Fake it ‘til you make it…as a digital strategist

In a feature that first appeared in Encore, Mark Aquino, digital strategist at Sydney media agency Pearman, tells us how to bluff it in his job.

What does a strategist do?

According to Wikipedia, I help specify an organisation’s vision, goals, opportunities and initiatives in order to maximize the business benefits of digital initiatives to the organisation. People get me mixed up with the IT guy a lot though. As a digital strategist, I come up with the best possible digital activations for client briefs. Whether it be ads on a website, pre-roll videos that you see before your YouTube video or Google Search ads – these digital ads were probably planned and purchased by yours truly.

What skills do you need to be good at the job?

A digital strategist needs to have the right combination of digital ‘cool’ and digital ‘nerd’. The digital ‘nerd’ allows you to speak eloquently on things like digital technology, the advancements in the field of mobile and the ability to decipher the client benefits of a Facebook cost-per-acquisition campaign versus a mobile ad sponsorship. The digital ‘cool’ is the ability to rock the skinny-jeans-no-socks-with-dress-shoes look without looking like a tool.

Who are the people you work closest with?

On a day-to-day basis, I work closely with my digital executive Phil (who is a Gen Y-er), simply to get the lowdown on everything cool with the kids these days – ie. what apps they are using, what mobile phone/tablets they have, and if Instagram is still a thing.

Otherwise, I work closely with the media department to ensure digital is always a part of our planned media response. I work with our clients to get a better understanding of their digital needs, online objectives and where they currently sit in this vast digital universe we live in. I also work with online publishers to get updates on what’s happening in their digital world and what new ad opportunities are coming to market soon.

Is there any lingo we need to know to do the job?

Everything in the digital world is acronyms. Things like – PCR, CTR, CPE, CPC, iOS, and CPL. Anything more than three letters causes a meltdown to our overworked hard-drive brains, so we like to keep it to a minimum.

My everyday vernacular includes questions like: ‘What is the unique audience of that website? What social media platform can best deliver brand advocacy for our client? Can we buy that pre-roll on CPC or CPE rates instead? Is Pearman trending on Twitter these days?’

What does a typical day on the job entail?

After having a quick natter about the hilariousness from last night’s My Kitchen Rules, we start the day with a brief.

The brief is then discussed by all members of the media team where everyone puts in their two cents with the hope that the big idea somehow comes to fruition. It’s the digital strategist’s job to find out how we can move some of that off-line money into an uber-cool, tweet sensation, augmented realified, mind blowing, media-first digital campaign that will knock the socks off the client, but more importantly… deliver results.

I spend the rest of the day looking into digital solutions. We need to get into the mindset of the consumer, understand where they are, what it is they’re doing and how we can effectively communicate our message. Is the answer in expandable banner ads, or should we look at engaging users on a social media level? Do we use video or should we look at seeding opportunities instead? It’s always important to remember that digital advertising is a slow burn and consumed in many different ways. We don’t have the power to solve all client problems, but digital advertising opens innovative and creative opportunities that no other medium can do.

After shopping my idea around the media department, I consult the oracle – aka my media director – to flesh out my digital response to the brief. We get sidetracked a bit as I help her with a computer issue that involves a frozen screen. Once we are back on track I sell in the digital concept to her and the team and we march forward to digital glory.

We speak to digital publishers and media contacts and brief them on what we need, when we need it and how we need it to deliver. Then I’m home in time to watch the very thin and tanned Pete Evans munch on activated almonds.

What’s the best part of the job?

Hands down, the best part of the job is playing on your iPhone, tablet, Surface or Blackberry without getting asked… “What are you doing? Wasting time?” Just kidding. I don’t have a Surface.

 What’s the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge in my role is converting those less accepting of technology into believers of digital advertising. It’s like Thomas Edison having to explain electricity to the town candlemaker – seriously mate, you can retire early. Let me show you what this light switch does…

No-one ever likes change, and it seems these days change is the only constant thing in our lives. Just when you get accustomed to pop-up banner advertising, you now have to deal with in-streaming expandable banners. The digital world moves quickly and we need to keep up with these changes to understand consumer behaviour and capitalise on advertising opportunities.

How do you become a strategist?

Keep up to date with the digital world around us – consume it, live it, be it, then Tweet it. Above all else, just be sure to leave your socks in the drawer when you step out of the house.


This feature first appeared in the tablet edition of Encore. To download click on the links below.


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