My Business Life: Lisa Haskins, VidMob

Lisa Haskins from VidMob shares her life and business lessons.

Lisa Haskins is the Irish director of International Marketing and Operations for VidMob, located at the US company’s Dublin office on Sir Johnson’s Quay.

VidMob, a global platform for intelligent marketing creative, has relocated its EMEA hub to Dublin and plans to grow its headcount in the city to 75 people within three years.

Tell us about your background and what journey did you take to arrive at where you are? 

My first job after secondary school was as a caterer and trolly host on Irish Rail trains under a company called Rail Gourmet. I was that person selling you tea and KitKats pulling around a heavy trolley and working in a train kitchen that was too hot and too small for the amount of people shuffling around inside. I come from a working-class background so asking my parents for money was never an option. I always had to work and believe me, I worked hard. Harder back then, physically, than I have to today that’s for sure. I was rarely ever home because when one shift would end another would start whether it was bartending, waitressing, reception work, washing hair in a hairdressers, the list goes on. Anywhere that would pay me, I’d take it.

“ I have and always will be somebody who is curious about everything. I want to know all the why’s not in 10 years from now, today”

I have worked with some of the best and worst managers possible from a very young age, but I have also met some of the most incredible people along the way who remain close friends of mine today. I think the upbringing and work ethic I had to have really made me know who I am at a very young age and what I would and wouldn’t accept from any person or industry overall. Just to sum up my home life, my father was the Dessie Curley on our old street in Clondalkin: he wouldn’t have been far off giving you that slap at the side of your head and tell you “…go down there and get your breakfast and get out and get a bleedin’ job for yourself, right!!” And I love him for it. He’s thankfully a lot softer now in his later years. 

I originally started my career aspiring to be a journalist. And I actually did internships with the Central Criminal Courts, The Star and The Sun. But in the midst of all my work experience I realised that a lot of the work I was doing was in fact marketing with a different spin. While I loved and still love journalism, I could see massive change happening as a result of tech that would change the face of journalism forever. I was in college when digital journalism took off in a very big way, when the New York Times began releasing documentaries waving goodbye to traditional journalism; my course in Ballyfermot College really leaned on traditional journalism and marketing and not so much the digital side. When I moved into my Media Management course I began to study more around marketing, media and psychology and found it so interesting. 

I took off as a marketer after college following jobs that would, well, at the beginning, just put bread on the table! I scored an incredible opportunity with a telco company called KN Group in Clondalkin which put me into a Master’s programme for global business development. I remember communication not being KN Group’s strong point so when I showed up on my first day of work, I thought I just got a very ordinary role as a junior marketer, they asked me why I was there in the building and told me that I was meant to be in college! My confused response was; “College?…sorry, but ehhh, do I still get paid?”

“Data was always an important part of marketing. While at LinkedIn I witnessed data being treated more and more like revenue. The same way a seller looks at revenue, marketers now look at data”

I arrived at the Irish Management Institute (IMI) in my Hyundai 1L with a dent on the side and a window that whistled when you went too fast and sat down with graduates from Trinity, UCD, etc, and didn’t even know what the course was about! Luckily I caught on quickly and saw this as an incredible opportunity which landed on my lap and worked hard to get a good grade. The course was to achieve a Masters Degree in International Business Development. I’m proud to say that Master’s came home with me after two years. 

The experience gave me a stronger pathway, education and work experience that really changed my life going forward as an experienced and refined marketer. 

While at LinkedIn my interest in data started to grow. Data was always an important part of marketing. While at LinkedIn I witnessed data being treated more and more like revenue. The same way a seller looks at revenue, marketers now look at data. I started to study SQL and Tableau and lean on analysts at LinkedIn to help me get to where I had to be as an analyst. I felt somewhat like a liar in my marketing role because that skill set was missing. It wasn’t something I had to have, but I felt that in order to evolve and compete with future generations I had to understand this area better.

Eventually a role came up at VidMob looking for a data analyst; when I saw what their data was capable of doing I fell in love straight away and had to be a part of this new revolution for marketers. It was data I had never seen and as a marketer saw this data as the future behind how the industry will make creative decisions going forward. I had to involve myself. Since joining VidMob I have influenced our data, the overall product, our service and of course now our marketing and operations. It’s an amazing achievement to get to be so involved with building something so revolutionary to our industry and to be given the freedom to take risks and express your entrepreneurial side. 

