Today I attended a tour of DDB Canada’s Vancouver head office. It was an event arranged by the Kwantlen Marketing Association (“KMA”) and it was well-attended by a number of my 2nd year Advertising students and other marketing majors at Kwantlen. My thanks goes out to the KMA for organizing this event and conducting themselves professionally: we have a truly wonderful group of students representing our institution in the community.
We met a number of DDB professionals today who offered up some wise words of support and encouragement for our students as they forge ahead in their education and eventually emerge a marketer seeking their first post-undergraduate job.
Sara: On “Share Value”
The big trend today is creating what DDB calls “Share Value“. Many consumers naturally want to share content on their own which means clients no longer need to spend a lot on paid media. Share Value puts the consumer in control of spreading the content. It’s free, it’s social, and it’s powerful.
Sara: On Integrated Campaigns
Example: BC Hydro PowerSmart
Integrated campaigns are typical of agency work these days: it’s rare that a client doesn’t want to have some integrated component across media channels. Working with BC Hydro, DDB came up with an integrated campaign to raise awareness around energy usage and inspire conservation across the province. The campaign involved the creation of video, print media, digital billboards, and an online game. Success was measured in the reduction of power consumption, the number of visits to PowerSmart’s website, and overall change in consumer behaviour and attitude around power usage. The campaign also won DDB Strategy Agency of the Year.
Paige: An advocate for education
The PR Director of the agency spoke to the students about the importance of education: quickie courses; short-cuts; and mail-in certifications will not take anyone far in this business. Paige is an advocate for education and lots of it. She holds an undergraduate degree in Business; post-graduate credential in Public Relations; and a Masters’ in Communication.
Paige: On getting your feet wet
Starting your career at an agency is a great way to get your feet wet. The exposure to different areas of business, creative, strategy, production, and industries provides a valuable learning opportunity for all new marketing grads. Employers often look for agency experience when hiring in-house marketing talent.
Zerlina: On what production really does
Zerlina heads up production at DDB which means she manages a team of 8-10 project managers who see client projects from conception through to end deliverable. The team is responsible for budgeting and timelines: they also get involved in strategy, idea formation, and of course, production. From mobile apps to interaction to web development, they do it all (or outsource if the project calls for that). What else does production do? Well, they’re problem solvers Zerlina tells us. They work closely with creatives and techies and bring an idea or concept to life. What skills do these people have? Zerlina tells us that the kind of people who best suit these roles are those who have strengths in organization and working with structure. I’m married to a project manager so I can tell you flat out, she’s absolutely right.
Paige: On developing writing skills
I had to ask this question because I see so many of my students struggle to develop a clear, succinct, professional writing style in many of my courses. Part of the journey from first year to fourth year is perfecting the art of the written word. Communication skills are so important in marketing and although I firmly believe some of us have “raw talent” it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work hard to develop writing and presentation skills. In particular I have noticed a degradation of writing skills over the years and as educators it’s our job to prepare the students for upper-level courses and the working world.
So what did Paige tell us? She told us to practice. Practice, practice, practice. Get used to having to re-write your work 6 or 7 or 8 times (my students can already attest to that). Always consider your audience first: a news release or formal piece of corporate communication is always going to be written in a different style than a blog post. Paige also said to write your first draft as though it’s your first and only draft: in other words, start becoming a perfectionist immediately. Don’t do half the work and expect someone else to fill in the gaps later. Write each item as though it needs to be the best piece of work you’ve ever written. I sure hope my students are reading this right now.
Josh: On the fallacy known as the “creative process”
I was dying to ask a Creative Director this question all day so when we were invited to ask Josh, a DDB Creative Director working in Digital a question I jumped in.
Andrea: Can you describe the creative process and whether or not you follow a structured creative methodology or if it’s more organic in nature?
Josh: Definitely no structure!
Andrea: Throw your textbooks away everyone! No, just kidding. Please elaborate, Josh.
So, Josh went on to explain that the process they follow is definitely more organic, however the creative brief is still the starting place. He called it a “conversation”, which I liked and could relate to from my past agency and client experiences. Josh said that although the process is less structured it is still governed by clear objectives which give direction for the strategic process.
Sara: On getting started
At the end of the tour Sara wrapped up the Q&A with some insight on how to get started in the business. As a recent UBC Commerce grad, Sara knows what it takes to get your foot in the door. I’m sure many of the students were surprised to hear that it wasn’t grades, or “raw talent”, or creativity. It all boiled down to personality. Working in an agency means you have to have the right kind of adaptable, outgoing, open-minded personality which will enable you to work with clients, creatives, and techies. Even if you are not the most creative cat in the room, you need to have an eye and appreciation for great creative work. Sara said it’s important that you learn to speak up and develop strong communication skills.
I couldn’t agree more. Thank you Sara, KMA, and DDB for the insightful and inspiring afternoon.