Young Guns: Columbus Brisbane group business director Tobey Bower

By AdNews | 27 July 2017
Tobey Bower

Our Young Guns profile takes a weekly look at some of the young talent across the advertising, ad tech, marketing and media sector in Australia. It aims to shed light on the varying roles, people and companies across the buzzing industry.

For our last Young Gun, we spoke with Deepend head of planning Kim Verbrugghe.

This time we chat to Columbus Brisbane group business director Tobey Bower.

AdNews recently ventured up north to find out more about the Brisbane agency scene, read more here

How long have you been in the industry?

8.5 years.

Duration in current role/time at the company:

Two years.

What were you doing before this job and how did you get this gig?

The stereotypical 2-year stint in London as a Performance AD at independent digital agency agenda21.

Define your job in one word:


What were your real and cliché expectations of working in the industry?

“Nobody clicks on ads online”.

How does the reality match up? 

Untrue, as it turns out.

How would you describe what the company does and what does your role involve?

Columbus is a data-driven digital marketing agency with a heritage in performance media. I lead a talented team of specialists across search, social media, display, content and analytics work.

Best thing about the industry you work in:

The real-time aspect of it all. It enables a genuine “fail fast” culture.

Any major hard learnings in the job so far?

It’s not about how good you are or how smart you are, it’s about the story you can tell.

If you had to switch over to another department, which would it be and why?

Digital CX design. I love building things with my hands and that’s about as close as it gets in the digital world.

What's exciting you about the industry right now?

Brands in AU are really beginning to have in place the technical infrastructure to enable sophisticated data-driven 1:1 marketing. The possibilities of this level of precision are endless and it’s still very much in it’s infancy in this market, which represents a huge opportunity to those who choose to embrace it.

What concerns you about the industry and its future?

The “Rise of Automation” – not because of the threat of human redundancy, but because an over-reliance on it will kill the quality of everything we do. Algorithms are no substitute for genuine human experience and insight.

And your almighty mentor that you hope to dethrone?

Mitch McBeath.

Career-wise, where do you see yourself in 2020 and how do you plan on getting there?

Continuing to ride the digital media wave long after we’ve dropped the “digital” from the front of it, innovating for brands in the space of AI, virtual assistants, augmented reality, driverless cars, connected homes and more.

What is the elephant in the room? The thing that no one is talking about – but they should be.

The underestimated human craft of marketing and communications, particularly in media planning. Automation is amazing and drives so many efficiencies, but we’re still so far away from a place where artificial decision making can out-think a trained, experienced human. Every seminar and thought piece on the value of automation is a missed opportunity to invest in and upskill the next generation on truly understanding consumer behaviour and how to genuinely engage with new audiences.

Tell us one thing people at work don’t know about you?

My musical tastes are forever trapped in my teenage years.

Favourite advert is:

Tough call between Sport England

This Girl Can (2015) or the absolute classic Charter Boat.

What’s your personal motto?

Less is more.

I got into advertising because:

The instant feedback is addictive – it’s satisfying to come up with a hypothesis and be able to determine viability within a number of hours. Test & learn.

If I wasn't doing this for a living, I'd be:

Probably running a rural B&B.

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