Meet the PMW 30 Under 30 Chair of Judges: Boots’ Omni-Media Director

Having seen the evolution of digital marketing over the last 20 years, Oliver Shayer never shies from a challenge and reveals what makes a 30 Under 30 award winner.

The final deadline is almost up to be in with a chance to be named one of PMW’s 30 Under 30, but if you haven’t started your entry yet, there’s still time (11 May 2023). 

Our Chair of Judges for the 2023 30 Under 30 Awards, Oliver Shayer, Omni-Media Director at Boots UK, tells us why challenges and triumphant awards make performance marketing the place to be.

Oliver has had more than a fair go at a few industries. From working in D2C for Sainsbury’s, following his love of Rugby to work on Guinness, to Ecco shoes and now at Boots, our chair of judges loves a challenge.

In a constant search for the next hurdle, Oliver fell in love with digital, seeing it evolve and change massively over the past 20 years. “I'd always wanted to get more into digital and that was probably one of the most affirming moments in my career. 

“I made the decision in my 20s to do something bold and different from what I was currently doing and to commit to digital. At the time it was very new – it was still the early 2000s – and people were thinking ‘is e-commerce really going to take off?’ But once I started working in the space, I knew this is where the future is.

“People were thinking ‘is e-commerce really going to take off?’”

“I'm always attracted to things that are new, different and innovative. I just saw that's the way people were going to shop in the future. 

“I love transformation. That's always been a big part of what I'm about. I like to do roles where something isn’t there and there's an opportunity to create that. 

“I used to play competitive sport a lot when I was younger and I think it comes through in a different form now, because you need that adrenaline rush! You want to be part of something where you're growing it, building it and changing it.”

Q. What would you say are the biggest changes to when you were a marketer in your 20s?

“I would say now there's more opportunities to do things wherever you want. Technology has definitely enabled the ability to work where you want to work. Remote working was not something that was as prevalent when I was in my twenties. 

“I also think the barriers to entry are lower. Technology has also enabled that to happen. There are a lot more industries available; for example, the programmatic industry didn't exist in my 20s, neither did retail media, or probably a lot of the social media industry. So I think there's a real breadth of opportunity out there now that you can get into. 

“Data is key in marketing, now more than ever. When I was in my twenties, it was more art, less science. Now it's become a blend of the two.” 

Q. What different skills do marketers in their 20s need now?

“At the heart of it is probably what I would call curiosity; a real desire to understand, to look at data and ask why it is doing the things it's doing.

“It's also the ability to want to test and learn, to not want to get everything right the first time around and understand that it's a process.

“You have to feel as comfortable with a dashboard or a spreadsheet as you would doing something creatively.”

“A marketer now should feel comfortable with data and analytics. If you don't, it's very difficult, particularly in the performance space. You have to feel as comfortable with a dashboard or a spreadsheet as you would doing something creatively. The balance between the two is quite important, but ultimately it's curiosity.”

Q. And as our Chair of Judges for this year's PMW 30 Under 30 Awards, what will you be looking for in the entrants? What will make a winner?

“We'll be looking for people who've taken risks and opportunities to drive impact within their business. I don't think it's about ticking every box, but being that person that wants to try and test and learn and push what they're doing and what their company's doing, particularly in different industries.”

Q. What advice would you have for anyone that is unsure of entering this year's awards? For example, if they come from a smaller company, or if their work contains a mixture of performance and branding. 

“What we're looking for is the principles of what makes them good at what they do – it doesn't matter what size business they work for. I've worked for many different sizes of businesses and I think the principles are very similar. 

“Brand and performance is crossing over more and more now as you get that art and science piece, so I think there's lots of opportunities for people to show that. Even if they don't work purely in performance, we’re looking for good examples of great performance activity or activity that's delivered really strong returns for their business.”

Q. What awards have you won in your career and how did it help you or your team?

“When I was younger, I really enjoyed the experience of being part of the awards process, challenging myself and meeting new people, but now it's very much seeing other people succeed through the experience that’s really big for me. 

“The other side of the awards is about recognition for other people. So for me in my career now, it's about the recognition of my team. I get greater joy now to see my team win than I do for myself. We won the Partner and Affiliate Marketing Award with PMW last year and that’s incredible recognition of the great work they're doing in the industry.

“Talking to my boss several years ago about Cannes, we were saying that there's no digital categories, they just didn't exist. The categories are changing, so it’s a really great evolution and also a recognition of the skills. So now that you're getting brands like PMW awarding that, it's really important because it's a recognition of those skills.” 

“The categories are changing, so it’s a really great evolution and also a recognition of the skills.”

Q. If you could go back and give advice to Oliver when he was under 30, what would you say? 

“The biggest piece of advice I would give myself is just to be patient. I'm naturally quite an impatient person, but what I'd say to my younger 20s self is, ‘you have time, your career is long, enjoy what you're doing and don't always look for what's coming next. The opportunities will come from that’. 

“I know it's a cliche, but being happy in the role that you're doing is so important. Because if you have that, it unlocks everything else. I see it with the people I work with now.”

Apply for the PMW 30 Under 30 2023 here. Final deadline: 11 May