Interview with an agency pro




Project Manager



Nicola Brown, a recent grad and freelance communications specialist sat down with Kate Guerrero to see what life is like as a Project Manager.

What is your job all about, in a nutshell?<br>
My role is to plan and execute media strategies for my client. I?m responsible for determining what media ? TV, print, digital, out-of-home, radio, etc. ? will be best to get the client?s brand and message to consumers.<br>
What are the factors that go into the decision to choose one medium over another?<br>
That?s a good question. We?re pushed a lot both by clients and within the agency to ?innovate? which is a bit of a buzzword, because what does that actually mean? Basically wherever possible, if there?s a strategy we can go with that either has never been done before with the client or steps outside their comfort zone but they?re open to it, we?ll go for it over a run-of-the-mill campaign. But we won?t abandon traditional channels. There?s always something to be said for a good media mix to be able to reach different people in different places at different times.<n>
Our strategies are always based on who we?re talking to and the message we?re trying to communicate. If we?re speaking to somebody aged 35+ it might make more sense to use a newspaper ad versus if we?re speaking to somebody aged 18-34 it might make more sense in mobile.<n>
Those are really the three key factors for me: who we?re talking to, what we?re saying, and is there room for innovation?<n>
We always have research, examples and case studies to back up what we?re saying. Occasionally we get clients who are set on one idea where maybe we have the insight that suggests that another direction would work better. Usually we can show them the research and statistics that help them see the strategic direction we?ve developed, but sometimes if the client still really wants to go with another idea we?ll have to work with it, because at the end of the day it?s their money.<br>
What elements of your work do you get most excited about?<br>
Where I have the most fun is in the ideation phase. Coming up with unexpected and enjoyable solutions to typical marketing/media briefs and challenges is the best part of my day.<br>
Describe some of the biggest challenges you have faced and do face in your position. How have you overcome them?<br>
One of the biggest things I?ve had to face as a Media Planner was the initial phase transitioning from Buyer to Planner. Going from inputting buys and taking care of discrepancies to client meetings and presentations (all while managing internal plans/creative agency and vendor partnerships) was a shock to my workload. The most important thing I found that was imperative to my growth was admitting when I didn?t know something and asking for help, or figuring it out quickly on my own. Research, research, research!<br>
What surprised you the most about your current job when you first started?<br>
I?ve really been able to learn and accomplish everything relative to media and planning that I?ve wanted to get into without limitations. I feel that this is facilitated by the agency culture. Entrepreneurship is really encouraged; we?re given the opportunity to take on challenges and seize potential in our day-to-day.<br>
Describe your career path so far. How did you get to where you are today and what have you learned?<br>
I enrolled in the Advertising Media Sales program at Humber College without knowing much about the industry. It seemed like an exciting choice and I immediately fell in love with Media. Out of school I started as a Buying Assistant managing TV buys for big clients and small markets at ZenithOptimedia. It was there where I first learned about handling billing and discrepancies, the value of relationships in this business, and that I wanted more out of this industry.<n>
I moved to Cossette Media ? the only agency I had my sights set on at that time ? where I began working on TELUS Mobility, one of the biggest accounts in the country, and it was a trial by fire. The pace and level of responsibility really showed me that I always had to bring my ?a-game? and strive for better ? constantly.<n>
To continue exploring my options in the media world, I spent some time at MediaVest, working on Kraft Foods. CPG brands are instrumental for a portfolio, and operate very differently from most Canadian-only brands. I learned that global strategies play a huge role in product deployment in our local markets. Also, travelling from a smaller agency to a global powerhouse taught me about the differences in structure and ways of servicing clients.<n>
Not long ago I began working on Koodo Mobile with the knowledge I gained from working on younger brands like MiO and Crystal Light. It has the fast-paced nature of a TELUS but on a smaller scale and with a different feel. It is truly an account I enjoy because I?m able to be in charge of multiple responsibilities and be a vital part of the planning process.<br>
What changes do you see happening with your role and the industry more generally? What will be different in five years that people looking to break into the industry should be aware of?<br>
Well, of course everyone is saying that everything is going to be digital in the next five years. Media are converging. We?re moving towards having things like giant out-of-home digital boards. Everything is becoming hyper connected.<n>
When I was in school we would have industry speakers come and talk to us about the current media landscape and we were only just dipping our toes in digital. But now, if there?s anything you can do, and maybe it sounds really lame, but it?s research. Hitting the internet really hard, looking at tech and advertising blogs. That?s where you can keep abreast of where things are going.<n>
Also, you?re always going to be learning. Those who are researching and learning as much as they can continually are going to be the ones to come up with the best innovative ideas in media because they know what?s new and how it can be used as part of a media strategy. It?s all about knowing what?s available.<br>
What are your favourite blogs and resources to stay on top of what?s happening in the industry?<br>
Ad Age, Strategy and Ad Week are the industry go-tos. Then there are more mainstream sources like Mashable and Fast Company. Marketing Magazine and eMarketer are good too. I also read Devour, Digiday, Stimulant and for more of an art/design blog, Colossal. TechCrunch is also an important source. I think that?s a pretty good list that?ll keep you busy!<br>
What skills, abilities and attitudes would a person need in order to do the kind of work you do really well?<br>
Tenacity, a positive outlook, curiosity and a strong willingness to get the job done (and to learn) ? all while maintaining excellent relationships with everyone you come across.<br>
What do you appreciate about working with the people you work with, and the atmosphere at the office?<br>
The people I work with are very creative and very inspiring. People here tend to be kind of like icebergs with a lot of very diverse interests under the surface. They?re into really cool underground art or music, or hobbies ? axe throwing kind of became popular recently. I feel that a creative mind is one that?s always hungry for knowledge and that?s one thing that makes the culture so positive. Everyone?s always sending out articles and chatting about what?s new and what?s trending. It?s a very collaborative place. People understand that knowledge is power, I guess, to say it in the most clich