Fran Cowan of Inskin Media and the IAA UK is our latest interview for ‘a day in the life’.
Cowan started her career as international marketing manager at MySpace back in 2006, and has worked at Inskin since 2012.
Let’s find out more…
(And remember, if you have itchy feet, you can view new opportunities at Econsultancy Jobs)
Please describe your job: What do you do?
Fran Cowan: Currently I have two roles, as CMO for Inskin Media and VP Marketing for the IAA UK.
At Inskin, I’m responsible for a team that engineers long term business growth, as well as supporting immediate commercial targets. We divide our focus between the short term ‘wins’, which contribute to long term brand effects, such as PR, marketing campaigns and product launches, with long term strategic planning, providing business intelligence to inform product strategy, maintain relationships with trade associations and overall brand positioning.
At the IAA, I’m on the board with a brilliant group of accomplished media types. I chair the marketing committee and am also part of the professional development committee. We’re a non-profit organisation with a voluntary workforce whose aim is to educate, inform and inspire people at every stage of their media career. This is usually done through events, networking and training, from speed mentoring to executive workshops. This is something I’m really passionate about.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
Fran Cowan: At Inskin I’m part of the senior management team, where I help devise strategy for the global business, reporting directly into our CEO, Hugo Drayton. At the IAA, the structure is quite different – it’s a voluntary organisation, so we’re all self-motivated and driven, and it doesn’t feel like a classic reporting structure at all. However, Fred Borestrom is IAA UK’s President, and Karen Carter the Chair, then there are various committees, headed up by brilliant people, who run different aspects of the IAA’s program.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Fran Cowan: I would say time management is key – there will always be more to do than is humanly possible. Being able to digest quickly, prioritise and communicate is paramount for both roles.
I’m also really passionate about collaboration and effective management, and constantly strive to be the boss that I would have wanted when I was building my career. Part of this includes understanding my team’s motivations, making sure they understand the value of their role in achieving the company’s goals, whilst encourage them to work towards fulfilling their own.
Tell us about a typical working day…
Fran Cowan: For me, there’s no such thing as a typical working day! It’s always super varied – but the diversity of both roles is one of the things that makes my work so engaging.
One day I might be briefing a team from another part of the world on a new product development, or Inskin’s latest research project. On others, I’ll find myself reviewing budgets – this is taking up quite a bit of my time lately as we’re entering budgeting season, so I’m working with commercial teams in Europe, APAC and MENA to establish their wishlists for 2019.
In between, I’ll check in with my team to see if I can help with any pain points they’re struggling with, and turn my attention to any items our PR agency will have no doubt chased me for!
On the IAA front, it’s a fast-paced and collaborative hotbed as we endeavour to set up valuable, successful events alongside our day jobs. We’ve just held a speed mentoring event, for example, where people starting out in their media careers can be mentored by industry vets. We also have an executive training series underway and a ‘boss your review’ session planned to guide people on how to approach their performance review. Because there’s so much to manage, it’s very much a case of having to divide and conquer.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
Fran Cowan: Sense of team is very important and I take my role on the leadership team seriously. Especially for the women in the company starting their careers, I think it’s important for them to see women bossing it in senior roles!
We’ve had some changes in Inskin’s leadership team recently, and I’m really excited by the new additions and the energy, passion and perspective that they bring. For example, Matt Newcomb who was running our Australian business has just moved to London. His experience and approach are really valuable.
Email, on the other hand, is my nemesis. It’s so inefficient and my inbox is permanently heaving – I get infuriated with pointless emails and encourage people to pick up the phone, and to text or WhatsApp me for anything time-sensitive that needs a response. So definitely don’t leave me a voicemail!
I hate lazy copywriting – no one is ‘delighted’ to announce a new anything…
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
Fran Cowan: Measuring the success of marketing is notoriously difficult, especially in the B2B space, so I am constantly looking for new ways to quantify the effectiveness of our work.
Ultimately, it is important that our sales team and other externally facing members of the company are seeing the value of our efforts when they’re talking with clients and business partners. We hear a lot of positive anecdotal evidence from the wider team, and we’re careful to document that too.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
Fran Cowan: Gin? No but seriously – it has to be my fantastic team, who are always there to support me and make sure we get the job done to a really high standard.
I’ve also found Asana to be a useful tool. When it comes to navigating complex, collaborative projects with multiple stakeholders, I find it incredibly helpful to have everything online in one place.
How did you end up working in adland, and where might you go from here?
Fran Cowan: Very randomly! When I graduated, I worked in music and events in the South of France. Someone attending one of these events introduced me to the SVP of International Marketing for Myspace as it was starting its international expansion. I started my career in London as her executive assistant, then built my B2C marketing career for five years there. As part of that I got involved in the ad tech side of the business and continued my career in that direction.
Which recent work have you admired?
Fran Cowan: The #TimeTo movement is critical to improving the industry for everyone, and although it’s a fantastic campaign, there’s still a lot of work to do. At one of the IAA’s recent speed mentoring events, one of the most asked questions by female mentees was how to handle a ‘pervy boss’ – which is something we should all find very concerning. A lot of women still feel intimidated about coming forward in these situations through fear of misplaced retribution. As an industry, we need to set up free legal and emotional support systems for those who need it.
I love the Advertising Association’s Promote UK Campaign – ‘A Great Advert for Britain’. Especially with Brexit looming, and as the UK has become a net exporter of talent we need to continue to highlight the importance of the advertising and marketing industry to the economy, and as a brilliant career choice.
I’m also a big fan of the ‘Book of Man’ campaign, which is doing vital work to ‘redefine’ modern masculinity. Their aims are to challenge toxic masculinity and tackle stigma associated with talking about mental health.
Do you have any advice for people who are starting out in online advertising?
Fran Cowan: Work hard and be nice to people. The reputation you start building in your first job will stay with you throughout your career. Sign up for IAA events too – you will meet people who you will end up knowing for decades, and have opportunities to learn from people outside of your immediate circle.
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