A view from Tom Denford

How to make it in media

As the deadline of 13 May looms for entries to the Media Week 30 Under 30, Tom Denford, a former winner and now a judge this year, explains why this search for rising talent matters.

Being selected for 30 under 30 in 2005 was genuinely a watershed. It was the first time that the industry had acknowledged and celebrated me in any way and I think it was a big contributing factor in growing my professional confidence.

Six months after winning I had taken a big role at a New York agency and my horizon for my career in media was much broader with many more opportunities.

Winning 30 under 30 itself may not open doors but it does give you the momentum to think bigger and looking back I can see that's been transformative for me.

Now, a decade on, as a leader looking at rising stars to hire and to mentor, I believe the era of the white, middle-class British media male is surely coming to an end. 

As an industry we are more open to diversity. It will not change overnight but it’s important that the industry looks appealing to any smart, ambitious, entrepreneurial young person.

It has to change from the bottom up by us making sure that we are increasingly attractive to a diverse pool of new entrants.

At ID Comms, we don't tend to hire from the limited pool of agency talent. We've hired from all different backgrounds, people who are coming to us with enthusiasm, ambition and are self-starting and interested to learn and succeed.

When I started out in my own career, I moved role (and agency) every 18 months for my first 10 years in the industry. But I don't think that's necessarily good career advice.

The media landscape is moving so quickly, the lines between client, agency and vendor are blurring and marketers’ needs are so broad that early on I took the view that I wanted a general and wide education. That has served me well in launching my own media consulting business in 2009, which is now a global leader in consulting with some of the world's biggest brands.

My career advice to people starting out is to listen hard, ask questions and really try to figure out what you are good at.

Get feedback from people you trust and respect.

By understanding your own strengths you can identify which part of this fascinating and exciting industry you can most succeed in.

I don't think agencies are half as exciting to work in today as they were 10-15 years ago. Today, client-side media roles are far more dynamic than they were back then, as media has risen in priority and influence within marketing organisations.

Also be patient, there are some good salaries in this industry, which can be seductive to a 20-something, but think long term.

I take the view that highly paid roles are probably compensating for something – usually lack of inspiration and fun. Think more strategically about your career and build value in your own brand.

Finally, be nice to people. This is not an industry that you will survive long in by making quick enemies.

Your reputation will carry you a long way.

Tom Denford is co-founder and chief strategy officer at ID Comms

To enter this year's 30 under 30, click here