It took a year to realise media might not be for me

Marco del castillo

Newcomers can struggle to adjust to the fast-paced world of media agencies. Here Marco Del Castillo talks about the challenges he has faced in his first year at MEC.

I’m days away from rounding out my rookie season in this industry and it has been a heck of a ride. A naïve student in the field of psychology and marketing, I have found myself in the thick of a fast-paced world filled with interesting people, a ridiculous amount of jargon and litres of beer, wine and champagne to rival the downpour of the 2011 QLD floods.

I have gained a plethora of knowledge in just 12 months, though there are five standout traits that I have identified as essential to a career in media.

1. Rationality – You Are Not Van Wilder, this is not college

The media world is fun. Your friends are envious of your workplace and your parents constantly question what it is you actually do. There are countless events that can get in the way of what you set out to do when you got all dressed up for your first day, looking like you’re ready to work at an investment bank. This is a privilege, not a right. If you lack self-discipline and rational thought, this is not the career for you.

You are working in a world designed and geared to appeal to your emotion. Have fun, get involved, expand your network and foster relationships, but don’t lose focus. Most importantly, the golden rule of media is to back it up. As my dear friend Ed Livesey would say… Get up, Dress up, Show up.

2. Communication – Death by Acronyms & Jargon

We work with people from all over the globe, attracting top-quality talent and nurturing an environment where we can learn and execute market-leading work that can hold its own, internationally. Sometimes you may forget that you are in Australia.

But it isn’t the differing accents that make you second guess if everyone is speaking English – it’s the acronyms, buzzwords and jargon that will have you speaking a whole new language soon enough.

This industry is filled with labels and acronyms that make common sense sound like rocket science. Let me tell you, this is not rocket science – nobody understands that.

An idea is best sold when the client knows what exactly you are selling. A product is best sold when the consumer understands what they’re getting. As some smart guy once said: “If you cannot explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” (Albert). Sometimes we overcomplicate plans and oversell things that sound more complex than they really need to be. At the end of the day, it is vital to strip it back and effectively communicate to your audience.

They say the industry of sales is a one-to-one communication strategy and marketing is a one-to-many strategy. If you cannot communicate effectively on a one-to-one basis, you have most likely overcomplicated your plan that is failing to communicate to the masses.

3. Collaboration – The Lone Wolf Does Not Survive

Everyone is after a piece of the pie, more than ever before. We are all aware of the historical war between media and creative agencies. Today there are competitors circling all around. These days, the creative agencies are not the only ones capable of creative ideation and production, nor are the media agencies the only ones capable of putting together plans. With specialist agencies offering digital solutions, data mining, social influencer outreach and so on, this is no longer a matter of direct competition, it’s an all-in battle. Truth be told, the lone wolf doesn’t survive.

In such a fiercely competitive marketplace, you need friends and in the current situation this market is in – collaboration is key. That’s one of the core things marketers ask of their agency partners. Sole agencies cannot achieve success alone. It is one thing to work collaboratively internally, though it takes an extra leap to effectively collaborate with teams that wear a different jersey.

4. Passion – Don’t Chase Pennies

Across the industry, we have all heard rumblings of “I don’t get paid enough”. Every month, people come and go chasing an extra couple of thousand dollars or a mere title change. Fair enough, people have their own needs and agendas. Though if you are happy with the environment you are in and you are constantly learning, there are going to be opportunities that become available from within, in an environment you are familiar with. Many agencies operate very differently, beware of jumping ship too early for little gain only to start all over when you are not entirely prepared.

It can take just one year (or less) to know if this is really a career you are passionate about or not. If it isn’t, leave now – you don’t have the dedication to put the quality of work ahead of short-term gain. If it is, then you will no doubt produce great work and in time, the money will come.

5. Thirst for Knowledge – Life-Long Learning

This entire industry is essentially underpinned on the basis of behavioural science. We analyse the thoughts, values and behaviours of people and their surroundings in order to effectively capture, captivate and connect. As humans constantly change and evolve onto new trends, technologies and ways of living, it is our job as media professionals to stay ahead of the curve and understand what is going on in the world around us.

As such, we are constantly students in this field – no matter how much experience we have. Have comfort in knowing that almost everything you have learned to up now (tactically and operationally) will be completely redundant in 60 months. This is the great thing about this industry – you will never come to a point of plateaued wisdom (if you are open to it). This is not accounting, this is not law – there is no ceiling of knowledge.

Though as people we will always have the same essential needs and desires (we have all heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy 1,000 times), the behaviours and touch points in which we interact within our everyday lives will always be changing and evolving. This forms the foundation of an exciting, fast and dynamic industry. Be inquisitive, be analytical, be nimble or be somewhere else.

These five traits are in no way essentially innate; they can be learned and conditioned.

Though at times I may have felt that I am not cut for this industry, I have solace in knowing that I can get there. If you really are passionate about this field, stick it out and you will prosper in time.

  • Marco Del Castillo is a digital executive at MEC

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