marketer of the month

EPISODE 166: Marketer of the Month Podcast with Funs Jacobs

Hey there! Welcome to the Marketer Of The Month blog!

We recently interviewed Funs Jacobs for our monthly podcast – ‘Marketer of the Month’! We had some amazing insightful conversations with Funs and here’s what we discussed about-

1. Strategic Event Expansion: Media Monks’ diversified presence in tech-related events, adapting to evolving industry landscapes.

2. Full-Service Evolution: From production-centric origins, Media Monks transforms into a unified, global full-service agency through strategic acquisitions.

3. Digital Experiences Emphasis: Prioritizing digital experiences, with a focus on virtual gaming partnerships such as PUBG-KFC collaboration.

4. AI Excellence Recognition: Awarded AI Agency of the Year, demonstrating a strong commitment to AI and extensive upscaling initiatives.

5. Collaborations with Tech Giants: Engaging in strategic partnerships with major tech players like Google, Nvidia, and Meta to drive continuous innovation.

6. Future Tech Partnership Vision: Aspiring to transition into a prominent technology partner, envisioning a pivotal role in shaping client innovation.

About our host:

Dr. Saksham Sharda is the Chief Information Officer at He specializes in data collection, analysis, filtering, and transfer by means of widgets and applets. Interactive, cultural, and trending widgets designed by him have been featured on TrendHunter, Alibaba, ProductHunt, New York Marketing Association, FactoryBerlin, Digimarcon Silicon Valley, and at The European Affiliate Summit.

About our guest:

Funs Jacobs, Senior Director of Innovation at Media Monks, has over 10 years of experience in the entertainment sector. He emphasizes the transformative influence of creativity on industry challenges. Motivated by a global perspective, he aspires to elevate the standards of businesses and their founders, striving for ongoing enhancements in the daily consumption experience.

AI Ascendancy: Media Monks’ Senior Director Funs Jacobs on How to Upscale AI Initiatives

The Intro!

Saksham Sharda: Hi, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Outgrow’s Marketer of the Month. I’m your host, Dr. Saksham Sharda, and I’m the creative director at Outgrow. co. And for this month we are going to interview Funs Jacobs, who is the Senior Director of Innovation at Media Monks.

Funs Jacobs: Great to be here. Thank you.

Don’t have time to read? No problem, just watch the Podcast!

Or you can just listen to it on Spotify!

The Rapid Fire Round!

rapid fire

Saksham Sharda: Okay, let’s start with the rapid fire. The first one is, at what age do you want to retire?

Funs Jacobs: Probably never.

Saksham Sharda: How long does it take you to get ready in the mornings?

Funs Jacobs: 60 minutes.

Saksham Sharda: Which is the most embarrassing moment of your life?

Funs Jacobs: No idea. Pass.

Saksham Sharda: Favorite color?

Funs Jacobs: Black.

Saksham Sharda: What time of the day are you most inspired?

Funs Jacobs: Mornings.

Saksham Sharda: How many hours of sleep can you survive on?

Funs Jacobs: Five.

Saksham Sharda: Fill in the blank. An upcoming marketing trend is ___________.

Funs Jacobs: Generative AI.

Saksham Sharda: The city in which the best kiss of your life happened?

Funs Jacobs: Toronto.

Saksham Sharda: Pick one- Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk.

Funs Jacobs: Musk.

Saksham Sharda: The biggest mistake of your career?

Funs Jacobs: Throwing away my old shoes before I had new ones.

Saksham Sharda: How do you relax?

Funs Jacobs: Gaming.

Saksham Sharda: How many cups of coffee do you drink per day?

Funs Jacobs: Max four.

Saksham Sharda: A habit of yours that you hate?

Funs Jacobs: No, I’m pretty happy.

Saksham Sharda: The most valuable skill you’ve learned in life?

Funs Jacobs: Talking

Saksham Sharda: Your favorite Netflix show?

