Tell us a bit about yourself, what do you do?
I lead the strategy, paid media and analytics teams at Laundry Service, constantly pushing our teams to generate insights that empower our creative team to develop great ideas. We do this by conducting research to understand the consumer, category and cultural context relevant to our client's problem. As a strategist, I’m analytical by nature but am at my best when I’m creatively connecting the dots on how big ideas can be expressed to the end user in impactful and authentic ways. The thing that I find most invigorating about doing this work, especially in the mobile era, is how quickly people’s behaviors are changing, whether in what apps they’re spending the most time with, or how they’re using devices to make their lives easier. Our team has always rallied around the mindset that success in the mobile and social landscape is a commitment to change.
What did you do before your current role and what led you to where you are now?
I’ve been with Laundry Service since 2013, starting in a Senior Strategy role. Before I was at Laundry Service, I worked for Major League Baseball Advanced Media, now BAMTech, supervising a team which tracked and edited game highlights in real-time to deliver the most important moments to fans as quickly as possible. I made the decision to join LS because of its position as one of the very few social-first agencies, at the time. It was clear to me that social was going to transform the way that marketers created and distributed their message, especially with the boom of self-serve paid media platforms like Facebook’s Power Editor and Twitter ads, and there was no better place to learn and impact clients’ work than at Laundry Service.
How would you define the role of a strategist in your agency?
At Laundry Service, strategy is the connective tissue that develops plans and sees projects through to ensure that nothing we do is done without objectives in mind. Our strategists go beyond just making plans and briefing creative to let them develop ideas, they work alongside our creative team to help illuminate the most consumer-driven ideas. Our strategists also play a role in creative reviews to make sure our finished product delivers on what we set out to achieve.
How have you seen the role of a strategist evolve since you first began?
With the growth of Social Media and the demand for more content and brand messages in the marketplace, there’s become an evolved need for content and creative strategists who are experts in more tactical planning and creating for specific placements. But in an industry where project work is becoming the norm, we’re looking for our strategists to be dual thinkers who can bridge the gap between brand strategy and content strategy seamlessly.
In your opinion, what are the greatest barriers an aspiring planner/strategist encounters when trying to start their career?
This industry is very demanding and wants results immediately, so the learning curve is pretty steep and not always the most welcoming. First, I always encourage our junior strategists to find a mentor (or two), both inside and outside of our department who you can talk about agency and ad industry life with. We face unique challenges that aren’t only about how you do great work, but about how you collaborate and contribute to a positive team culture. Second, I always try to remind our strategists that, while our job is to use insights to find consumer truths, those are truly based on informed hunches, so trust your gut and share different points of view with full confidence – that’s how you’ll develop trust with the team and grow in your career.
In your time, what have you noticed are the key skills and traits that separate great strategists from the mediocre?
At the core, every great strategist I’ve worked with has been a critical thinker who is inherently curious about people and their behaviors. A great strategist is also a seeker of truth – to the extent that even a data point isn’t a fact until it’s been connected to what it means in context to the problem they’re trying to solve.
How do you avoid getting stuck in a cultural bubble and stay informed on the needs and desires of everyday consumers?
This is one of the most challenging things many agencies in big cities face. I often urge our team members to talk to their suburban or rural Midwestern family members, and ask them really simple questions related to their clients, such as “why do you buy that shampoo?” or “what do you look for in a winter jacket?” The answers you’ll receive can illuminate how much we over complicate things, based on sometimes big city, liberal biases, overlooking more human needs level insights.