A day in the life of… optimisation director at a programmatic agency
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Econsultancy: Please describe your job: What do you do?
Rachael Morris: I’m the Insight and Optimisation Director, managing our ad operations and insight teams at Infectious Media. We are an international programmatic agency that partners with global brands to deliver effective media campaigns. I’m responsible for the broader direction these two teams take, and for our business’ approach to analytics and measurement.
Additionally, I manage larger strategic projects – for example, over the past year we’ve been reviewing our commercial model and product offerings. I’ve been able to help with several aspects of this project, coordinating across multiple teams to improve the way we work with clients.
E: Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
RM: I sit at the joining point between the traditional agency functions of the activation team and the technology side of our business. I sit within the senior management team and report to Attila Jakab, our Managing Director, who has been managing me for four years now, so we have a good working relationship.
I work closely with our Client Services Director and Director of Technology, as we’ll often have to work on business-wide projects that involve all our teams.
E: What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
RM: As an agency that has never done anything other than programmatic, there is a definite type of person who works at IM: analytical.
Because the teams I manage are so different, my role requires a broad set of skills. I must be comfortable with the mathematics my analytics team are using, so I can help in team meetings and brainstorming sessions, but the most important skill required is team management. Because of the different focuses of the teams, we tend to hire quite different personalities, so it’s important to stay on top of the team’s state of mind. Aside from that, project management skills are essential, as I’m often working on long-term, wide-reaching projects and need to coordinate across multiple teams and roles.
E: Tell us about a typical working day…
RM: Over the last four years our company has been obsessed with measurement. We want to prove that what we are spending really impacts our client’s business objectives. This has been my life for much of this time, so every day starts with a review of how our incremental measurement model is describing reality and what we can do to improve it.
My days tend to be varied – I spend a lot of my time in meetings with people across different teams working on a mix of client-specific and business-wide projects. I also allocate time to team catch-ups, where they can book a slot to talk about anything that might be on their mind. In general, my workload tends to be responsive, so can be hard to predict.
E: What do you love about your job? What sucks?
RM: I get a lot of freedom to define my own goals and my team’s direction; though I have a weekly catch-up with my manager, he trusts me to get on with things. I love mapping out new products or projects and seeing those through to a result, and I really enjoy being able to work with a wide range of people. Being a flexible business, one of my favourite things is hearing great ideas coming from my team and helping them put those into practice.
The hardest part of the job is how busy is it on a day-to-day basis, so it’s rare we get the time to sit and plan, which can add pressure, but also keeps work interesting.
E: What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
RM: Our work has always been tough to measure, as historically the team has simply worked to support our account team. This year however, we’re launching several standalone products, so we’ll be moving to straight revenue goals, which will be a lot easier to measure. Before now, we’ve focused on ticket completion, weighting that to account for complexity of request, which has been a good measure of overall productivity.
I like to focus on innovation within the team – the more innovative ideas we have, the better we, as a business, do. The core concept behind our incrementality product came from a junior member of the team, just thinking through the most logical solution. Similarly, some of our tools for behavioural analysis were developed when the team had a little more time to spare and one of our juniors at the time came up with a simple, easy-to-apply concept that had an enormous impact on our approach to the work.
E: What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
RM: The tools I use most often are Trello, which we use for workflow management, Slack and Looker, which we use as a data visualisation tool. It’s been great for my Analytics team, as it’s helped us give much more access to data to other teams in the business, reducing the bottlenecks on simple questions.
E: How did you land in this role, and where might you go from here?
RM: I applied to Infectious Media straight from university – I was initially hired into the account management team (which managed clients and campaigns at that time). I moved into the Head of Optimisation role after four years in account management and was asked to pick up the analytics team about six months later.
As far as where I’d like to go, I’m open – I love my job, but would like to move into a broader operational role over the next few years. Eventually, I’d like to run my own business, but I’m in no rush!
E: How are you preparing for the GDPR enforcement date?
RM: As you might expect, we’ve been working hard on this for quite some time. As a starting point, we reviewed and updated all data maps for our products and services, in light of the wider definition of personal data and how we process it. We’ve also been working closely with our partners on both sides of the supply chain to ensure the relevant consents and contractual frameworks are in place. Having our own technology has really helped us as we have experience of building in security measures and minimising the processing of personal data, which is one of the key requirements of GDPR.
E: Do you have any advice for people work with data in marketing and advertising?
RM: From the advertiser’s perspective, I would probably say the most important thing you can get right is your measurement and your KPIs – if your KPI doesn’t align with your end goal, your whole campaign will be optimised to something you don’t want to achieve. For agencies, I think it would be to make sure you listen to your clients – a lot of our best pieces of work have come from client requests. For instance, all our work on incrementality was the result of a request from Waitrose to investigate campaign uplift back in 2014.