Funs Jacobs: I think Vikings is on Netflix.

Saksham Sharda: One-word description of your leadership style.

Funs Jacobs: Open.

Saksham Sharda: Top priority in your daily schedule.

Funs Jacobs: Workout.

Saksham Sharda: Ideal vacation spot for relaxation.

Funs Jacobs: Somewhere at the beach.

Saksham Sharda: Key factor for maintaining a work-life balance.

Funs Jacobs: Finding something you enjoy outside of your work.

Saksham Sharda: Memorable career milestone.

Funs Jacobs: First time speaking at the Ray Amsterdam.

Saksham Sharda: The last song you’ve been listening to?

Funs Jacobs: Travis Scott.

Saksham Sharda: The last film that you saw that had a good impression on you?

Funs Jacobs: Oppenheimer.

The Big Questions!

Big Questions Anca Iordanescu

Saksham Sharda: Okay. Alright. That’s the end of the rapid fire. Now we’re gonna move on to the longer questions for which Michael’s gonna take over.

Funs Jacobs: Cool.

Michael Olsen: Right here we are. We are with Funs Jacob, Senior Director of Innovation at Media Monks. Tell me, though, that he works more out of Amsterdam, and we’ve just heard in the rapid-fire question he prides himself in his talking skill. We’re gonna test that out for the next 20 minutes or so and get into what he and his company are all about. One thing right off the bat is that we’re meeting him at the Total Telecom Conference going on here at The RAI. And the natural question is, what the hell are you doing here as a media or tech-enabled media company at The RAI? Now, it’s not entirely out of place, but if you could explain in more detail, it might be interesting.

Funs Jacobs: Yeah, that’s interesting. I think that I saw that happening last year that the type of events that I was speaking at expanded into very different areas. I think it has to do with the fact that we are a marketing media and creative agency, but we are very tech-focused. And the technologies that I talk about most have an impact on every industry. So it doesn’t matter if it’s virtualization, blockchain, or now of course AI which we’re all at the forefront of, these have, again, an effect in every industry. So also in the telecom industry and also in other places that I’ve been invited to speak about this.

Michael Olsen: Right. Just researching what sort of firm Media Monks is, you run across phrases like doing tech-enabled media or even more interesting a full funnel media partner. You know, could you maybe expand on those phrases? Just what sort of firm are you, it’s such a sort of multi-function type organization.

Funs Jacobs: I think Media Monks in the region has always been a production-focused company since they started 20 years ago here in the Netherlands. With the acquisition of Sir Martin Sorrell, when he acquired Media Monks, they set on a new track where they wanted to truly be the full-service agency that a lot of companies are and were looking for and be truly able to deliver end-to-end services. And to do that they acquired a lot of other companies. But I guess the big difference is that from a network of an agency that normally gets built, we then implement that all into one. So we operate as one brand with one P and L and can again, truly deliver end-to-end services from strategy creative to execution in all countries with local relevance and so forth. And because we work from one P and l, it’s so much easier to work together. And that’s exhaust and net benefit for the client eventually.

Michael Olsen: Okay. Yeah. You talk about one P and L makes me wonder about the structure. So is the main owner elsewhere and you’re sort of an affiliate in the Netherlands? Is that how it works?

Funs Jacobs: No. So we are truly one company. And we are stock listed in London. But all the acquisitions got implemented into the wider S4 Capital company and all sit under the Media Monks brand now. So there’s no umbrella. So there’s no, the 35 companies that we acquired or so, I don’t know how many of these now, their brands all ceased to exist and all became Media Monks.

Michael Olsen: Okay. Listed in London, headquarters in Hilversum. Is that still correct?

Funs Jacobs: I think officially London because of the stock exchange, but Amsterdam and Hilversum, of course, have several very big presence for us. Sure.

Michael Olsen: Okay. Well, that’s just all the pesky ownership details. But in terms of what you do, I noticed the phrase digital experiences in your online materials. Can you expand on that?