“We aim to grow business by investing in areas such as e-commerce; providing marketers with a way to tie creative content in ads to online sales”

What’s your business’s unique selling point?

70% of campaign results are driven by ad creative. VidMob arms our clients, platform partners and the industry itself with actionable insights and world class talent that measures and optimises creative performance. We make it effortless for you to know what to change in your ad to make it perform better. Thanks to our AI we can take ads and break them into a huge volume of elements which are then paired with data from your platform API so we can see for example, when the model gazes to the left there is a decline in your performance or the colour blue is showing is performance 200% above your account average. 

We can also tell you if your ads are on brand or if they meet platform best practices. Today, marketing leaders, creative teams and analysts everywhere are embracing the power of creativity and data working together to create irresistible content and campaigns at scale and speed. We call it the Intelligent Creative movement and VidMob’s Intelligent Creative platform gives marketers the clearest path to creative that works and has been the lead driver since its birth in 2015. 

Two men and a woman standing on a street.
VidMob CEO Alex Collmer with Lisa Haskins and Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, TD

What are your growth plans?

Globally VidMob now has a headcount nearing 400 employees with 21 of that 400 being from Dublin, a headcount we expect to triple over the next three years. We aim to grow business by investing in areas such as e-commerce; providing marketers with a way to tie creative content in ads to online sales. Further international expansion is also in the works, including in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia and the company plans to hire more salespeople as it targets clients beyond the largest marketers.

“Revenues are a side effect or a consequence of creating value for someone”

What are your key skills and qualities that set you apart?

I have come across leaders/managers over the years who have asked me to have a ‘smaller vision’ leaning on moments whereby I would fly into different lanes in the company out of curiosity above anything.

I don’t want to have to wait 10 years to sit at a seat I might not be comfortable in only to discover that the type of industry, conversation and/or goals don’t actually suit me personally as a leader. 

Unfortunately, I have and always will be somebody who is curious about everything. I want to know all the why’s not in 10 years from now, today! I am incredibly annoying in that way but that curiosity has assisted my career and I believe it is the perfect mindset to have when working in a start-up when entrepreneurial spirit isn’t just a ‘nice to have’ it’s necessary. Luckily, I see a new generation coming behind me who are going to bring in a wave of cross-functional adoption and demands. And I honestly can’t wait to see it. It brings a large Cheshire cat grin to my face when I hear a generational change being loudly vocalised in a room, challenging the status quo. 

“From my experience working with Irish marketers we are not using technology to our benefit”

What was the greatest piece of business advice you ever received?

Focus on value and revenue will follow. 

Revenues are a side effect or a consequence of creating value for someone. Value creation happens when our business uses its well-built product and resources to create something that a customer will not just buy but adopt into their day to day. So, before thinking about making money, begin by designing and executing a value proposition that is unique, worthwhile, and appealing for your market. Then, and only then, will revenue and profits follow. So, get to know your audience and product well! 

How has digital transformation been a factor in your scaling journey and do you believe Irish firms are utilising digital technologies sufficiently? 

Above all, video is becoming increasingly important for brands that want to engage customers accustomed to the fast-paced short-form content popularised by emerging platforms like TikTok, Snap, Meta etc. VidMob has pioneered an AI tool that measures the performance of advertising creative, allowing brands and businesses to optimise ad design for more efficient and impactful campaigns across all digital platforms which assists VidMob to be aware of and evolve with social change. 

From my experience working with Irish marketers we are not using technology to our benefit. I would say Ireland still very much leans on a more traditional approach to marketing and really has not yet embraced the full use of AI to increase their performance which could be putting them behind other European and US competitors who are more digitally native.

Who inspires you in business today?  

I promise you this is genuine and not me ‘kissing up’. But I would need to say VidMob’s Co-Founder and CEO Alex Collmer. He has been a mentor to me since I joined and I still look up to him. His love for our product is overshadowed by his love for the culture and people who work at VidMob. He has the type of knowledge and heart I hope to one day have as a leader. 

