In today’s ‘Day in the Life’, we hear from Richard Friar, MD at Starcom, about what it’s been like to take on his role during the pandemic, and why he believes we are about to enter an era of ‘media agency domination.’
Please describe your job: What do you do?
I’m Managing Director for Starcom, one of the UK’s leading media agencies and part of Publicis Groupe.
My job description is simple – make it as easy as possible for our amazing team to be at their best. I support them on clients, I create opportunities for them to grow, and I do a lot of work to make Starcom a place they (hopefully) love. This is more important than ever, as we continue to be apart. And it can be a challenge as I’m what I call a ‘lockdown baby’ – I started mid-pandemic, and 10 months in, have still only met most of my team on video!
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
I’m second in command and report into our amazing CEO Nadine Young, who is the most inspiring, supportive, and inclusive leader you could hope to work for. And she will hate me for saying this as she’s also the most humble!
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
A strong dose of empathy and bravery, in equal measure. I started out as a planner, and empathy is one of the first things I learnt; to be able to place yourself in someone else’s shoes and see the situation from their perspective. It’s the key to great insight and ideas. And it’s also the key to helping people flourish.
It goes without saying that empathy is at its most important right now. We live in a time when the pressure on everyone is immense, both at home and in work. And this is different for every single person. As a leader it is critical that you understand and act on this.
At Starcom we have this amazing culture that is built on bravery. We give our team a platform to ‘lead up’; to push themselves beyond their comfort zone in search of faster growth for their clients and themselves. And as leaders we need to walk the walk, which is why we’re calling 2021 our bravest year yet – a year when we really shake things up.
Tell us about a typical working day…
Being a ‘lockdown baby’, I have yet to experience a typical day in the Starcom office. But as things stand, I’d say there are 6 things which might typically happen:
I start with a run. Being brave, I decided to enter an ultra-marathon in lockdown, which means A LOT of training. Even when it’s cold and pouring with rain, like this morning.
I meet clients. We work with some amazing clients, and it’s a rare day when I’m not in a conversation about how we can help them grow. I meet media partners. Even more so over the past couple of months, as we’ve been sharing our new Starcom story with the industry. It’s brave, it’s ambitious, and it’s gone down very well.
I run the WFH canteen. I’m a rubbish cook but make a mean cheese toastie, which is the speciality on our lunchtime menu. The kids want me to open a sandwich shop, but I rather like my other job!
I meet our team. Our brilliant Starcom-ers, who teach me more every day. I do ‘deep’ work. Do you share the feeling that we’re spending more time in meetings now we’re working apart? To counter this, I block out time for deep work in my diary, giving me time to disconnect and concentrate on an important presentation or task.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
Media has always been an exciting, sociable, and fast-paced industry. What’s not to love Moreover, I genuinely believe we are about to enter an era of media agency domination. Think about it. The biggest challenges we face in marketing are media challenges; a complex, fragmented yet intrinsically connected landscape; the growth and influence of the digital platforms; new data and HFSS regulation. Clients need expert advice to guide them through these challenges, and no partner is better placed than your media agency to do this.
This is why I love my job – to help our clients grow, and to grow our team whilst we do it. What sucks? When someone suggests the opposite – that media agencies are on their last legs.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
At Starcom everyone’s goals are focused on three growth pillars – growing our clients, growing our team, and growing our agency. Mine are no different.
And for 2021, we’ve introduced a fourth. Every Starcom-er has their own ‘Brave Play’ – their commitment to stretching beyond their role and contributing to our bravest year ever. My Brave Play? To build the new media agency model.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
Tools are worthless without brilliant people behind them, and a conversation can give you so much more than a tool. So, whilst they’re not tools, it’s our team that help me the most. And then there’s Marcel. I live on it – it’s the home of everything we do.
How did you end up at Starcom, and where might you go from here?
I’m lucky to have worked at some amazing agencies, with some great people. From early days at BJK&E (where I met a lot of my industry friends), to Vizeum at its peak and a near decade at MediaCom, I’ve had a lot of fun and learnt even more.
Starcom is my first role in Publicis Groupe, and I’ve been blown away by the culture, strategy, and capability of the group. What next? It’s not a thought currently – we’re building something very special here, and I’m excited to see where it takes us.
Which brands/experiences have impressed with their use of data?
The brands with the best data smarts are those who are integrating their CRM and paid media, which is what we’re doing with Samsung after winning their Customer Experience remit at the end of 2020. By having oversight of the full journey, we can take learning from customer behaviour and apply this to paid media, and we can use paid media to reach customers who are less likely to engage with direct comms. I see a future where media and CRM is the integration everyone is talking about.
Do you have any advice for anybody who wants to work in your field?
Think digital first. Learn whatever you can about the platforms – Google, Facebook, Amazon etc. They offer free opportunities to learn, which will give you valuable knowledge and skills as you set out.
Embrace new business. There’s a reason why working on a pitch is seen as an accelerator for your growth. The profile is good, but the opportunity to learn at the coalface is even better. And if you’re ever offered a role in new business, grab it with both hands. I did it once and learnt more than I could ever have imagined.
And finally, whoever you are and whatever you do, never be afraid to roll up sleeves and get stuck in. This is what stands the real talent apart, and it’s what we’re about at Starcom.
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