Artificial Intelligence

“When it rains gold, put out the bucket, not the thimble” – CEO Q&A with Fergal O’Connor of Buymedia

By Business & Finance
12 June 2024

Fergal O’Connor is the CEO and Founder of Buymedia, Buymedia is an intelligent and innovative advertisement marketplace. Buymedia is powered by AI Machine learning to help your business improve its advertisement planning, purchasing, managing, and learning; while also maximizing your ROI

What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

My main priorities and goals in my role revolve around fostering a thriving ecosystem where our team, clients, and revenue mutually reinforce each other’s success.

First and foremost, ensuring our team remains aligned and motivated is paramount. We prioritise cultivating a culture of intelligent positivity, where curiosity and care drive our collective mission forward. When our team members are fulfilled and remain curious about the positive impact we can make, it significantly streamlines my responsibilities as a leader.

This positive energy and enthusiasm from our team members extend to our clients, fostering deep engagement with our mission and the journey of growth we’re undertaking together. As clients witness the transformative impact of our platform on their business outcomes, their confidence in our services grows, leading to sustained revenue growth.

Ultimately, an engaged and curious team cultivates positive relationships with clients, resulting in exponential business growth and revenue. 

What are your biggest challenges as CEO?

As the CEO of Buymedia, my primary challenge lies in revolutionising an industry that has remained stagnant for decades. For years, organisations have been entrenched in repetitive processes, making it difficult to instigate change. Our vision at Buymedia is clear: a future where our AI-powered platform revolutionises advertising planning, purchasing, management, and reporting, benefiting businesses and organisations universally through data-driven insights.

However, the reality is that we’re currently navigating the transition phase. Convincing organisations to embrace change, to see the transformative potential of our platform, requires patience and persistence. While client feedback underscores the profound impact our platform has on business KPIs and operational efficiency, transitioning sceptics into advocates is a gradual process.

In the dynamic landscape of technology and advertising, it’s easy to be swayed by novelty. Maintaining focus amidst the allure of new trends poses its own challenge. It’s imperative that both myself and the team remain steadfast on our mission, prioritising long-term gains over fleeting distractions.

Central to our success is a collective dedication to our mission. By staying laser-focused on our objectives, we can navigate through any obstacles or distractions that come our way. I often recall the sage advice of one of my mentors: “Will it make the car go faster?” If not, it’s a distraction we can’t afford to entertain at this juncture.

How do you keep your team/ staff motivated?

Maintaining high levels of motivation among our team at Buymedia is fundamental to our ongoing success. Here’s how we cultivate and sustain motivation within our workforce:

  1. Purpose-driven Culture: As CEO, it’s paramount to articulate our company’s purpose clearly and align it with tangible goals. This ensures that every team member understands how their efforts contribute to our broader mission.
  2. Growth Opportunities: We recognise the importance of professional development and actively foster an environment where employees can continually learn and grow. This includes providing access to skill-building workshops, industry conferences, networking opportunities, and platforms for public speaking engagements.
  3. Recognition and Rewards: While simple gestures like expressions of gratitude are meaningful, we’re also committed to implementing additional benefits and opportunities to recognise and reward exceptional performance.
  4. Empowerment: Micromanagement stifles creativity and motivation. At Buymedia, we empower our employees to take ownership of their work and make decisions autonomously, fostering a culture of accountability and engagement.
  5. Work-Life Balance: We prioritise the well-being of our team members by offering flexible work arrangements, including the option to work remotely. Additionally, we provide access to on-site wellness resources to support their physical and mental health.
  6. Transparent Communication: Openness and transparency are cornerstones of our organisational culture. By keeping our staff informed about company developments and fostering a culture of trust, we encourage open communication and collaboration.

By prioritising these aspects of employee engagement, we aim to create a dynamic and supportive work environment where every team member feels valued, motivated, and empowered to excel.

What are the challenges facing the industry going forward?

Looking ahead, one of the foremost challenges confronting the advertising industry and businesses at large is the profound impact of artificial intelligence (AI). AI represents a formidable force with the potential to revolutionise business operations and foster the development of groundbreaking tools.

Addressing this challenge requires a proactive approach, rather than turning a blind eye to the impending changes. It’s essential to identify the core areas within each business that will be most affected by AI’s advancements. In the realm of advertising technology, AI is already deeply embedded in numerous digital advertising tools, and this trend is poised to accelerate.

Forecasts from industry leaders, such as Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, paint a compelling picture of AI’s trajectory. According to Altman, within the next five years, AI could autonomously handle a vast majority of tasks currently entrusted to agencies, strategists, and creative professionals. This includes functions like testing creative content against real or synthetic audiences for predictive analysis and optimisation.

