Shona Read is half Australian, half Malaysian and grew up moving across Europe, Middle East and Australiasia. Shona has been lucky enough to live in a ridiculous number of cities and as part of her studies was able to work with big companies like Deloitte and IBM but also startups and smaller independent agencies. Shona moved to London in 2013 and has been with PHD ever since.
Where did you study and how did that help mould your career choices?
I studied all over! I moved around a lot growing up and I now love travelling… which is probably why I’m here in London. Before this, I did a CEMS Masters in Business Management which basically allowed me to take 3 semesters in 3 different countries. I was still not sure what I wanted to do and figured what better way to do that than to travel more with some added learning.
"I was still not sure what I wanted to do and figured what better way to do that than to travel more with some added learning."
It turned out to be quite intense and I ended up learning much more than I had expected to, including the areas I definitely wanted to go into – somewhere creative, with flexibility, where anyone (even the most junior) could make a difference.
How did you get your lucky break in the creative industries?
There was an element of luck, but as with most things it took a few knockbacks for me to finally learn my strengths as an interviewee. I had been applying to a few agencies in London because I knew that this was where I wanted to be. I kept getting to final stages, or being part of the last two candidates, and getting my hopes up … only to not get a position. I knew that I wanted to be on the strategic side of things and when the opportunity came to interview at PHD everything seemed to go right.
Can I just say, I remember hearing this as a grad from people who had found the right jobs and thinking they were full of it – surely things don’t just magically fall into place. But during my interview, for some reason we got onto the subject of PHD's gamified platform Source and gaming (which I happen to have taken as part of my arts degree in uni). Without really thinking about it I’d flipped the interview round and started asking about how the game was made, how people play, who gives points etc.
What does an International Media Planner do day to day?
I help my team develop strategies that can be turned into media guidelines for brands. We then work with individual markets to try to understand which parts of the guidelines work for their market and which parts need to be adapted slightly to suit them. There is also a lot of work done with the global creative, social, digital and PR agencies to make sure that we have ideas that work across all areas of media.
"I can take on tasks anywhere from developing a search strategy to helping determine the overall brand purpose."
I’m quite lucky in that my team has quite a diverse remit and so I can take on tasks anywhere from developing a search strategy to helping determine the overall brand purpose. I also get to play on Source quite a bit and have even come up with new ideas in a development session.
How does the work of media company such as PHD fit into the campaign process?
My team fits into the process at the idea stage. Usually before there are any ads are created. We work closely with the creative agency to come up with a campaign that will reach the right people.
What’s your method of tackling a brief?
We always seek to fully understand what the product is, who the audience is and then work from there. This is where Source comes in handy. We can put a brief on Source and crowdsource ideas from all over the world – sometimes people come up with ideas that we would have not considered in the team and it sparks from there.
How important have you found side projects help increase your experience and employability?
Which side projects are you referring to? London has so much to offer that I’ve just jumped at every quirky thing that has come my way: from art exhibitions to netball, from Cannes Young Lions to IPA certificates.
I think they have helped me think differently about things or increased my knowledge in new areas. As with all things, if you have more experience and knowledge you will be more employable, but it’s more about doing something outside of my normal role and with people outside of my day-to-day. Obviously, winning a few prizes here and there doesn’t hurt either!
Do you have any rules or a personal motto that you live by?
Keep your quirkiness. It’s so easy to follow the top people on twitter and read suggested books etc. but the thing that makes you think differently is what will add to anything that you do. It will be scary to be different and to keep your quirkiness but it’s worth it. I’ve always been a bit geeky and so listen to freakonomics podcasts and just this week I brought up something I’d heard on a podcast that might lead to a project.
"It will be scary to be different and to keep your quirkiness but it’s worth it."
I also really like art, so I make time to put together pieces for exhibits around East London. It’s almost a Steve Jobs calligraphy thing – you never know when something you know will be useful, and it’s less likely that’ll happen if you do what everyone else is doing.
If you could share a desk with anyone from the past, present or future, who would it be and why?
Even though it is not a person, I’m going to say: a wormhole. Like a secret untapped things that takes you to dimensions unseen or questions unasked. Maybe that’s too far, but in the words of Dr Suess, oh the places I’d go!
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