Funs Jacobs: Yeah, I think, as I said, we do end-to-end, and a part of that is how do we engage with consumers and how do we take the consumer relationship to the next level? The best way is digital experiences, especially in a world where we move more to virtual gaming, of course, which is a very big part of that, which I’m personally focused on. We build experiences in those virtual worlds. We build experiences on the web in our own spaces. But again, it’s an opportunity to develop a deeper relationship with a consumer and a big part of what we do because it’s also where innovation comes in, which makes me very excited.

Michael Olsen: Okay. Although with apologies, it’s a little vague, digital experience, I was wondering about examples, and in particular, if I can steer you, you talked about gaming, so could you give an example of a digital experience in gaming? You were particularly into that, you said?

Funs Jacobs: Yeah. So one of the things that we’ve done most recently, as an example, is we launched the global partnership between PUBG, which is one of the biggest games out there together with KFC. And a cool thing is that why there’s a connection there is that whenever you win a game of PubG it shows the chicken winner dinner. And that, of course, automatically connects to KFC. So for that, we hosted a launch event in both South Korea and the US where we brought streamers together, a pro player, creators, and a Colonel Sanders. So we had Colonel Sanders who streamed together with all the other creators in a type of competition where they had to complete challenges together with the community. It was a lot of fun and it was a big success in terms of numbers and engagement. And you can truly see when you authentically tap into this audience, they go through the roof, they’re so excited. And it was, again, it was a very awesome thing to experience.

Michael Olsen: Well, it’s interesting you mentioned you did this partnership in particular in South Korea, and that must have been just the opportunity it popped up, and we all know South Korea is a big gaming country. I’m wondering why it didn’t happen in Japan, you know, you probably know that for Christmas, they go heavily into KFC in Japan. Yeah. And that just didn’t work out this time.

Funs Jacobs: No, PubG comes from South Korea, so the craft and the publisher, PubG is South Korean, so that’s where we focused on as a market.

Michael Olsen: Understand. But in particular, I mean, I mentioned another phrase I got off your side, full funnel media credit. Could you expand the full funnel, what that’s supposed to mean?

Funs Jacobs: I think the hardest question to answer is what we do because it’s easier to say what we don’t do, and that’s what I mean by the full funnel, right? So it can start with strategic consultancy on innovation, for example into what we now see a lot is the synthetic studio, as we would like to call it. How do we implement generative AI in a full funnel for a brand when it comes to content marketing, advertising, and so forth? How do we take that to the next level? And that’s, again, that can start very much at the beginning with strategic consultancy focused on generative AI to actual execution. And I think that’s very different. What differentiates us a lot from other competitors out there, is that we can execute what we come up with. And that’s what we’re very proud of.

Michael Olsen: Right. Okay. One thing I think I did see is that you’ve been named AI Agency of the Year. You’ve won that award. How I get that shows well, that you can go into the progress you’re making on AI that would already get you that award notification.

Funs Jacobs: Yeah. It was an exciting one for us, I think last year, about a year ago when, of course, GPT 3 launched, it was a pivotal moment for us, and we decided internally very quickly like, this is happening, it’s here. And we decided to go all in from that moment on. So we brought together a group of like-minded people throughout the company globally through an AI task force. From there we started to implement and see how we could implement AI both within our own company and also what our role externally was going to be. Of course, AI is a very interesting one because it truly disrupts our industry a lot. And I think first, I think we got hit first before any other industry. But our response to that has been very positive. I think for us it’s an ability of a moment that we can take to go even bigger in terms of the work that we do and the good work that we like to do. So like I said, we went all in. We started upscaling our teams internally very quickly and also came up with solutions on what our place will be in this new market that is full of generative AI. And that in the end, a year later resulted in indeed being the first-ever AI agency of the year thanks to Adweek. So it was a big moment for us because I’ve been talking about AI a lot and in the end, it paid off with this beautiful award. And it’s just the beginning for us, what we’re doing at Media Monks.

