A day in the life of... head of strategy at an integrated agency
Published: 14 Aug 2017 By Ben Davis
Charlotte Bunyan is Head of Strategy at integrated agency Collider. What does she do with her day? We're about to find out.
Please describe your job: What do you do? And who do you report to?
I’m Head of Strategy at an integrated agency, which means I’m the bridge between the client brief and the creative solution; responsible for uncovering the strongest insights to catalyse bold ideas, which deliver against the client’s objectives.
I also contribute to the strategic direction of the agency as a whole and report to the MD.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
A blend of analytical interrogation, creative intuition and incisive thinking. I once described this to someone as being able to spot the glitch in the matrix; that amongst all the audience data, performance analytics, market research, competitor analysis, you’re able to find that one piece that doesn’t quite add up, that makes you want to dig further. That moment of clarity that illuminates the business challenge you’re trying to solve and takes the creative idea in a less expected direction.
You also need to be a good storyteller, because you need that skill to inspire the creative teams, and to be able to take your clients on a journey that excites and connects with them, when you are selling them the strategy and creative in a pitch or a presentation.
Being calm under pressure is pretty handy too.
Tell us about a typical working day…
There hasn't been a typical one since I started, which I love. In the past few weeks I’ve been working on a creative brief for a premium drinks brand; a lead generation campaign for an electronics company; the brand strategy for a challenger brand in alternative finance, and a brand campaign for a charity.
Some of the things I try to fit into my atypical days are:
- Starting the day with staying on top of what’s going on the world (in our industry and outside of it).
- Supporting our talented mid-weight strategist, and working closely with the other teams here to ensure that strategy is an integral part of what we’re delivering for clients.
- Working with our new business lead to look at how we can approach prospective clients with a more tailored and relevant approach drawing on insights from their sector, competitors or audience.
- Fresh air: however busy the day is, I think it is hugely important to get away from your desk and get outside, a change of scenery can often unlock strategic block (our equivalent of creative block) and can also provide some rich human insight and inspiration.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
When it all comes together, when all the research and the analysis crystalizes and you know you are onto something. When you share that with the creative team and you can see that it immediately fires their imagination.
I also love the pitching process and building rapport with a client when you can show that you really have immersed yourself in their brand and their challenges and genuinely want to deliver an incredible creative solution that will make a difference for them.
Though there are always challenges in any job – and it wouldn’t be interesting if there weren’t – there is nothing that sucks. Because in 99% of the cases you can change that thing that ‘sucks’ by reframing it to be an opportunity, or by finding the solution rather than obsessing about the problem.
What kind of goals do you have?
My goals are to be an integral part of delivering effective creative solutions to the business problems our clients come to us with; to developing the strategy offer at Collider and striving to push our strategic thinking to deliver the strongest insights.
I also have an interest in behavioural economics and studied psychology at University so one of my personal goals is to build more behavioural insights into our strategy.
What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
It obviously depends on the work that we’re delivering, but I tend to find that the most useful KPIs are often the ones that are the hardest to measure. Particularly if you’re looking at longer term engagement or advocacy, because they are the product of multiple touch-points over time, rather than short-term responses to an incentive or big spend on an awareness piece. There is a danger too of prioritising these shortterm measurable spikes, over longer-term slower burn relationship building. Just because it might be harder to measure, doesn’t mean we should shy away from it.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
- For inspiration and insights: LSN, Warc, Stylus, Canvas 8, Quartz and Fast Company have always provided very useful starting points.
- For some light relief it is worth taking a look at the YouGov profiler, and the YouGov site itself also provides some interesting reading.
- The APG (membership body for media planners and strategists) has some good resources, great talks and valuable training and networking opportunities.
You also can’t beat a bit of internet trawling – I often find reading the comments illuminating, as we can all be guilty of living in a bit of bubble and forgetting that our London-centric marketing/advertising lives don’t really reflect those of most of the populus!
And for that reason just being endless curious about the world we live in and being interested in people and getting out more is one of the most valuable things to do. So if we’re working for a retail brand, we should be spending time in their shops, experiencing their competitors and seeing what their customers say and do.
How did you get into agency land, and where might you go from here?
Via a rather meandering path; dabbling briefly in PR and management consultancy and then pursuing a passion for writing by working at a marketing communications agency. From there I moved into strategy. I’ve tended to apply for jobs that looked interesting and varied and chosen to work for agencies where I really liked the people.
I’d love to grow the Strategy team at Collider and help the agency achieve its ambitions for future growth.
Which brands have you been impressed by recently?
I think John Lewis really understand the value of the whole customer experience.
Their retail and digital experience is extremely cohesive and their customer service is second to none. Though there’s always a lot of hype around their Christmas advertising, it’s actually the entire experience, including their next day click and collect service, that makes them a traditional brand that is still able to effectively compete with the likes of Amazon to the ‘What I want, when I want it’ audience.
I think Hello Fresh is a brand to watch; its product has always been good and now its customer service and online experience is catching up.
Do you have any advice for people who want to 'do strategy'?
- Get good at research and being able to distil that research into pithy truths and observations.
- Be curious and ask lots of questions.
- Hone your communication skills.
- Ask to shadow someone in your agency who is in strategy, or ask someone in a strategy role to be your mentor.
- Join the APG – they offer some great training courses.
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