Phil Livingstone, Head of Marketing at British Gas earned his stripes on the agency side of the media and marketing industry before moving client (brand) side.
Having worked in various roles (Account Executive, Account Director, Group Digital Director, Digital Planning Director), Phil has tonnes of experience and advice that he’s amassed over his 16 years in digital.
We asked Phil some questions about his career journey, life at British Gas and some tips for building a career on the client side.
Briefly describe your career path up to now
I wanted to be a pilot when I was growing up. After leaving school, I joined the Army and quickly transferred to the Parachute Battalion. After that, my passion for advertising led me to London where I worked for a number of media agencies (eyeconomy, Mindshare and Havas Media).
"I wanted to be a pilot when I was growing up."
I worked my way up from Account Executive to Digital Planning Director. I then decided to make the move into client side and left to join British Gas taking up the role as Head of Digital Marketing.
How did you land your role as Account Exec at Mindshare?
Whilst at university, I went along to a speech given by Ray Taylor who had just set up an online agency called NMC/Adplan (later becoming eyeconomy). I had the opportunity to take a gap year and joined Ray for a year. He taught me so much. I really enjoyed the industry and I knew I wanted to make a career of it.
"I worked for MindShare during my holidays and in return they sponsored me through university."
As my year was coming to an end I was searching online for an opportunity to stay in the industry and came across Mindshare. I actually got the Mindshare role by just sending my CV to the HR department and asking if they would sponsor me during my last year of university. I was lucky enough to land the role. I worked for MindShare during my holidays and in return they sponsored me through my last year at university.
It was a great starting point in my career. I worked on some fantastic accounts (HSBC, Pepsi, Nestle, Argos and Kellogg’s) and met some amazing people who I still keep in touch with today.
As Head of Digital Marketing, what does your day to day role at British Gas involve?
British Gas is great company to work for; we have evolved into an energy and services company. My role is pretty varied. I can be in a meeting discussing weekly traffic and sales figures and then presenting a strategy to internal business units.
"The most important part of my role is to coach my team to develop great work that they are proud of."
I work with my colleagues to promote a range of products and services across the digital channels. I also work closely with other marketing colleagues and a whole host of other departments to bring marketing campaigns to life. The most important part of my role is to coach my team to develop great work that they are proud of.
What’s it like working for a client compared to an agency where you spent many years at Havas and Mindshare?
I found the transition into client side very easy. It’s actually very similar. Whether you’re on the client (brand) or agency side, we’re all working to achieve something together.
"Agencies offer a great foundation for any marketer."
Agencies offer a great foundation for any marketer. They’re fast paced and you get exposure to multiple clients with all sorts of different challenges and objectives. Client side can be equally fast paced but it offers a different perspective.
You can be part of something from the initial idea right the way through to the launch of a campaign. It’s great to see all parts of the business come together and really get behind a campaign. We can track performance in real time through search and social so it gives you a real buzz.
What’s been the most fulfilling project you’ve worked on to date?
There’s been so many I couldn’t narrow it down to just one. I’ve worked across most industries. Sometimes the most creative campaigns come from the smallest of budgets. I think as long as you are trying new things and learning all the time, then as a marketer, that’s both satisfying and fulfilling.
Do you have any advice for young people looking to build a career on the client side?
If you want a career in this industry you need to be curious. Be curious about audiences, data, customer experience and increasingly technology and automation.
"My advice is to find a mentor in the company who you can learn from."
Like most advertising and marketing roles, its hard work and long hours but so rewarding to see your work really drive a business forward. My advice is to find a mentor in the company who you can learn from.
The digital marketing industry literally changes every week so you have to keep up. Read about the industry, discuss different technologies, be inquisitive and ask loads of questions. The behaviours you demonstrate (how you approach things) are just as important as what you deliver and achieve so be mindful of these.
Lastly, if you could share a desk with anyone from the past, present or future, who would it be?
I’d create a pod of four desks and share it with David Ogilvy, Steve Jobs and John Lennon. A great mix of strategy, customer experience and creativity.
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