Social anthropology, or why I got into advertising
I will admit right now that, at 18, I
didn't dream of becoming CEO of a media agency. But I also admit
that the media, advertising specifically, interested me from a very
Not to age myself too much here but
the creative back then was better - the concepts were clever but
not confusing and the execution was usually fantastic. And of
course, on-demand didn't exist and there were fewer channels, so to
be frank, you had to actually watch adverts because there wasn't
much else to skip to.
But for a long time, that was as far
as my interest went. At no point did I think it was going to be the
industry I'd build a career in. What I did know is that people are
fascinating. It was really as simple as that. Humans are confusing,
contradictory, passionate and unpredictable. We can never be truly
understood and I find that idea both captivating and frustrating. I
wanted to understand why we act the way we do, what drives us and
what develops our opinions - so I went off and studied social
anthropology at university.
Looking back now, I can very clearly
see that my degree not only helped define who I am as a person, but
also who I'd become as a CEO. At a basic level, anthropology is
about training yourself to never accept the norm, not applying your
own value system to things you learn about in other places.
That means I question everything I'm
told and then when I'm told the answer, I question that too - it's
probably annoying but it's genuinely helped me throughout my
career. I also think that this curiosity and desire to question
things is a hugely important trait for anyone in advertising.
As we hear every day from clients, colleagues, partners and all in
between, everything we do is, or should be, about the audience.
Even before we start the creative process, we collect data, analyse
it, speak to clients about their target audience and develop
insights which will be the cornerstone for that campaign.
From there, we develop a creative or
concept which will speak to that audience. Once that's in place, we
plan the campaign to ensure we reach that audience. Every layer of
this process requires different skillsets but the one constant is
the need to understand the audience and question whether the work
we're producing is going to engage them.
Developing and executing a brilliant
campaign is a long process and it's very easy to lose focus. Adding
to this challenge is that there are a constantly growing number of
platforms on which to place content - from Snapchat ads to
on-demand video ads that speak the name of a viewer. All this means
the need to keep "audience" front and centre is even more
We must question every decision being made - is social the right
platform, is a TV ad going to connect to the right age group, is
this media owner really able to direct our content to the right
people? And once we've figured that out for one campaign, the
entire process needs to start again for the next one.
Because as human beings, we are
constantly changing. Content that grabs our attention today will
irritate us tomorrow. Brands that seem innovative today seem boring
a year later. It's the nature of things. But our job here is to
evolve with that and be constantly curious, asking the questions
that will turn a solid campaign into a groundbreaking one.
Understanding people and never
assuming I'm right about what I think is what attracted me to the
advertising industry - my main piece of advice to people in the
same world is to question everything, assume nothing and then do it
all again next time.
By Josh Krichefski, CEO, UK
Josh recently spoke with Jess
Davies, UK editor of DIGIDAY about his career and life as UK CEO of
MediaCom - you can read the article here