In our first interview of the year, we speak to Sarah Mann, Digital Operations Manager at OMD UK, to find out about how she made her way to the agency, her experience as a Brainstorm Champion and some of her proudest moments to date.
Hi Sarah – thanks for kicking off our Meet series for 2016. Could you explain a bit about your role and how you found your way into a media agency?
I’m one of two Digital Operations Managers at OMD UK, which means I’m part of a crack team who activate, manage and advocate digital marketing technology. We’re the people who actually get ads on websites and make sure campaign data is water-tight. We have a different tech set up on practically every client, so understanding process and specialist knowledge becomes incredibly important.
I got here after a weird and wonderful series of jobs, including theatre director, teacher and, for one whole afternoon, dinner lady. I finally settled into media when I accidentally landed a job at AOL. I’ve then worked at digital networks and publishers like BBC and Immediate Media for the best part of a decade, but decided I wanted to learn about how agencies work. I ended up at OMD UK and was delighted as I’d always loved working with the agency. So far, I think it’s the best career decision I ever made. **Geeks out**
A little birdy told us you hold the title of OMD UK Brainstorm Champion. What does this entail?
When you say it like that, I feel like there should be more podiums and medals involved. Or maybe a title belt? Basically, being a Brainstorm Champ is about generating ideas that creatively and practically generate a share of people’s lives for our clients. It doesn’t matter where in the building you work or what discipline your background is, so there’s a huge diversity of experience in the group. The brief could be for something very specific, such an OOH campaign using a brand mascot, or something so wide it’s pretty much just an emotion or an ideology. It’s then up to you and your team of Brainstorm Champs to enthuse the incredible talent here at OMD UK to generate ground-breaking, award-winning work, to engage and challenge the client. Work like the ‘Humans’ Regent Street store campaign for Channel 4. So, no pressure then.
Being a Champ is incredibly challenging (all work is undertaken on top of your day-to-day workload) and quite possibly the most fun you’ll ever have in the office without the aid of an alcoholic beverage. It’s the most obvious manifestation of being creative, innovative and culturally connected, which is at the core of everything we do here at OMD UK. That, and it meant I got to dress up as an Ewok while encouraging people to hit each other with light sabers made from rolled up newspaper. I may well be living the dream.
What is it about the world of media you find so exciting?
Coming from a digital background, it’s the speed and diversity of the evolution of all the tech we rely on in our everyday lifves, how we as marketers can access those key moments to help our brands and how technology is answering those conundrums. There’s nothing more satisfying than being able to tie up all the different platforms in digital marketing and seeing them turn into actual campaigns. Work like Talon pioneering the measurement of an out of home campaign in an ad server, or hacking cash machines with eye-catching messages for Channel 4 or getting a cruise liner into Google maps for Royal Caribbean. Technology throws up its fair share of opportunities and challenges. Working at an agency means you are at the centre of all those puzzles, working at speed to keep up with the zeitgeist, and that’s when you begin to get creative. I think being a desk-based adrenaline junkie helps as well.
And finally, what is your proudest moment at OMD UK?
That’s kind of tough, as there have been so many awesome opportunities. Obvious highlights have been the strong sense of community involvement and encouragement which lies at the core of what OMD UK do. Working with Brainstorm Champs and Innovation Hunters, especially on projects like Innovation Week, have provided access to new ways of thinking and working. The easyJet SXSW brief was ridiculously exciting to work on, as it allowed me to experience the briefing and pitching process – something which I wouldn’t normally have contact with as part of my day-to-day job but massively impacts my role. It hugely helped my understanding of the agency and the way all the disciplines click in together like a jigsaw puzzle.
The one moment which really stands out is winning the Buzz award after only a couple of months at the agency. Naturally, it was hideous at the time. Inevitably the award fell on the day where I’d got dressed in the dark, failed to even comb my hair and had been running around like a mad woman all day, so I tried to be as inconspicuous as possible when I collected my award, which is hard when you have pink hair. It seemed like a very long walk to the stage, as anyone else who has had to do it will attest. However, what I found so moving is I have never worked anywhere where I felt so supported, appreciated and invested in. I always feel OMD UK works very hard to nurture and protect its talent. Without a doubt, the coolest group of people enmasse that I have ever had the privilege to work with, so I was deeply proud that they voted for me to win so soon after joining. Just an awesome experience.