Charles Crotty is Head of Digital at Spark Foundry, a global media agency within Publicis Media.
Econsultancy caught up with him to find out about a day in his life, the tools he depends on to stay organised, how to get into the agency business, and why fun is an essential part of what he does.
(Remember, if you want to fast track your development, Econsultancy offers a whole host of marketing training.)
Please describe your job: What do you do?
Charles Crotty: I’m the Head of Digital for Spark Foundry UK, which in the changing world of digital and with the growth of many subdivisions, can now seem slightly ambiguous. In reality, the main crux of my role is a mixture of internal development and client-based work.
The former involves creating a digital planning process – ensuring communication planners are trained to a high level. It also involves being available for pitches and being the digital knowledge source for the agency.
On the client side, I review plans, advise strategies, the go-to person for advising and further execute digital products such as DMPs and personalisation at scale.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
Charles Crotty: I created and head up an eight-person team, called the Digital Excellence Unit. I report into Rob Hocknell, who is a managing partner at Spark Foundry UK.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Charles Crotty: Many! As I mentioned earlier, due to the growth of digital into many sub-divisions, it has become increasingly broad and requires you to keep up-to-date with the fast pace of change. Meaning you constantly need to keep learning, which is definitely a benefit of the role for me.
However, on the lighter side, I’ve always been an advocate on having fun whilst you work, so I always try to inject some humour into my team meetings, as a lot of our work is very stats driven and I don’t think it hurts to lighten that up from time to time.
Tell us about a typical working day…
Charles Crotty: It varies a lot day-to-day, but my time is usually split across leading digital projects with clients, and devising and updating the digital training scheme for the agency – to help our planners stay at the forefront of the digital industry.
I’m often involved in pitches, so normally I’ll be working out a digital strategy for this or leading background research for prospects in order to make the best first impression.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
Charles Crotty: I love being at the forefront of what’s happening in the digital sphere. I also enjoy leading my team and helping them grow professionally. Media agencies are a great place to work – the atmosphere of competency and professionalism combined with a fun spirit is hard to beat.
The only negative element is not everything is always in your control, such as the outcome of pitches.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
Charles Crotty: I’ll assume you don’t want me to list out all my favourite digital metrics!
In terms of personal and company, the key ones are – are our clients happy, are we delivering as much as we possibly can for them, are we getting good feedback and do they feel that our products are actually making a difference for them?
In terms of personal, I love it when a planner or a business director comes and asks me for help with a strategy or problem. This tells me I’m doing my job right and I’m visible as the guy who can help them solve digital problems and can help them grow their knowledge also.
You need to be very visible, which is key for letting people know you’re the guy with the knowledge to get stuff done – and great for your own career!
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
Charles Crotty: Outside of work, I use an app called Life Reminders, and Google calendar which has changed me from not a naturally organised person to being super organised. I joke that I’m even more organised than my wife now (she remains on the fence about this still).
At work, I use Trello which is a really neat way of organising and sharing tasks/information.
How did you get into media planning, and where might you go from here?
Charles Crotty: I started a long time ago at a great agency called Media Contacts (now Havas). It was there and Manning Gottlieb that I learnt my trade largely, while also meeting my now wife.
I’ve jumped between comms and digital throughout my career, which has given me a broad view of how digital fits into the wider marketing mix and agency profile, which has been really useful throughout my career.
In terms of where I go from here, it feels like it’s a time of great change in digital and marketing as a whole, so I’m happy to see where it goes next.
Which recent campaigns do you admire?
Charles Crotty: The Heineken Open Your World and Kronenbourg campaigns were excellent. The former an example of a brand getting it totally right in a tricky space and latter being an excellent application of originally digital news jacking into a print format.
We’ve recently done some work for TrustFord using AR in their showrooms – which is really cool and actually converting something that may in the past have seemed a bit gimmicky into something giving great value to the consumer.
Do you have any advice for people who want to get into agency land?
Charles Crotty: Definitely! It’s a dynamic and fun profession to get into. It’s great for young people or graduates, as there are so many like-minded people to work and socialise with.
It keeps you on your toes and there are lots of opportunities for achievements and progression, in this fast-paced industry – working with a range of different brands, from cool start-ups to leading global companies.
One thing I would say is that people should plan ahead and think about what skills they are developing in their role and how useful they will be in the future. With automation looming across all industries, grads need to think about how they future-proof themselves, something we didn’t really have to do so much before – I certainly didn’t until I settled down.
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