Zoe Kitson: Reflections on a year in agency land.

Zoe Kitson

Zoe Kitson reflects on her first year in the agency world.

I am not one of those people who can visualize exactly where they will be in 5 years. I think, bar the blessed few that have continued on the path that they set for themselves in the playground, this is the case with a lot of university students. I chose my degree in communications because I felt this suited my situation nicely, learning to communicate successfully and understanding the current media environment sets you up for a plethora of career possibilities.

I started thinking about journalism, but I wasn’t ruthless enough. I then majored in PR, but had the same issue. Looking at this now, working in advertising was actually a good fit but did not even come into consideration. Advertising always equaled creativity so I stayed away. As luck would have it following a friend of a family member, a phone call, and a few interviews this changed.

Twenty is a direct and digital agency with a backbone in data that helps us achieve the best results by talking to the right people. The first month in my new 9-5 working world was spent learning this; the following months were spent actually understanding this. For the first few weeks it was process overload, sorting out where things went and how each team worked and how this all fitted together so that we were as effective as possible. My eyes were opened to things like A-B testing, WIP meetings and creative scamps.

As well as this, my role requires spending time in and around digital processes. Even though I am part of the ‘digital native’ generation as they say, when I started my knowledge consisted largely of whether I had a good or bad user experience with a website. Now I understand that developing an online presence is a core part of the industry and inevitably will continue to be in the future. This is one of the unanticipated aspects of the job which keeps it interesting, every day you seem to learn something new. However, unlike at university, you actually get to learn this in practice rather than in theory. Honestly, who knew that a website icon was called a favicon?

Over the year good guidance has been such a core part of my growth. Allowing me to be at that place where I am being given the right amount of work to keep me busy, teaching me how to do things even when it is faster to do it yourself, but understanding that mistakes will be made is so important. I can’t stress this enough. Luckily my account director is so good at this. It reminds me of swimming between the flags a little, letting me do my thing but saving me when it gets a bit over my head. In my mind this should actually be the definition of the account executive role, allowing you to grow that confidence needed to take on the next level of responsibility required as an account manager.

So what can be taken from this reflection that will help budding suits? Knowing that the profession exists for those not creatively inclined is a good place to start (although I have now discovered ‘creativity’ is not just the remit of the creative department). Advertising is a fast paced industry where things are constantly updated, refreshed and improved. I am not the only one that has jumped from the public relations ship; others who followed my learning path are in similar agencies. Secondly, don’t think that below-the-line advertising is boring. Actually hearing that our direct mail piece has reached someone personally is great. I clear my mailbox more than anyone else these days. This goes for the data part as well. Getting in front of a client and saying that what we did worked and we can prove it, is a satisfying experience.

Moving closer to home now, keep an open mind about independent agencies. The bright lights and big names of the industry dominators may not be the best place to learn and grow. In the last year I have done everything from photo shoots to forecasting, I’ve been to conferences and Call Centre visits. I was also given the opportunity to do the Direct Marketing Certificate at the Marketing Association, which has helped develop my understanding of marketing in a wider sense. There is no drawn out initiation process before anyone takes you seriously. From the day I started, I shared a desk with one of our directors. I think that pretty much sums up how we feel about hierarchy.Lastly, you do not need to do advertising or marketing at university to succeed in this kind of role. The most important traits that you need are time management, attention to detail, a truck load of common sense and communication skills that you can tailor to suit the situation.  No pun intended.

I just stopped writing this for a moment to eat an ice-block as part of an improv agency wide ice cream craving. Really, what more can you want from a job.

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