Michael Olsen: You just talked about AI upscaling. That sounds very interesting ’cause that must have been very hard these days. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it must be hard to find people just with modifications that, you know, AI plus media or maybe you had to give away on one or the other to add to your team.

Funs Jacobs: I think it’s more about attitude. I think if you’re open and curious and have a certain level of intelligence, of course, that you need, you can understand these things. It’s more about how you use your current craft that you are already very good at if you’re a designer, a UX craft, yeah. So indeed, like a designer, an animator, a filmmaker, et cetera, how do you utilize these new tools and be open to those tools and be curious as to what that can mean for your job? And that’s what we set from the beginning to our people like, you know, these are superpowers to you. Right? It’s like, that’s what this is. These tools are not here to take over your job because we still need very highly skilled people to operate these tools. I strongly believe that a photographer will get a better picture out of a tool, a generative image tool, than somebody who doesn’t know how to make a nice photo. Right. So at the end of the day, that’s how we use our, we are utilizing tools to truly upskill our people and take that, taking our work and our team to the next level.

Michael Olsen: And, you know, you mentioned when we were talking about the good work you like to do. So you’re not gonna be into deep fakes and that sort of thing, hopefully?

Funs Jacobs: No, no. I think a great example of Tech for Good that I’m very proud of is Kiki which is a virtual human powered by AI that we developed for a broadcaster in Japan who needed a solution for emergency broadcasts for deaf people to broadcast the emergency to them as well. And they couldn’t then, of course, find a human on time to broadcast that emergency broadcast.

Michael Olsen: They would know sign language.

Funs Jacobs: Exactly. So sign language. So what we build is a virtual human that can bring text or sounds to sign language and automatically then whatever the host is saying, translate that into sign language in multiple sign languages because there’s multiple and that’s an example of, again, making things better for a lot of people out there. And we’re now looking at ways to expand the Kiki already into watches, to have conversations with people that normally can’t have these conversations.

Michael Olsen: You were just talking about, I mean, the, you mentioned superpowers for the new employees that you like to attract. And that moves me to one thing I wanted to talk to you about, very important in a creative firm such as yours, you know, company culture, of course. And how do you create it? How do you maintain it? You know, how do you deal with these human beings, which in this particular, you can’t boss around, they’re very fragile things. How do you deal with maintaining, establishing, and maintaining that company culture in a creative firm engineer?

Funs Jacobs: Yeah. I mean, it’s crucial, right? Having a positive company culture. I think if I can personally speak on that, what I truly like about Media Monks is that we are still entrepreneurial. We’re a 9,000 people big agency at the end of the day. But if you see how quickly we could pivot into what we do now and the vision that we set out in terms of the use of AI that makes me excited, right? That’s still, again, it’s bringing together a core team and we just go to work and get stuff done and put it out there. And indeed, by setting out that clear vision quickly we could also then turn the initial fear that was among our people turned into excitement. And I think, again, that’s very important to your point. And like I said, that’s still that entrepreneurial mind and mentality that sits within our company is what makes it so exciting to work here.

Michael Olsen: And, that fear that was just hopefully nothing more than what we feel when we go to work at a new place the first time.

Funs Jacobs: Nothing more than that I assume, of course. Yeah. I mean, we can be honest about that. It was fear in the beginning, and people thought, okay, what is this? Like, this is doing what I normally do, fear of AI and specifically indeed fear of that new. But like I said, because we set a vision out very quickly, and we are very strong in saying, Hey, no, this, this is not here to take your job. AI is here to unlock superpowers, right? It’s taking over work that you would normally not like to do, and you can focus on your actual craft. And we still strongly believe in craft. So again, making that strongly known from the start and very fast I think turned that around into excitement real quick.

Michael Olsen: Okay. Yeah. And, along these lines you know, it brings us to the question of empowerment which is related to, you know, losing control in one could say in a creative firm such as this, you can’t look over their shoulder. You have to empower them in a certain way, which means that yeah, you’re not completely in control, or am I wrong? You know what? To what extent and how do you empower these very creative employees that you’ve attracted?