The key to any of these new tools and technologies is that businesses are preparing their business in the best way possible to take advantage of them and not be left behind by their competition. We’ve been feeding our clients AI advertising engines of growth for the past 3 years and now the data is capable of using AI for pattern recognition and predicting the future outcomes of their advertising campaigns.

The power of AI is already within reach of many businesses. The challenge is to start to fuel that engine now with as much data as you can and that’s not easy or straightforward. The challenge for many businesses who haven’t started this journey is that their larger more savvy competitors have. The danger is many businesses and organisations get drowned in the AI wake and the imperative is to act now to store the fuel, which is the business data, to empower the AI to help your business grow. Make AI your competitive edge.

What new trends are emerging in your industry?

The advertising industry is constantly evolving, and 2024 is seeing some exciting developments. Here are some key trends to watch:

  • Focus on experience: Ads are becoming more about creating an engaging experience for the viewer, rather than just a sales pitch. Think interactive content, shoppable videos, and augmented reality (AR) overlays.
  • Authenticity rules social media: Consumers are craving genuine connections on social media. Successful social media ads will be those that come across as authentic and reflect the brand’s values.
  • Short and sweet videos: With attention spans shrinking, short-form video is king. Platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels are booming, and advertisers are creating concise, mobile-friendly video ads.
  • The rise of AI: Artificial intelligence (AI) is playing a bigger role in advertising. AI helps with tasks like ad targeting, budget optimisation, and even creative content generation.
  • Mobile commerce boom: Social commerce is exploding, and advertisers are integrating shopping features directly into their ads. This allows consumers to seamlessly purchase products they see advertised.
  • Sustainable Advertising: Consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious, and this is impacting the ad tech industry. Expect to see a rise in sustainable advertising practices, such as measuring and reducing the carbon footprint of ad campaigns.
  • Focus on First-Party Data: With the decline of third-party cookies, advertisers are increasingly relying on data they collect directly from their customers. This means building strong relationships and offering incentives to encourage data sharing.
  • The Power of Audio Advertising: Audio ads are making a comeback, particularly with the rise of podcasting and connected TV (CTV). Advertisers are finding new ways to reach consumers through these channels, with targeted messaging and immersive experiences.

Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

In ad tech there is a huge amount of fraud – estimated to be 20% of the global industry or approximately €120Bn per annum in ad spend from businesses is lost to fraud. The challenge for the industry is that so much of the digital advertising market is wrapped in ad exchanges and intermediary technology that it is really difficult to unravel. So, if we could solve that industry issue it would have a huge impact on advertising ROI for all businesses. We’re trying to help by creating direct connections between businesses and organisations who advertise and the media companies and publishers who receive the adverts. This helps remove the multiple intermediaries and tech stacks between advertisers, agencies and publishers and hopefully helps prevent most ad fraud. But it’s an ongoing battle.

The other thing that we would like to see is more competition in the advertising industry – there is a dangerous consolidation of power amongst some large global players. If this continues, we could get to a place where there is little or no competition which in our opinion is bad for businesses. 

We’d also like to see more fairness for SMEs when it comes to government procurement. In our industry many tenders have an unrealistic historical revenue threshold which many small/medium businesses cannot reach. It would be great if there was a common-sense approach to these tenders and a weighting for smaller businesses to allow them to apply for these contracts even if their revenues are not at the level of the big players in the industry. Again, this would help competition and allow SMEs to have a chance.

As an employer are you finding any skill gaps in the market?

Absolutely, there’s a definite skills gap in the AI space, especially for roles focused on building and maintaining AI-powered platforms like ours.

The focus on AI is both exciting and challenging. It allows us to deliver exceptional value to our users, but the field is relatively new, and finding qualified candidates who possess the specific skillset needed to develop, manage, and optimise these AI systems has been a challenge but thankfully we have the right team onboard now.

There is also a disconnect between the skills that graduates leave college with and the practical skills required of modern businesses from an advertising perspective. That’s why Buymedia has been working with the MSLETB for the last 2 years to develop the first apprenticeship programme for Digital Marketing & Media. This programme will bridge the current skills gap and allow more people to become experts in modern advertising processes and practices.

We also work with the Universities to help their graduates understand the AI media planning, buying and learning process to help equip them for their future careers.

Sales is another critical skill that is important for everyone to learn regardless of what role they decide to pursue. I’m on the National committee of the Sales Apprenticeship Programme and the Sales Professional Network to help nurture and develop our future sales professionals and leaders.

How did your strategy develop in the context of the banking crisis and economic crisis?

