pace. Anyone who has worked in digital marketing knows that marketing and technology go hand in hand. At the heart of every business lies marketing, whether it is a product or a service-based business. The one driving force that keeps the business growing is its ability to sell the products and services offered. The relatively young Martech (marketing technology) sector is no exception, as it is boasting staggering platforms and technologies. Martech is important because it increases the collaboration between the marketing team and assorted company departments. When this happens, everything runs smoother. Workflows are streamlined and teams galvanize, creating better projects and making way for new opportunities.

Code is the data and technology division of Omnicom Precision Marketing Group founded in 2003. The company helps its clients to invent a new future for their marketing using technology by leveraging strengths in data engineering and digital identity, marketing science, Customer Experience Management (CXM), and Marketing Technology (Martech) as well as delivering transformation through its dynam. Code supports clients including Best Western, Christie's, Jaguar Land Rover, L'Oréal, Mercedes-Benz, Ralph Lauren, Samsung, and Telstra to drive business impact. The data and technology division has a global presence of 350 employees spanning nine cities, located in the UK, Europe, North America, China, Singapore, and Australia.

Matt McNeany: Interview Highlights

Can you brief us about the history of your company?

Previously, I was working in ad agencies and became increasingly skeptical about how agencies were helping their clients. The whole process was slow, expensive, repetitive, and wasteful. Advertising agencies had not evolved their ways of working for 50 years and other aspects of business had been so immune to change. I wanted to help clients and agencies transform marketing. That is when I decided to start Code with a mission of inventing a new future for marketing. We quickly partnered with Omnicom and their agencies to help first deliver improved efficiency through automation, most notably via Code's adZU platform, as well as optimizing the effectiveness of marketing by leveraging customer, content, and channel data to enable personalization at scale.

Code has now grown to nine offices and an enviable global client list including Mercedes-Benz, Ralph Lauren, and Samsung. We have always pushed against the orthodoxy of marketing and advertising. What we proposed when we started is now what all clients are striving for, i.e. to differentiate themselves based on a personalized experience. Despite the fact that we've grown, it remains our job to challenge received wisdom and invent new ways of making marketing exciting and valuable through technology. That radicalism is an inherent part of our DNA.

A well-defined mission and vision is the secret behind the success of many firms. What is your company's M&V statement?

Code exists to help clients invent a new future for their marketing through data and technology. This was our founding mission 17 years ago and governs our strategy and action to this day. Our clients need to compete on experience as much as product or price. Our job is to help them understand and predict the needs of their customers (through data engineering, identity management, and predictive models) and turn this insight into personalized, relevant marketing messages (through automation and AI powered optimization). Our vision is of a transformed marketing services model, where we want marketing to become a service to the buyer, not just a tactic for the seller.

What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?

I don't have fears about my work. Ultimately it's just a job, what's the worst that can happen?

I guess I have greater concerns about how we are managing modernity, whether that is from an environmental point of view, or how we are equipping people to benefit from globalization or deliver equality of opportunity through work.

What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?

Almost too many to list! When you're in the business of transforming things, you get a lot of resistance, some driven because what you're saying is new and people don't understand yet; and some driven because people see a threat to the status quo and their self-interest (we still meet that a lot). Ultimately you have to inspire people out of their objections. Complaining about objections or battling them is tiring and dispiriting for all – better to help everyone see how we can help them with more time, better work, and more opportunity through what we offer.

And last (to quote Mark Twain and Jay-Z): "Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference."

'It is difficult to start a venture. But far more difficult to maintain it' - How would you and your team interpret this saying?

I would agree. As the business gets bigger, it gets more complicated and it is easy to get distracted. We aim to keep true to the mission of the business and to judge decisions on whether they are helping us achieve the mission or not.

The other key challenge is how to maintain culture as the organization gets bigger. We want to be innovative, radical, and challenging, but we also need to be stable, responsible with good governance, and delivering for our clients and co-workers. Central to doing this is 'humility', which is one of the core values of Code.

What other leaders do you look up to, and why?

Greta Thunberg – For showing how much transformation one person can achieve.

Tony Wilson (founder of Factory Records) – Whose Mancunian-accented radicalism formed me.

Sir Alex Ferguson (Ex-Manchester United manager, and I support Everton, thus hate Manchester United) – he has some tremendous lessons on how to scale success and enable people to be the best they can be.

If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting, what would it be?

"Deeds, not words", quoted by Emmeline Pankhurst, an English political activist at the UK Suffragette movement and helping women win the right to vote.

What are your future focus areas?

We seek to focus on Content Intelligence using AI to make content self-defining and self-optimizing. Ultimately, it will mean that products sell themselves.

The Mastermind Behind the Triumph of Code: Matt McNeany

Matt McNeany, Founder, serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Code. He is a marketing technology industry innovator. He founded Code and has grown the business from its UK roots to have a footprint in six global markets. Mr. McNeany’s vision remains at the core of the Code's offering; he ensures that clients can use technology effectively and profitably to build stronger relationships with customers. Outside of work, his interests remain music, politics, and sport, notably coaching rugby at weekends.

"Despite the fact that we've grown, it remains our job to challenge received wisdom and invent new ways of making marketing exciting and valuable through technology. That radicalism is an inherent part of our DNA."