This week we’re bringing you something slightly different. We always talk about the fact that each and every lead represents a real, living person as we aim to put the humanity back into data.
By the same token, each and every marketer and lead generator is far more than their job title. As such, we wanted to take a deep look into the story of a highly successful person within the industry… and it’s a really good story.
As part of Alcohol Awareness Week in the UK we spoke to Jason Baker, CEO of Citrus Ornge, who was incredibly open and inspiring as he told us his story of how and why he built Citrus Ornge around a powerful Social Mission.
Below are some of the key parts of our discussion, but be sure to check out the entire story on this week’s B2C Lead Gen Podcast (links at bottom of the page).
Jason, thanks for joining us. Could you tell us a little about your story and how you got involved in lead gen?
Jason Baker: I’m always happy to share my story. I’m very public about it and I do that because the nature of the story is to break down any stigma. So, I’m a recovering alcoholic and addict and I’m quite comfortable saying that. I’m the CEO of Citrus Ornge Media and I’ve been in media and advertising for 20 years. I got into media way back at News International, a very corporate environment, and then went through a few of the digital tech businesses through the the naughties.
If I lean then onto that drinking journey, I thought I was the “fun guy” but actually I was usually the last guy at the bar. I’d get people to drink with me, I’d get people to the bar, and there was definitely a pattern of me being the most excessive - and there are other people I know in recovery who have found what I’ve found - that they were the person in their gang taking it to the Nth.
Through those years it got worse and the consequences started to catch up with me, not just physically but emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. So, my drinking got progressively worse until it got to the point where I knew I had to do something about it. That was on 2015. I didn’t get sober straight away. I did another two years of bumping along the bottom.
I was managing director of Publicitas at the time and Simon Taylor who was my CEO, I told him I was in recovery and I was sober four months and we were in New York, and we doing all the entertainment with Time Magazine and all this great stuff, and I drank again.
It was just before Christmas, it went really bad, I didn’t turn up for two weeks. In the end he let me go. He said “I’m gonna let you go get help.”
He had a friend who was a doctor in the Priory and he said “I’ve been advised to just let you go and let you hit that bottom.”
And I did hit the bottom. And I hit the bottom a couple of more times after that. And then in 2017 I found recovery properly. I was on the journey.
At the time I thought I’d damaged a lot of relationships commercially, in our industry. But I thought, do you know what, I’m now sober, maybe I could do something to help people in recovery? The 12th step of the 12 step programme is helping others. You give it away to keep it. So I thought, okay, let me give it away in my business.
I was able to do it, with a little bit of support from Social Investment Business, and put a plan together on what the business would look like with people who were in recovery and ex-offenders - and then we put that plan together. That was me on my own. Nearly four years later and we’ve got a team of fifteen in our business in the UK and seven overseas.
We have 5 people in the business at the moment who are in recovery, and actually, written into our corporate governance is that we aim to employ up to 50% of our business of those in recovery or ex-offenders.
It’s in our DNA. It’s become a really important thing for us. It’s as important as the commercials because it keeps me sober, and because people want to work with us as a business because of our social mission.
You must have been a very high functioning alcoholic if you were managing director of Publicitas?
Yeah. I mean, I was in the army for nine years so I had a general way of kind of pushing through. I did a Webinar recently and my old sergeant major was on the call and he remembers me and he text me afterwards because of something I said. “My strength was my weakness and my weakness has become my strength.” My strength kept me from coming into recovery for years because I was like “I’ll keep going, I’ll be alright, I can hold onto this. You know, seize the nettle.” All those one liners, you know?
But actually, what’s wonderful about the journey, is now as a society we’re evolving and getting more enlightened to different ways of approaching life. It used to be in the 80s and 90s, smash it! That was it. And I think there is an element of culture and society that focuses around getting smashed, you know? There is that in our industry. But I tell you what, when I’ve been out on some media do’s in last fews years, it’s very very different to what it was like when I was growing up.
How has Covid changed things around that culture?
It’s really interesting and I think the answers comes in a few parts. Initially there was definitely an explosion post Covid of people going “I’m out… let’s go and get smashed.” I think that combined with the fact people drank more during lockdown, it’s actually been statistically researched that there was a 45% increase in people reporting that they are drinking more excessively than they were before lockdown.
From my experiences there is a line you cross. I was always a big drinker but I didn’t cross a line where I couldn’t stop. There is a line. There is a mental nature to it, the mental obsession to drink more, but we haven’t got a physical craving at that point. But what happens to alcoholics and addicts is they get a physical craving for drink or drugs.
Once you’ve got those two together you literally cannot stop.
If you’d like to listen to the entire podcast you can find it on Spotify, Apple, or watch it on Databowl’s YouTube Channel. Jason Baker has also invited anyone to connect with him or contact him if you yourself are struggling with the issues raised here, or if you know someone who is.