Lizzie Young’s move earlier this month from Nine Entertainment after nearly 12 years to a startup, WeAre8, sent waves of curiosity through the media industry.
Two weeks out from the Australian launch of WeAre8, the newly-named CEO of the sustainable advertising platform that pays its users to watch ads and donates parts of its revenue to charity spoke to AdNews.
The former managing director of local markets and group marketing at Nine, and once touted as a potential CEO of that media group, is now working with London-based Australian tech entrepreneur Sue Fennessy, the founder of SMI (Standard Media Index)
“We’ve been focusing on starting to get out into the market and talking to the media agencies and clients, while also building our plan for the launch on August 8 and how we’re going to grow the platform to have citizens on it,” said Young.
Those who use the platform are called “citizens” and not users or consumers because WeAre8 believes citizens have the power to change the world.
“That’s what WeAre8 is built to do: it’s the people’s platform and it’s built to unite people so that collectively, we can make an impact by doing good,” she said
Young said the vision of Sue Fennessy was a big driver behind deciding to join the startup.
“I think it’s pretty amazing to have an Aussie female techpreneur as a founder,” Young said.
“When I saw the platform and its capability, and how much impact it could drive for the planet and for people and causes that matter, I was just really inspired.
“I felt like this was a way of using my 23 years in the more traditional media sector to make an impact.”
After Fennessy reached out to her via direct message on LinkedIn to ask whether Young would want to lead the launch in Australia, the pair met for the first time just a week ago, with the CEO praising the founder’s “refreshing mindset”.
“Sue’s built this platform because she genuinely believes there is a better way and her vision for how the world could be inclusive and united is amazing and very inspiring.
“It’s just a really interesting environment where we want people on the journey with us who are aligned, who have the same values as us, who want to commit to doing things to benefit the people and the planet.
“The reality is, of course, that we are commercial; you cannot build a tech platform like this if you do not have investment.
“But given that we’re B Corp certified, we do put people and planet before profit and that’s a real focus for us.”
On the significance of launching on the eighth day of the eighth month of the year, Young said that the eight speaks to the infinite power of people to come together to reconnect and to make an impact.
“At that point, we’re also eight years away from when the damage to our planet that we’ve done is irreversible. In November, there will actually be 8 billion people on the planet. There were all these milestones sort of speaking to us to kind of say that ‘now is the time’, which is really exciting.”
Having been at the one workplace for over a decade, making the move to a young, fast-moving company like WeAre8 has allowed Young with the freedom to experiment.
“The pace, the agility, the speed to making a decision – that is unique to a startup environment and is definitely different from other companies I’ve worked for.
“As a team, there’s four of us at the moment in Australia, and we’re sort of living by this rule that the more activity we output in the morning, the more things that happen by the afternoon. It’s really exciting being able to just go and try new things and if something doesn’t work, we just move on.”
Young said that the company has modeling which shows how much impact they can achieve and how much money can go back to climate, citizens and causes over a period of time. Outside of this, WeAre8 also sees an opportunity to make a change within the industry as well.
“From a brand perspective, we think we’re really complementary to a lot of other media. We have a role to play in the marketing mix and the channel plan and what’s really exciting for us is we can help support brands and their ambitions around being carbon neutral, or in fact, carbon negative.
“We think that’s really, really exciting given the journey that lots of brands are on. We deliver transformational results for brands, we’ve got great data coming out of the UK and the engagement rates are ridiculous.
“Our ad model is completely opt-in. You only get an add on WeAre8 when you say yes and between 97% to 98% of people in the UK are saying yes.
“That’s because when you say yes, it tells you how much impact you’ve made, and how much money has gone to carbon offset and how much money has gone to different causes and things, so it’s really inspiring people and making a massive difference.”
WeAre8 only keeps 40% of their revenue, with the rest of it going back to help the planet and people – something Young notes that “no other media company in the world” is doing.
As for the plan for the rest of 2022 after the launch? Young says rapid growth is on the agenda.
“We’ll be growing both our citizen base and will be growing commercially, working with brands, asking them to test us and demonstrating to them the great results that we can drive for their brand.
“The great part about that is we’ll also be putting money directly into the pockets of the various nonprofits and charities that we support, and that will have serious impact.”
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