Ben Carpenter, an account executive with advertising agency R/GA, tells us about his path into advertising and fills us in on how he's finding his current role.
Describe your career path up to now.
I took a slightly scenic route into Advertising with previous jobs including more bizarre roles such as a voiceover artist, a lollypop salesman, a Bollywood film extra and a Kiwi fruit packer. My ‘real’ work began with a placement in the finance department of Boeing before stumbling into a recruitment lecture for the digital innovation agency AKQA. My advertising career began in that lecture hall leading to a position at AKQA before joining R/GA London upon graduation.
You studied business at uni, what persuaded you to work in creative industries?
I find that separating the theory of ‘business’ from the creative industries does a disservice to what we do in Advertising and Marketing. As such, I prefer not to draw such a distinction between the creative industries and other aspect of business. That being said in addition to possessing all of industry’s core elements, we also play host to some of the most inspiring and creative people you can come across. This can only be a hugely positive thing for the future of the business.
"We also play host to some of the most inspiring and creative people you can come across."
I explored many avenues whilst at Bath and even took up finance for my first work placement. However, it wasn’t until I found myself sitting in that lecture hall, listening to a pair of real life Don Drapers, two bone fide ad men, that it all seemed to fit into place. Fast forward a few years and instead of going into the typical post-university disciplines of consulting or banking, I’m at a top agency surrounded by a fusion of brilliant business acumen and innovative creative dynamism.
What’s your day to day role at R/GA include?
I like to think of the client services team as the central catalyst between the various disciplines within the agency, but also to the client as well. We work with clients all around the world so upon heading into the office, I’ll have my mandatory morning cup of coffee and catch up on the various emails that have come through from around the world. The rest of the day really is anyone’s guess as no two days are ever quite the same. For example, I could start by sitting down with the Group Account Director to help forecast the years’ account plan before moving onto a creative review for a campaign that I’m running. In this I would look at the work, contribute to the direction and ensure that it is fully answering the clients’ objectives.
Next up, it could be a lunch with one of my clients to discuss the 2017 Formula One campaign plan before heading to a shoot or an editing house, making sure the brilliant creative ideas shine through in the finished product. Throughout the day at R/GA, we have to be ready for anything, constantly striving to ensure we are always giving the best strategic input possible to our client’s business opportunities.
"No two days are ever quite the same."
What's it like in the Client Services team?
The Client Services team sits in this unique place in relation to the the agency and the client. David Ogilvy claimed you could divide account executives into custodians and contributors. The discipline has grown beyond merely facilitating to a craft by which we contribute to the work, developing integral business partnerships and relationships while driving account growth.
As members of the Client Services team we should become experts in our client’s business, keeping aware of the trends, opportunities and upcoming challenges for our clients. This enables us to move beyond a supplier function and develop long term strategic partnerships through which we can mutually grow our businesses. Consequently, we have a hand in every area of the agency, contributing and guiding the account to ensure our work resonates with these factors and synchronises with the business strategy and opportunity.
What’s been the most fulfilling project you’ve worked on to date?
As a massive sports fan it has been a privilege to work on a number of campaigns with top sports stars. This began with my first project as lead Client Service on a photo-shoot with French tennis player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. However, a particular highlight was an integrated digitally-led campaign that we have developed for Rexona’s Formula One activation in Australia. This involved the build of a beautiful website, an incredibly addictive movement-based mobile game, numerous online adverts and incredibly engaging and funny content featuring the Williams F1 drivers Valteri Bottas and Felipe Massa. It also included my most memorable experiences of my career so far, when I found myself standing in a freezing cold air hanger outside of Oxford watching two of Formula One’s best drivers playing a childhood game of slapsies together!
"I found myself standing in a freezing cold air hanger outside of Oxford watching two of F1’s best drivers playing a childhood game of slapsies together!"
What’s your favourite thing to do outside of work?
I’m a bit of an explorer at heart and in the past 5 years I’ve been lucky enough to travel all over the world. I truly believe that to travel is to learn, and nobody can have ever enough of experiencing new cultures, trying new foods and visiting new destinations.
Closer to home, I like exploring what London has to offer. With countless pop-up restaurants, bars, museums and galleries opening every day, there is always something new and exciting to do with my friends. Even without the travelling this fantastic city would take a lifetime to get through!
Do you have any advice for students and graduates?
Experience. Experience. Experience. It really is as simple as that.
There would be no way that I’d have got this job at R/GA if it wasn’t for the 6 months spent at AKQA. I was lucky enough to be part of a university that included this as an option during my degree, however if this isn’t the case for you then it isn’t the end of the world. You just have to try, try and try again and if you want it then be prepared to kick down the door yourself.
"Experience. Experience. Experience. It really is as simple as that."
Write to some agencies about internships during the holidays or for when you graduate. Even a few weeks or months can really make the difference and open the door to an entire career. Get experience in any department you can and during the first weeks and months work your socks off. You have to be ready to put the hours in, be enthusiastic, pay attention and most importantly build your connections. That means working hard while in the office, but also don’t shirk out of the agency culture side of things. Your break may not happen at the agency you worked at first, but in such a small industry you never know when those connections may pay off.
"You have to be ready to put the hours in, be enthusiastic, pay attention and most importantly build your connections."
Lastly, if you could share a desk with anyone from the past, present or future, who would it be?
Side stepping the obvious legends of advertising such as Ogilvy or Hegarty (or a slightly arrogant answer of myself in 30 years!), I would have to say Sir Clive Woodward, England’s legendary World Cup winning coach. As a life long rugby fan and player, it would be incredible to meet one of the true icons of the sport. However, more than that, there are a great number of crossovers and lessons that business can learn from the sporting world.
"There are a great number of crossovers and lessons that business can learn from the sporting world."
Sir Clive succeeded in uniting a nation, whilst transforming rugby from football’s ugly and slightly posh sibling into a popular, accessible brand that inspired passion in people’s hearts. His careful planning, calm, considered talks and exceptional people skills enabled him to get the best out of his team – just like any great account man!
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