Ortus Chats with Willy Kuhne, Partner Lead at Google Canada

Ortus Chats
Willy Kuhne Google Canada


Partner Lead | Google Canada

Willy Kuhne, the Partner Lead at Google Canada, talks to The Ortus Club’s Hannah Hodkinson about the current challenges of digitalisation, his role as Partner Lead, and the reason why personalised advertising is the best marketing trend today.

To watch Willy’s interview, you can subscribe to our Ortus Chats interview series on Youtube. You can also listen to the interview on Spotify or read the full interview below.

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Can you give us a one-sentence summary about Google?

Google is one of the largest platforms in the world that provides answers which users seek, a shortcut to entertainment if you think about Youtube, and a company that provides easy access to work tools like Slides and Google Docs for billions of users.

Can you describe the role of a Partner Lead in one word?

Partner Lead is all about connecting. Or in other words, all about partnering. My objective is to work with our partners, which in my instance are theatrical clients, gaming clients, and app clients here in Canada. 

I help them by providing a perspective on the digitization of the world and how the world is already moving into this space. I connect and get them into the digital space, with Google as one of their partners.

There are different public publishers, different companies, and different platforms out there, but I provide a sense of what needs to be done from our end. That’s why I would describe it as partnering and connecting.

What current challenges are Partner Leads facing right now?

Everyone is facing a bunch of challenges. Because of Covid, digital trends accelerated massively over the last year and a half. So, as the world keeps changing and digitising, it’s our job to guide and consult our partners through this entire process and help them transition into this change with more of a digital mindset. 

I grew up in Germany, a country that although is well-advanced, it still isn’t very digitised yet in my opinion. There’s still so much headroom. The same goes here in Canada, but in a different way. Here, clients are very digitised but they lack in taking that next step forward, especially since this whole digitisation journey keeps evolving. 

So I think that’s one of the biggest challenges that we’re working on right now.

What has been your main solutions to solve this challenge of digitalisation? 

First of all, it’s all about listening and trying to understand where clients are moving and what their journey looks like. We need this to be able to figure out how it can be transformed into a digital journey.

Admittedly, not everything needs to be digital. So, I work with them using the theatrical space as an example. I don’t know if you like going to theatres, but it’s always been a great experience for me, and I don’t see this experience going away. 

Of course, there’s streaming and other things in the market to navigate through. But how can we, as a tech platform, help clients understand which kind of people would want to go to theatres? How can we help our clients understand predictive modelling about people and around certain movies that are released? And how the consumer evolves around that, to know if they actually want to see the movie or not? There’s a lot to figure out in that predictive space. 

That being said, we can help in terms of solving the challenges from a digital angle that’s still very applicable in the offline business model, for example, of a theatre.

What marketing/business trends are you taking advantage of right now?

The biggest trend that I’ve seen from a marketing perspective is personalisation. Everything kind of goes into an individual space. Although that seems to be also quite counterproductive if you think about where the world is moving into privacy — a lot of things are changing in 2022, 2023, and beyond.

But why do I talk about personalised advertising? Because there’s still a lot of things you can do. For example, with first-party data, imagine that you frequently buy tickets for horror movies. It would be very helpful for us to be able to show you meaningful ads or meaningful influencer campaigns about horror movies to you consistently because you obviously have a thing for horror movies. 

That type of thinking is more effective instead of having a mindset that everything must work for everyone. Try to figure out the tiny things that you can personalize along the way as a brand or as an advertiser to entice your consumer base.

Can you tell us about a time you took a major risk in your career?

The latest huge career risk that I took was to move to the Philippines in 2016. I had to take on this role for Google in the country. I was in charge of all the agency relationships that Google was working within the market, and essentially building an ecosystem that didn’t exist for a while.

So it was all about throwing myself into a completely new role, a different cultural space, and a completely different market. I had to navigate, learn, and evolve through all these challenges. 

It was also a personal challenge for me at the time because of the culture and the space that I was operating in. My family and friends were all thousands of kilometres away.

It helped me grow a lot, and it was one of the best experiences I had. It really developed an excitement in me.

How can you see your role evolving in the next two to three years? 

The role has already moved into a space where it’s more about consulting and will go deeper into the consulting focus. 

A partner lead is still within the sales department of Google. But the role of sales itself is changing a lot and is moving more into a space of consulting, expertise in the digital field, and expertise cross-functionally.

It’s not solely about selling advertising solutions anymore. It’s connecting the dots between, for example, the cloud space, the advertising space, and the machine learning space. It’s more of figuring out what we can do in terms of providing predictive analysis. What we can do in terms of connecting customer data and turning those into meaningful outcomes. 

There’s a lot that needs to be understood and evolved in that space. It also takes learning, consistent evolving, and never standing still because the world keeps changing.

What career advice would you like to share with people that are in similar roles to yours?

The most important part is to keep evolving, keep embracing opportunities, and never sit still. Dip your toes in as many different waters as possible so you can learn because the world is forever evolving.

It’s great to feel comfortable in the digital space and be proud of what you’ve achieved and what you’ve delivered. But as the world keeps evolving, you need to evolve too. Otherwise, you’re gonna be left behind because that’s just how the digital ecosystem is growing.

Think Bitcoin, cryptocurrency, or NFTs. If that’s a space that you don’t dive into and don’t try to understand, 10 years down the road, you’ll completely miss that opportunity.

So keep evolving and keep learning as a Partner Lead. Strive to be an expert within your field but also keep expanding your field of expertise.

Keep evolving, keep embracing opportunities, and never sit still. Dip your toes in as many different waters as possible so you can learn because the world is forever evolving.

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