A Dram of Whiskey with Ben Stockman

Ben is an award-winning web and digital consultant, specialising in community management and online campaigning. In the past he project-managed for the multiple award-winning Rabbit agency, winning PRCA’s “Best Campaign” award for AVG’s Digital Diaries series. He has managed global communities of 3 million plus and was also responsible for the first “biggest political Facebook campaign in UK history”™ Ben now trains and consults for national & global agencies and brands, helping them to campaign and transform using digital.

But how many marriages has he saved? Whose posing pouch is never far from his mind? Who you gonna call? We trapped him with a peaty single malt and forced him to answer the questions that matter. Brace yourself for some hard-hitting journalism.

Q: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A: A Ghostbuster. Then I realised that was unlikely, so I changed my answer to journalist until I realised how thankless a job that is and how little they got paid. To be honest, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up

Q: What’s one thing you’d like to accomplish in your lifetime?

A: To have a series of bestselling novels. Or failing that, world peace.

Q: If you could invite a famous wordsmith for dinner, who would it be and what would you feed them?

A: Julius Caesar, partly to find out if he still refers to himself in the third person. He used to eat stuffed dormouse so I suspect he would be astonished by Poptarts.

Q: What are you reading right now? Is it any good?

A: I just finished Circe by Madeline Miller, which was phenomenal. At the moment I’m reading Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch, the latest in his Rivers of London series which are great fun – like Harry Potter for grownups.

Q: In the past, you’ve written about the ways in which the world is changing as a result of developing technologies. What are you most excited about in terms of the future of digital?

A: I think fearful is closer to how I feel at the moment, rather than excited. We have global behemoth tech companies profiting from our data; it surpassed oil in value last year. We have them indiscriminately selling that data to unknown third parties like Cambridge Analytica, who used it to target dark ads to influence political outcomes. We have Facebook threatening to launch its own currency while obfuscating its role in scandal after scandal. We need to regulate the future of digital, limit the power of these players and break up their monopolies wherever possible, or the future looks bleak for democracy.

Q: If you could take any word out of commision permanently, what would it be?

A: Brexit.

Q: What do agencies and brands need to know about using digital?

A: In my experience there are still two types of brands and agencies; those that that already ‘get’ digital and those who – amazingly – still don’t. The digitally-enabled should have more agile teams; no social media should have a twelve-week approval process (like a certain major toilet paper brand does, which is how they came to run a poll called “are you a scruncher or a folder?”). This kills any opportunity for spontaneity or back-and-forth conversation. That said there are plenty of small businesses who are still not using the potential of social and digital, especially in the ads space, and to many, digital seems to be a dark art. Those people should get in touch with us!

Q: What was the first job you ever took?

A: I was a barman in a West Country village pub, which is where I learned all of my worst jokes and where I perfected many of my skills; my ability to do quick mental arithmetic, my ability to drink copiously and my ability to sound convincing on the phone when someone calls to say “Is my husband in that bloody pub again?”

Q: What’s your favourite word, and why?

A: Labyrinthine – it means maze-like, it’s excellent to say and it brings to mind David Bowie’s posing pouch.

Q: Which social media networks do you regularly engage with?

A: Twitter has always been my spiritual home, though I will occasionally post random historical facts to Instagram. I’ve taken Facebook off my phone entirely, and so should you.