Nadine Young of Starcom offers us advice on management, empathy, data and, most importantly, timesheets.
Let’s spend a day in Young’s life…
Please describe your job: What do you do?
My title is Managing Director of Starcom, the human experience company, one of the largest media agencies in the industry. In its simplest form, media agencies plan and buy media on behalf of their marketing clients (although in reality it’s an awful lot more complex than that).
Since I don’t find the word ‘managing’ very inspirational (how boring, just to ‘manage’ stuff), my job title doesn’t reflect what I do day to day. I see my role more as someone who tries to break down barriers to help my team be the best they can be; to focus on creating access to learning, to growth opportunities, and to nag the powers that be for hard-earned pay rises – so that they are inspired to deliver the best results possible for themselves and for our clients. So I suppose you could describe me as a cross between company Cheerleader, Coach and Prize Pain in the Arse.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
I’m fairly new to this role, only a few months in. As number two within Starcom UK, I report into the CEO who I think would corroborate my description of my role above; at least, he would definitely agree that I am a Prize Pain in the Arse.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
I am incredibly lucky in that I really love my job. Sometimes I miss it when I’m on holiday. It’s a bit weird. I love it because I am surrounded by amazing people, people who are way smarter than I am so I am always learning. People who are sometimes (ok often) younger than me, whose energy keeps me feeling young too. I love the fact that our industry changes so fast, there is always more to learn, and I love working with clients to tackle their biggest issues. I love that this industry is a beautiful blend of science and art, and that you can find your niche to match your passions and strengths.
Timesheets, on the other hand, suck (sorry Hazel!).
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Empathy. The ability to listen before speaking, to ask before acting. Our industry is to a great extent based on relationships. I need to be able to empathise with my team to get the best out of them; to empathise with my clients if I’m to help them build the right solutions; to empathise with our media partners if we are to create better solutions for our clients. Collectively we can then build a very driven and results-focused team.
I don’t want it to sound like I use ‘empathy’ as a carefully crafted strategy; as it happens, I love listening to people and I love helping them work through challenges. I do believe though, that without empathy, you might be able to demand people’s time but you will never win their best efforts or their hearts.
Tell us about a typical working day…
My days are super varied which is perhaps why I always feel like I’m learning. I might be working with a client on setting a strategy for the coming year, or I might be helping our fabulous social team plan our Christmas gathering. Everything is interesting because everything involves learning about what drives and motivates people, whether it’s my team’s career ambitions or whether it’s motivating consumers to change their purchase behaviours.
I also do timesheets. Those suck.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
I have all sorts of KPIs I’m measured against; the number one from a group perspective is to ensure the company grows. To get there, I break it down into three areas, which are: 1) building a growth team, 2) putting media at the heart of our clients’ growth, and 3) striving to set a gold standard within the industry. Those of course break down into more specific metrics which filter down to different teams and departments. This way everyone works to one overall agency KPI and understands their role in the bigger picture.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
Tools get in the way of relationships and as an industry we can end up relying on them or hiding behind them too much. So, while of course I use those that are necessary to communicate, I’m not wedded to any in particular.
We do have a nifty timesheet tool though.
How did you end up at Starcom, and where might you go from here?
I have a long history with Publicis Media, of which Starcom is a part. Nearly 20 years ago I worked at Zenith, another agency within the group, before jumping ship to New York where I spent nine fantastic years. After I had my son I knew eventually I would move back to London to be closer to family and, in 2015, I made the move back to join Blue 449, another agency within Publicis. A year later I had the opportunity to make an internal move to Starcom to run the P&G team. The role gave me a chance to move from strategy to ‘management’ which initially I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy, but I have loved every moment. This new role as MD of Starcom expands my responsibilities and allows me to keep doing all the things I find most rewarding.
As for where next, it’s too soon to tell as I’m still very new to this role. But I hope I’ll still be part of the Publicis family for a long time to come.
Which brands/experiences have impressed with their use of data?
There’s always a danger of limiting the power of data by trying to be clever just because we can, or limiting its use to short term results – performance, sales and so on. Data is as powerful if not more so when used to address macro brand and marketing challenges.
Samsung is a great example of a brand that has used data in this way, creating great human experiences that drive business outcomes, for example with their Fortnite integration. Their sponsorship of Love Island was specifically geared to reframing brand perception among millennial women, from something super techy to a brand that has relevance to their lifestyles. Through clever use of custom audience sets from Twitter, the right audiences were given access to unseen content from the show. I get most excited when I see data used in these ways, to create experiences people really value.
Do you have any advice for anybody who wants to work in your field?
This is a fantastic industry – not always easy, but always challenging and there is always the opportunity to learn about new categories, develop new skills and have a huge amount of fun. The best advice I could offer would be to stay curious, be interested in people and what motivates them. Stick your hand up to work on pitches, you will learn so much and it’s the best career accelerator there is.
And always, always, do your timesheets.