This probably had more of an impact on our advertising clients and media partners than us as we were and still are in a phase of massive growth. In the context of tighter credit and a business focus on return on every euro spent then a platform like Buymedia that uses AI and data to get the most from every euro of ad spend becomes even more valuable and important for businesses. So, when times get tight businesses turn to cost effective tools that can make their businesses more efficient and effective. If they can also use a platform that helps their business grow in hard times then it’s a platform like Buymedia they will turn to. Through good times or bad a platform like Buymedia will help accelerate growth through more effective advertising. Even if the macro conditions are bad and let’s say 5% of the €700Bn global ad market is wiped out – we still have a €665Bn market to target.

From a business perspective we are always watching the cash flow and ensuring we’re well capitalised to take advantage of any opportunities that occur. Often the best opportunities present themselves in crisis. Warren Buffet once said, “Opportunities come infrequently. When it rains gold, put out the bucket, not the thimble.”

 How has Brexit affected you?

Similar to above – opportunities in crisis. We’re not exporting or importing a product so minimal day to day impact. However, we noticed UK organisations trying harder to encourage inward investment and courting Buymedia to set up in the UK.

How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your business/sector?

The COVID-19 crisis brought significant challenges to the advertising sector, impacting consumer behaviour and tightening budgets. Buymedia adapted by prioritising digital campaigns and providing data-driven strategies to maximise ROI.

Thankfully, as things returned to normal, we’ve seen a positive trend in advertising spend. Businesses are recognising the value of a strong advertising presence again. The digital space remains a powerful tool for reaching audiences but it’s about finding the right balance between traditional and digital to maximise our clients’ reach and impact.

How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

When the team, clients and revenue are all performing well and happy, fuelled by my passion for innovation.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

Don’t run out of cash and focus on the things that make the car go faster.

What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

This past year has marked a series of significant milestones for Buymedia, highlighting our commitment to innovation, growth, and social responsibility.

First and foremost, we were honoured to rank as the 5th fastest-growing tech company in Ireland at the prestigious Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Awards 2023. This recognition underscores our relentless pursuit of excellence and our dedication to delivering cutting-edge solutions to our clients.

Our commitment to local communities has been further demonstrated by our plans to create over 100 new jobs in Galway within the next four years. This initiative not only fuels our company’s growth but also contributes to the economic vitality of the region.

In terms of technology development, we’ve made significant strides in advancing our AI-powered tools, empowering marketing professionals with actionable data and insights to optimise their campaigns effectively.

Beyond business success, we’ve embraced our role in making a positive impact through our “Advertise for Good” initiative. By allocating a portion of our advertising spend to support worthy causes like UNICEF Ireland, we’re leveraging our resources to create meaningful change in the world.

To accommodate our projected growth, we recently relocated to a larger office space at Platform 94, providing our team with a dynamic environment to thrive and innovate.

Looking ahead, our sights are set on international expansion, particularly in the UK and US markets. These endeavors represent exciting opportunities for Buymedia to extend our reach and impact on a global scale.

As we reflect on our accomplishments of the past year, we are immensely proud of our achievements and remain committed to driving innovation, growth, and positive change in the years to come.

What’s next for your company?

Buymedia is embarking on an exciting journey with several strategic initiatives on the horizon:

  1. Job Creation: We’re proud to announce our ambitious plan to generate over 100 new jobs within the next four years, contributing to economic growth and fostering talent development.
  2. International Expansion: Our sights are set on international expansion, with a focus on scaling our operations in the UK and expanding into the competitive US market. Through this expansion, we aim to establish Buymedia as a dominant force in the global AdTech arena.
  3. AI for Marketing: Innovation remains at the heart of our mission, and we’re dedicated to advancing our state-of-the-art artificial intelligence platform. By leveraging AI technology, we aim to empower marketing professionals with enhanced data and insights, enabling them to optimise every aspect of their advertising campaigns—from planning and purchasing to management and reporting.

Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?

Moving closer to being the de facto AI advertising platform used by all businesses and media companies. Our goal is to continually push the boundaries of innovation, offering unparalleled solutions that redefine the advertising landscape and empower our clients to achieve unprecedented success.

What advice would you have to others starting out in business?

Get sales as early as possible. Clients are the best validation and will give you great feedback that will help you build a better product.

What is the best book you’ve ever read (non-business) and why?

Leonardo Da Vinci – Walter Isaacson. The ultimate multi-tasker and thinker. An amazing mind!

 What is your favourite hobby and why?

My favourite hobby encompasses both music and sports, as they serve as my go-to avenues for relaxation and revitalisation.

What is your mantra for life?

Such is life – things happen good and bad – it’s how you react to the situation that matters, not the situation itself. Recognising that our reactions are within our control empowers us to navigate challenges with a sense of agency, mitigating feelings of helplessness that may arise. Ultimately, it’s our response to life’s twists and turns that shapes our journey.


Ray Ryan, CEO, The Noledge Group

Stephen Nolan, CEO, Nutritics

Jackie Dunne, CEO, Dimply