Funnily enough, many of our most interesting interviewees in our ‘day in the life’ feature come from creative agencies.
And Lucy Walker, Audience Director at eight&four, is no exception. Here’s what she does with her time, with plenty of sage advice thrown in.
If you want to take part, too, why not get in touch?
Please describe your job: What do you do?
I’m the Audience Director at eight&four, a creative and media agency. We help brands talk to audiences in an authentic way and deliver messages that cut through. The media landscape is ever changing, and brands need to transform how they connect with consumers to focus on real business outcomes. We leverage data and insight to get under the skin of the audience we’re targeting and deliver strategies for our clients that truly resonate.
I lead the audience division within eight&four which is a diverse team of multi-disciplinary media strategists and planners. Our main aim is to assist clients to reach their ideal audience at the right touchpoints and maximise effectiveness. Ensuring that my team has the knowledge, tools and frameworks in place to collaborate with creative and client teams is one of my chief objectives – namely to plan and execute activity that delivers real business outcomes and actionable insights.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
I report directly into the managing directors of the agency and I work with them and the senior leadership team to evolve what we do as an agency. The agency is growing and agile, meaning that we are able to successfully deliver inventive and meaningful campaigns for a number of brands.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Coaching and being able to offer support to my team is one skill I couldn’t live without. I very much follow the ethos that I am reflective of my team and am only as good as they are. Whether I am helping them navigate a complex brief, negotiate value on behalf of our client or determine what insight can be pulled from the data, it is essential that I coach them through this and am able to see my team become increasingly self-sufficient and ambitious.
Strong communication skills are also essential. Within media not only are there mountains of acronyms and buzzwords, but we are in a time where we are dealing with complex consumer behaviour and demands so being able to communicate complex ideas or problems into understandable language is crucial.
Tell us about a typical working day…
It’s a bit of cliché but no two days are ever the same!
Every day has unplanned briefs and challenging problems to overcome, but it wouldn’t really be agency life without them.
I typically hot desk within the office, working closely with my team to review client actions and performance to ensure the strategy and approach taken is effective and helps us to reach our target audiences.
Quite frequently I will speak with media and tech partners to ensure that we’re able to offer innovative solutions for campaigns, and able to suggest partners that provide cut through in such a crowded space. Whilst there have been many changes over the past couple of years, there are quite a few smart technology partners around that allow us to activate sophisticated campaigns that excite our target audiences
For example, Instagram has focused on building its commerce capabilities over the past year and this week it was announced that you can now use the platform to purchase products through influencer posts. This new step is crucial when we are seeing investment in influencer campaigns continue to grow year upon year.
Alongside this I will typically work through new business pitches and opportunities that allow us to promote the agency or new initiatives that help build on the great culture of the agency.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
I love working in a fast paced industry that keeps me on my toes. Since joining the agency last year I have been able to evolve not only how the agency delivers to clients, but also bring new ideas to the table for our clients and how they can reach new audiences.
As with any agency there are always moments that help you build a thick skin. You just have to read about the industry to see that the media industry is challenging – but the most frustrating thing is having to take challenges and mistakes from third parties you can’t control. Turning these failures into a positive outcome for the client can be arduous, but it’s all part of the job!
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
At the moment I am focused on delivering as much value as possible to our clients by helping the, understand the value of the work my team does, and what performance really means.
Depending on the strategy, KPIs and metrics can vary, but we need to consistently be able to demonstrate return on ad spend.
Alongside this it’s all about looking for new opportunities with new and existing clients.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
We have access to so many tools, but tools that actually work and deliver useful insights are few and far between.
I’m not going to lie, I love tools that I can use easily to find insights. One of my favourites at the moment are ad serving tools that leverage data signals. We’re surrounded by data but most of the time it means nothing. These tools allow us to leverage data triggers such as weather, TV mentions and competitor activity which enables us to adapt our activity in real time and maximise possible results.
How did you end up at eight&four, and where might you go from here?
I’ve had quite a varied career. I started out in PR, before travelling to Australia where I worked within a number of digital and content agencies. When I returned to London I started at a big network agency and made the change as I wanted to find a place where I could make a real impact for my clients and team.
As for next steps, I would never say no to working overseas again, but there’s so much to achieve and do now – that has to be a long term goal.
Which campaigns or customer experiences do you admire?
This year has definitely been an interesting one for campaigns and experiences. We’ve had an egg become the most liked picture on Instagram, Ryan Reynolds has a gin company, McDonald’s put bacon in a Big Mac – and it’s only May!
But Nike is always a stand out brand for me. They’ve reinvented how they launch TV ad campaigns. Their ‘Dream Crazier’ ad from earlier this year was first published on social with Twitter pulling in nearly 30 million views. While the ad did appear in the Oscars break, it was the individual posting from publishers such as NowThis, LADBible and a number of other titles that really extended the campaign’s reach and generated the most social pick up for the brand.
Do you have any advice for marketers starting a career in agencyland?
There are so many bits of advice that I have picked up throughout my career so far, but for now I would say:
- Realise that there are quite a few buzzwords that are overused, and we’re getting to a time where some have lost their meaning.
- If you’re not quite sure what is being asked of you in a brief or from a line manager, don’t be afraid to ask. Sometimes the person asking you isn’t quite sure and it’s better to clarify from the start.
- Agency land can be hectic and at times you will feel like you need to work at lightning speed. Make sure you do your own due diligence, so you feel confident in the work you are doing. We are only humans after all and mistakes do happen, but it’s best to be ahead of them.
- Think outside of the box, get creative with your ideas. Partnership opportunities are everywhere but be patient as they rarely happen overnight.
Speaking of agencies, if you work for one then why not enter Econsultancy’s Top 100 Digital Agencies 2019.