And his delivery on stage is something that I will always aspire for if in the future I am leading my own company one day. It’s actually a little annoying how good he is! 

How do you nurture talent in your organisation?

Common ways I have seen work for me personally from both sides of the coin are:

  • Transparency – your team are grown adults and while it is important to keep some thoughts and information to yourself you are not working with children and there is nothing worse than a manager that mistakes their staff for exactly that. 
  • Roll up your sleeves – Be present in the work your team is doing. If your calendar is jam packed to the point your team can’t rely on you when they need to and trust you will be able to roll up your sleeves and help them solve a crisis when one emerges then they will feel unsupported. If you feel like any of the work your team is doing is too beneath you or that 50 meetings with the CEO is more important than being available for your team, then trust me, you are getting it wrong. And that CEO you jumped on 50 calls with that month will soon be wondering why so many mistakes are being made and your team’s efficiency is low. The CEO at VidMob has a flexible and open calendar for anyone who wishes to speak with him. He even makes sure he’s present by putting baubles on the Christmas tree each year with members of the team and making coffee for those around him if he’s ‘heading that way’. These things sound simple, but that is what being present can ‘simply’ look like at a very high level. So look at your calendar and presence in your team and make some changes. There’s nothing worse than reporting to a manager you need to walk on eggshells around. Be approachable. 
  • Give recognition – Sometimes all people want is some recognition for a job well done. If an employee has been putting in a lot of time working on a project, or they went out of their way to help out a colleague, do not hesitate to praise them. It’s not just about the act of recognition, but the principle: If people feel that their efforts are appreciated, they will feel compelled to continue working hard. Employees whose achievements were recognised also have reported that they experience higher levels of enjoyment out of the work they do. But if they feel like their long hours and personal sacrifices weren’t appreciated, it’s unlikely they will go out of their way for the company again. So, whether it’s noting their contributions in a meeting, recognising them in a staff email or just thanking them privately, it’s imperative that you show hardworking employees your gratitude.
  • Ask them what they want – Instead of trying to guess what’s most important to them, actually sit down with them and find out what they value. They will know themselves more than you ever will.

“Advertising has experienced three unique eras over the past decade going from Feed to Stories and now we’re moving to video reels”

What business books do you read or would recommend?

At the moment I am glued into CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky. I am impressed by his go to market strategy from the early days of Airbnb. I am reading a piece called Airbnb, Etsy, Uber: Growing from One Thousand to One Million Customers which really leans on how they grew their audience base. It’s a short read, but one I think any entrepreneur will be able to take a lot from. 

What technologies/tools do you use personally to keep you on track?

I use VidMob’s Agile Creative Studio for everything I need to do in my day to day. 

I can get the creative data and competitor data I need, alongside easily communicating with my team and any one in our 1000’s of creative freelancers using our creative studio.

The creative studio on the platform also allows me to give timestamped feedback on assets being developed so every moment of my job runs pretty smoothly.

What are your thoughts on where technology overall is heading and how it will apply to business generally and your business particularly? 

Advertising has experienced three unique eras over the past decade going from Feed to Stories and now we’re moving to video reels. For those of us in media and marketing, that means we can’t afford to ignore TikTok. People will spend more time watching vertical video streams, and they’ll be drawn to it in other environments. I personally believe that creating TikTok-style video content will be table-stakes when it comes to generating organic engagement and effective social advertising. It will also be a fundamental game changer as we’ll see brands that are already prepared for the 3rd era zoom past traditional enterprise brands who are too slow to adapt. 

Bold statement right? Happy to discuss this with any readers who want to reach out. 

Finally, if you had advice for your 21 year-old self – knowing what you know now – what would it be? 

In the hope that a wild 21-year-old Lisa would listen my advice is:

  • Enjoy every minute of Australia!
  • Don’t be in too much of a rush to come home. Your career will be waiting. 
  • Your family will remain healthy and your friends will stay missing you. 
  • Oh and when your best friend Stephen kisses you, he’s not just ‘drunk’ he’s actually going to ask you to marry him one day, so be nicer! 
  • Party on!
  • Love ya, kid.
John Kennedy
Award-winning editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.