Funs Jacobs: Well, it’s I mean, that’s a fair point. I think one of the things that we saw, in the beginning, is that there are so many new generative tools out there, and they’re not all safe to use, right? In terms of, hey, like, we don’t want our people to upload confidential information from our clients into certain tools, because then it’s public information, right? But knowing that this was happening we immediately not only had a task force on the, on the vision part and the business part, but also legally therefore we quickly made a task force where they would set out rules of engagements. We would strike partnerships with some tools so that they became safe to use and relaunched, for example, monk, GPT, I think within a couple of months of GPT three so that we had our safe environment. Again, it’s pretty easy to use that with open AI’s API, right? But we, again, we did that quickly because we knew people wanted to, and were already using chat GPT on their own, which is then not particularly safe. But to your point, we do wanna unlock this extra skill and time that these tools bring. So, therefore, we quickly again, set out the rules of engagement and framework for it so that they can use it safely. And it’s up to us, that’s our responsibility to do that. Instead of saying, no, you cannot use the tools, and we’re gonna look over your shoulder if you do. No, we just fully took this opportunity.

Michael Olsen: Now you just mentioned Monk GPT, which raised my eyebrows. That sounds to me like your firm has developed its own specific large language model.

Funs Jacobs: No, no. Like I said, it’s an open AI API okay. But it runs on our servers. It’s blocked in terms of whatever we put into it. It doesn’t go back to open AI. Well, technically what stays there for two weeks is deleted just under the same terms and conditions as your cloud services do as well. So again, we can safely use it on behalf of our clients and upload confidential information because we know it will never go into the public version of chat GPT, for example.

Michael Olsen: Okay. And, you know, not so long ago we were talking about that great partnership you had with PUBG and KFC in South Korea. And this is one aspect I wanna explore with partnerships in general. You know, what are you looking for? How open are you to partnerships and what’s your strategy for, using them in non-exploitative a way as possible to advance hopefully both firms or all firms involved objectives?

Funs Jacobs: Yeah. I think partnerships are a big part of our company. We can probably say that we work with nine out of the 10 most innovative companies in the world. So yes, all big tech are our clients and partners. And that’s two different things, right? So we not only partner with them on new technology, we get our hands on their new technology first so that we can see how we can utilize it for other clients. We also do work on their behalf as well. I think a great example of that is our brand-new partnership with Nvidia, which we launched a couple of months ago. Of course, Nvidia is probably the partner in the AI space at the moment. And also there, right? So we work together with them, like, how can we service using their technologies and tools? How can we service our clients better? And therefore, do better work, more sustainable work, and more exciting work in the end. So yes, it is amazing to work with all these big tech firms, and that’s what keeps us at the forefront of innovation all the time, and gives us an edge towards competition of course, as well. And as an innovation director, again these are one of the most exciting things that I do daily.

Michael Olsen: Yeah. You mentioned Nvidia there, just after talking about how you partner with what you said, nine or 10 of the big innovative companies. Could we have one or two more examples? Name just a few more names of Partners.

Funs Jacobs: Yeah, Google. Google is one of our big partners as well. So we’re currently testing a lot of their generative AI tools in our Google suite that we use every day. But also with them, like, we go together to clients, we look for solutions. They challenge us and, Hey, what can you build with this technology? We challenge them, like, Hey, we would like to see this more, or have the ability, to expand or build on X, y, or Z. So yeah, Google is a very exciting one. Meta is another one where we look at advertising, how can we change that? We’re currently battling creative fatigue, for example. Like, how can we switch out ads automatically using generative AI to maintain proper conversions? And so, again, there’s so many fronts that we play with all these major tech players which again, gives us an edge, and it’s exciting to work with them all the time.

