Media: Double standards - 'When applying, it was obvious how little I knew'

Two recent newcomers to the media agency world, UM's Chris Howell and Mindshare's Laura Namvar, explain what attracted them to the industry.

CHRIS HOWELL, BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT EXECUTIVE, UNIVERSAL MCCANN

- What attracted you to a job at a media agency?

I was looking for a challenge, something different, something that would put all my creative skills to the test instead of focusing on just one area. The social media/creative/tech/PR side of business development suited me perfectly.

- How aware were you of what a media agency did before you joined?

Like most consumers, I didn't have a clue until I started researching jobs in the industry. Ads were the interruptions you did your best to avoid - until you came across the clever ones you felt compelled to share. Either it's because I'm now in the industry or the industry is working harder, but I think I'm starting to notice more clever ones.

- Has the reality of the job lived up to your expectations?

The reality is even better than I could have expected: the fast-paced nature of working in a media agency and the rate at which Universal McCann in particular is growing means that I've had access to, and played an important role in, some exciting campaigns and winning pitches. As a graduate fresh from university, you feel particularly valued and I love the whole "Curiosity" positioning we have for our agency brand, which encourages you to explore and question for yourself. Plus, I never expected I would end up helping to run UM's Curiosity Lab, showcasing some of the most exciting tech I've ever got my hands on.

- What has most surprised you about the job?

I've been most surprised by the characters you meet in the agency and wider industry - in a good way. Everyone comes from a uniquely different background, and it's not often you find graduates or executives who studied marketing or advertising, which is refreshing. There are some brilliantly creative and hardworking people out there, and the opportunity to do award-winning work alongside them is a pleasure.

- What training have you been given and have you worked in different teams at the agency?

I've been trained in standard industry tools and have attended numerous conferences and workshops. I've also been fortunate enough for UM London to give all its staff "Storytelling" training, a massively important social tool often overlooked in boardroom presentations. Our search arm, Reprise, took me on board for a week so I could better understand the relationship between search and PR, and I spent a week in the Digital Activation team learning their systems, to help me put together more in-depth backgrounders. A lot of my training, though, has really come from learning on the job.

- To what degree does media offer a lively social environment?

Media is a massively social environment - which is great for graduates just coming out of uni. Networking and social relations are a key part of the job, and there are countless media events, awards and parties that my boss encourages me to attend.

LAURA NAMVAR, ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE, CLIENT LEADERSHIP, UNILEVER, MINDSHARE

- What attracted you to a job at a media agency?

If I'm honest, it was a friend of mine (see, WOM really does work). My friend couldn't have sold the industry better: he told me how, as a grad, he'd been really looked after in terms of training, opportunities to meet clients and feeling part of a team, rather than just making the coffee and polishing the MD's shoes. He also mentioned that sometimes he gets to go on jollies and roll into work hungover. So I ran as fast as my legs could carry me to the nearest computer and applied my heart out to the agencies that really grabbed me.

- How aware were you of what a media agency did before you joined?

Not very. I even have an MSc in marketing, but that still didn't provide me with much perspective on the roles of different types of agencies. Which, when you think about it, is slightly ridiculous. When applying for roles, it also became blindingly obvious how little I knew. I really had to get a grasp of what a planner does and what a buyer does before I could figure out which one would suit me best.

- Has the reality of the job lived up to your expectations?

I do really enjoy my job. There's a really good balance of working hard and being rewarded for it. And even at times when you're ridiculously busy, everyone's still nattering away talking about how Jack from press made an incredibly humorous attempt at kissing Jo from outdoor when she was least expecting it and failed miserably (real names have been omitted for matters of privacy).

- What has most surprised you about the job?

The extent of variety there is in the role, even when you're only a grad. I think if you really want to succeed in your job, people around you pick up on it and really help you reach your potential. I have been involved in so many different activities, from budget-setting work to helping create and present a client document. And that was when I was only four months into the role with no prior media experience. It's safe to say I was a little nervous.

- What training have you been given and have you worked in different teams at the agency? I have been given so much training that I couldn't possibly describe it all here. From my first day, I was taken around the agency and began my induction with all the different teams, and it went on from there. I'm now a pro at all the tools and only mess up on TGI maybe once a week - and don't even get me started on Excel, we're practically "bezzy mates". Mindshare-specific tools have also been ingrained within me, and it's been beyond helpful in understanding and implementing what our clients want to achieve.

- To what degree does media offer a lively social environment?

Your team aren't just people you work with, but people who you truly know. My business director lives and breathes this principle of providing a social environment; I know her waist measurements, what she did in her garden last weekend and how she struggled to do "the worm" on the floor of a grimy pub in Fulham. I have made friends here whom I call and pester at all hours outside of work and with whom I have shared many drunken evenings/afternoons courtesy of Mindshare and lovely media owners. So all in all, no-one likes a sour face around here.

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