Former Facebook MD Stephen Scheeler joins PwC to drive mobile strategy

Just four months after he stepped down as managing director of Facebook in Australia and New Zealand, Stephen Scheeler has joined PwC as a partner, with the social media veteran warning advertisers not to become to distracted by the debates raging around digital measurement.

Former Facebook boss Stephen Scheeler is joining PwC

The recruitment of the former social media executive is part of PwC’s continuing drive into digital with a growing focus on mobile.

Speaking with Mumbrella, Scheeler said the decision to join PwC was driven by his concerns that the mobile revolution was passing many corporate leaders by, leading to flawed strategies in a space they did not fully understand.

“It’s a pretty simple brief, it’s to work with Australia’s biggest companies and enterprises to help them take advantage of the opportunities that mobile presents both for building businesses in Australia but also building businesses overseas,” Scheeler said.

“Australian businesses, as well run as they are, I think the mobile revolution has happened so quickly that there is a gap coming up between their ability to execute and understand what’s going and the changes that have happened in terms of consumer behaviour.”

He said the main issue is that even though CMOs and marketing teams understand the importance of Facebook, YouTube and other platforms in the marketing mix, further up the executive chain there is a knowledge gap that is stalling the ability of companies to evolve with the market.

“When we went up a little higher, when we went to other parts  of the C-suite, when we went to CFOs, CEOs, boards, where I spend a lot of time, we found a real lack of understanding about how the world had changed,” he said.

“When you go and talk to a CEO or a chairman of a board in Australia, they really understand the competitor across the street because that’s the guy they have been competing with for decades now, but they will be really unaware of what’s going on on a mobile phone. A lot of them don’t use their mobile phones the way that consumers do.”

Scheeler said that his role would be to work to educate senior leadership within Australian business so they could evolve their corporate culture to reflect the changes in consumer behaviour.

Having been at the helm of Facebook at a time when marketers were raising serious questions about the validity of digital measurements, Scheeler said businesses needed to continue to challenge the metrics that were dricing their decisions, but warned that they should not become too fixated on a single issue.

“It’s absolutely right that clients need to think about ‘How do I get return on investment where I’m spending money in any part of my business?’ – be that in media, marketing, in supply chain, in sales, wherever that happens to be and that’s always going to be an evolving piece where it comes to media,” he said.

“The reason is technology is changing things so quickly, it’s changing for television, how television is measured, and out of home, how out of home is measured and I think with digital as well.

“For clients this is something that’s going to evolve over the next few years and its something that’s going to evolve for a long, long time and when virtual reality gets here, how do we measure that?

“The second thing I’d say to clients and big advertisers is don’t be distracted by things that don’t really matter. And I think in the current debate there are actually certain things that aren’t really important. Not that they’re not worth discussing, but they’re not things that your decisions should turn on, they should be smaller things. I think some of this has been flamed up to a bigger bonfire than is really warranted by the real impact.”

The recruitment of Scheeler is the latest in a series of hires that has seen PwC bolster its ranks of senior digital executives including the recent recruitment of Chris Vein, formerly chief innovation officer at the World Bank and deputy CTO at the White House, Monty Hamilton, ex head of digital for Telstra and cofounder of Ubank at NAB and Richard Royle, previously the president of the Australian Private Hospitals Association.

The consultancy also lured former Network Ten and advertising executive Russel Howcroft as its chief creative officer late last year, while this week rival Deloitte named Ten’s head of brand, Matt McGrath as its new chief marketing officer.

PwC head of digital, John Riccio told Mumbrella, the hires were aimed at developing a unit that could help businesses change their cultures to be digitally and mobile led.

“What we are trying to build is an arsenal of senior executives that understand how businesses need to evolve within their relative industries while leveraging the learnings from other industries,” Riccio said.

“If you take some of Stephen’s points of view around mobile first and you look at any mobile first organisation, their business model is fundamentally different to a traditional player in that market. So we need that mindset of ‘How do you design the business model for the future and then drive the transformation through that lens?'”


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