Michael Olsen: You just mentioned creative fatigue. Could you go into that? What’s that all about? Are those the creative people we were talking about?

Funs Jacobs: No, it’s more on the advertising part. So when, when you launch an ad and an audience has seen this particular ad too many times, then there will be a drop-off in conversion. So using AI now and generative AI, we can then predict this moment, this little downturn. And before that downturn happens, we can swap out the ad with generative AI. We just develop a new one or generate a new one, a slightly new one and automatically switch that ad out so that the conversion keeps at a level that we want it to be and doesn’t have that little drop-off.

Michael Olsen: I understand. Well it’s you can understand it’s almost inevitable as we come to the end to look into the future. And I know it’s gonna be a lot of AI although to the degree you don’t include AI, ’cause we’ve talked about it a lot, although it’s up to you again what are the trends? What does the future look like to you and for content creation and the evolution of technology?

Funs Jacobs: Yes. We cannot name Ai. It’s the biggest driver. But what we’ve been talking about for the last two years now is that we’re seeing the transformation of our digital lives. We’ve all seen the digital transformation in general, of course, when we went from an offline world to an online world, and now we’re seeing the transformation of our digital lives, therefore, virtualization mixed reality. I think our lives will become more intertwined with digital, and virtual. I am a big advocate for blockchain technology. I truly hope that we go to a world where we live on a blockchain-enabled web. Instead of having our data, and properties online, properties being controlled by big tech in combination with AI, I think there are a lot of things that we need to figure out. So yeah, there’s a big, massive shift happening. I think it’s maybe even bigger than what we went from an offline to an online world. So that is challenging, but exciting at the same time. And yeah, I’m all for it here.

Michael Olsen: Yeah, you mentioned blockchain. I wanted to ask you about that. Is blockchain the future or what, if anything, have you already done, in that particular realm of Blockchain?

Funs Jacobs: No, we do, we still do a lot of blockchains when it comes to media monks. We work with a lot of big fashion brands and luxury brands that are still very active in this space. And I think everybody’s ramping up when it comes to what is coming. And I think it’s a net positive, like I said, right? If you as a consumer buy a digital product, I think it’s a net positive when it’s blockchain-based, because then you truly own this product instead of how it is now that you pay for access to the internet, right? So I think that’s one of the other parts that I’m very excited about, that we will hopefully do more and more blockchain work in the future, and that consumers are gonna demand this from brands. And yeah, we are happy to implement that, of course.

Michael Olsen: Well, yeah. And, again, speaking of the future in terms of target markets that you’d like to get into, you know, don’t give away too much of your strategy, but clearly, blockchain is one in terms of technology. Can you name target markets, technology, or geography? Of course, that’s another way to look at what you might be looking to expand in the future where you are not now.

Funs Jacobs: No, I think it’s not so much geographically, it’s indeed more of the role that we’re playing with our clients. I think we wanna move more and more into being a technology partner than just a media partner or a creative partner because we truly believe that innovation and new technology will unlock all these things and empower all these things. And therefore yeah, we’re excited to move into that space more and more. And I think we’re well suited to have that position as well.

Saksham Sharda: Alright. So the last bonus question for you is of a personal kind. What would you be doing in your life, if not this?

Funs Jacobs: Interesting question. Because this is truly my big passion. So if it wasn’t in this same form, probably in another form probably in some sort of media or my personal media platform. But to give you a left-field one I feel I always wanted to go to the military. So very different. Not saying that I would still do it now, or duty has to call, but yeah, I’m an enthusiast in a lot of things. I’m very curious about myself. So yeah, it’s one of those, yes.

Let’s Conclude!

Saksham Sharda: Thanks, everyone for joining us for this month’s episode of Outgrow’s Marketer of the Month. That was Funs Jacobs, who is the Senior Director of Innovation at Media Monks.

Funs Jacobs: Great to be here. Thank you.

Saksham Sharda: Check out the website for more details and we’ll see you once again next month with another marketer of the month.

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