A day in the life of... a dancer turned head of paid media

Published: 10 October 2016 By Ben Davis

Daniel Wilkinson is head of paid media at digital marketing agency Jellyfish.

He's had an interesting career path, as the headline suggests.

We caught up with him to find out what life is like running paid media at the UK's largest independent performance marketing agency.

Remember, if you're looking for a new challenge in digital our jobs board lists hundreds of open positions, and you can benchmark your own digital knowledge using our Digital Skills Index.

Please describe your job: What do you do?

As head of paid media I’m responsible for the teams that manage our programmatic display, paid search and paid social activity.

I make sure we have the right people, tools, technology and workflows in place to be successful.

One of the most important aspects of my role is to remove barriers or roadblocks so that my team can do their job as effectively as possible.

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Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?

I’ve been with Jellyfish for over 11 years, starting out as a PPC manager and working my way up to head of paid media. Today, as one of the department heads, I report directly to the CEO, Rob Pierre.

What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?

You have to be open to new ideas and be able to solve problems quickly and effectively. The industry moves incredibly fast, so flexibility and adaptability are a must.

I know this is important in any job but listening is vital. Listening to what clients and employees are telling you helps you make the right decisions.

Tell us about a typical working day.

Mornings and early afternoons are normally taken up by the UK team, with afternoons and early evenings dedicated to the US.

I work across some of our key clients, get involved with lots of new business opportunities and spend the rest of the time working with the team to find new and interesting ways of running paid media campaigns.

There are always new methodologies, tools, networks or new features on existing tools that need to be explored and tested.

What do you love about your job? What sucks?

Coming up with new ways of tackling client challenges has always motivated me. It’s exciting to see how new innovations and technologies can help clients gain a competitive advantage.

I’ve been really lucky to have a lot of autonomy within my role at Jellyfish. This has enabled me to do things that may not be typical for a head of paid media.

As an example, I introduced a peer-to-peer reward and recognition scheme into the company and developed the Jellyfish Academy, a three-month graduate training program that teaches new recruits how to manage paid search campaigns.

It’s great to see the students learn new skills and progress through the program to become effective digital marketers.

The thing that sucks is trying to be disciplined and prioritising the things that will have the greatest impact on our business.

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What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?

We have goals at both client and division level. For the paid media division we’re looking at client retention and growth as well as new business growth.

At a client level the KPI’s are always aligned with the clients’ commercial goals. As a performance agency we’re always interested in conversion and return on advertising spend.

What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?

I love the Google technology stack from DoubleClick (DS, DCM, DBM) through to Audience Centre, Analytics and Attribution 360.

We’ve spent a lot of time understanding how the tech all works together and how we can create a unique approach through the standard tools.

How did you get started in the digital industry, and where might you go from here?

This is a long story. I used to compete in Latin American and ballroom dancing and went on to dance professionally for 10 years in an Irish dance show called Spirit of the Dance.

I went to a recruitment agent and after she stopped laughing at my CV, she advised that everyone was looking for PPC people. I went home, looked up PPC and researched obsessively for weeks.

Once I’d started interviewing, I received three job offers in the space of one week, one of which was at Jellyfish. More than 11 years later, I’m head of paid media at the UK’s largest independent performance marketing agency.

Which brands do you think are doing digital well?

There are so many brands doing a great job in digital. I think one of my favourites is Netflix.

They’ve really embraced the use of data across their business, especially to inform creative execution and delivery.

Do you have any advice for people who want to work in the digital industry?  

Jump in. There are so many different roles that require diverse skill sets and attributes. I truly believe there is something that will appeal to everyone within digital.

In such a fast moving industry, those who keep up to date with the latest digital news and trends can do really well.

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