A day in the life of... director of digital at a creative & marketing agency

Adam Edwards is our Day in the Life interview this week. He's director of digital at SMSW Media, an independent agency in Surrey, and his varied role includes plenty of work with Middle East clients.

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Right, on with the questions...

Econsultancy: Please describe your job: what do you do?

Adam Edwards: I’m Director of Digital at SMSW Media, a creative agency based in Surrey. I build (and constantly refine!) integrated digital strategies for clients. Working closely with the digital team, I oversee the creation and delivery of content, campaigns and advanced advertising.

It’s fair to say the agency has a uniquely specialised side. We do a lot of work with international franchise partners of Western retail brands, including Steve Madden, ALDO, Gap, M&S and many others. It’s our job to help clients be as relevant as possible in foreign markets while staying true to brand identity and building brand awareness.

With digital such an incredibly fast-moving industry, keeping up with the pace of change (or trying my very best to!) – and understanding how to capitalise most effectively on the latest tech developments - is another really important part of my role.

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

AE: I report into our MD and the digital team report into me.

We try to keep the hierarchy flat to make sure everyone can speak openly about what they know and think. There’s so much information to consume on a daily basis and effectively, everyone holds a different piece of the puzzle. We only become experts when we all put our heads together.

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

AE: I describe my job as the perfect blend between creativity and data discovery/interpretation. Fortunately, I love both sides.

My inner nerd comes into its own on the advertising and analytics side of things. The data insights offered by digital now are unbelievably in-depth, and I spend a lot of time crunching numbers and creating reports so we can continuously push performance.

Being able to flick between different modes is also important. My job covers the whole digital spectrum, so it might be video production one minute, knee-deep in data analysis the next, talking creative campaign ideas after that, then running a training webinar an hour later. Being adaptable makes sure things flow smoothly.  

I also rely heavily on FOMO - because knowledge is power. As an agency we’ve got an insatiable desire to get ahead and stay ahead, and a complete aversion to missing out while others are taking note. I have a rule that our clients are under no circumstances ever allowed to tell us a digital development that we didn’t already know about.

Finally, I need to be firm in my beliefs and not afraid to tell clients they’re wrong. Too often, I see them inclined to use opinion over data, knee jerk and jump on bandwagons (the kind that break down after half a mile).

E: Tell us about a typical working day

AE: My day usually begins before I’ve even reached my desk. Working with clients all over the world means ‘office hours’ is a very fluid concept. By the time I get in, our clients to the East already have a couple of hours on me. When I go to sleep our clients to the West are still busy working away. There’s almost always a good few emails, voicemails etc. waiting for me when I arrive.

Once these are dealt with, I grab a coffee and dive into the analytics, looking through the metrics for our clients and for SMSW Media’s own digital marketing. I tend to also do the same in the evening and at weekends, especially when advertising is linked to ecommerce.  

I then have a catch up with the team and we work out our priorities for the day.

Afterwards, I roughly plan my day out and very quickly realise it was a pointless exercise. I’ll spend the rest of my day not doing anything in the order I expected, and jumping between clients, projects and tasks. I actually prefer things this way - it keeps me on my toes!

Although my daily routine is far from set in stone, I always make time to browse my go-to digital blogs, websites and social media channels.

E: What do you love about your job? What sucks?

AE: The best part of the job is creating. Whether it’s campaigns or ideas for advertising, getting creative and developing strategies is what I enjoy the most. The hard part is executing it well, then nervously checking the data to see if it’s all going to plan.

Another great thing about working in digital is how instantly you have access to performance data and can respond to it.

One thing that definitely sucks is fighting against people’s fixation with vanity metrics; it’s a real progress killer. The result is that clients often want to over-invest in the wrong areas and under invest in the areas that could get them much better results.

It also sucks that our calendars sometimes clash with our clients’. I’ve been known to spend Christmas morning editing ad sets for a Saudi client, and often get calls from the Middle East at 6.30am on a Sunday morning when they are just starting their working week (luckily I have kids so I’m usually up anyway!).

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

AE: I only really care about getting the attention of the target markets and selling to them.

Our goals and KPIs are normally ROI/ROMI or set around the ‘cost per…’ outcomes; it all depends on the campaign objective. For example, with ecommerce ads, we’re most interested in cost per purchase, cost per add to basket etc.

The advances in Facebook reporting in the past few months has been very exciting and have meant that at last we’re able to show our clients traditional ROI (i.e. revenue increase). For us, Facebook is the absolute king of finding and converting new customers.   

In-depth reporting and performance analysis are a hugely important part of what we do too. With much of our work being social media focused, we have developed a bespoke formula for assessing the performance of content. It takes into account the various ways someone can engage with content, and ranks it accordingly.

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

AE: I spend a lot of time using Google Analytics; it’s an incredibly valuable tool for us.  

We use Sprout Social to help with social analytics, but we also need to export each social platforms insights docs to get access to the whole suite of metrics.

On a daily basis, we use our own custom reports in Facebook’s advertising manager to give us the most up to date information and keep track of all activity in real time.

We’ve also just switched over from Basecamp to Trello for organising our workloads, and so far I’m loving it!

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

AE: We were in at the deep end with our first Middle Eastern project and tasked with launching a groundbreaking online fashion magazine for a global franchise retailer based in Saudi Arabia. Our work spanned every aspect of the entire project, from designing and developing the website to devising a content and advertising strategy, and even hiring and training a Saudi-based editorial team.

Following the project’s success, we were asked to manage the social media channels for some of their biggest brands to increase brand awareness, footfall and sales.

After working on the accounts for a year or so and seeing some great results, other brands and franchise owners began asking us to take over some of their pages. It has continued to snowball from then on.

Having developed such a niche skill set working with fashion retail brands in foreign markets, we’d love to do more of this going forward. At the same time though, digital has the potential to transform any company of any size – so we’re busy working with smaller brands in the UK too and really excited to do more of this in the future.

E: Which brands do you most admire in your regions?

AE: To be honest, the vast majority of Middle Eastern brands are still slightly behind the curve digitally (some still don’t even have ecommerce), meaning we’re able to help our clients be genuinely trailblazing in the market.

One brand doing some really cool things at the moment though is Ted Baker. Its innovative integrated campaigns regularly make it into our monthly campaign review.

E: Do you have any advice for people who want to work in global social media & content?

Four things:

1. Spend half an hour every day, without fail, keeping track of digital news and developments and seeing what competitors are doing. You’ll never be able to know and understand it all – so make sure you tailor what you read to your area of interest and get good at spotting the important stuff.

2. Forget your opinion unless it’s backed up by data. Data is the magic ingredient behind all the best digital strategies and it connects the work you do to the results you want.

3. Really get to know the regions you’re working in, inside out. It may sound basic but this is so important and so often neglected. A one-size-fits-all mentality is the quickest way to become irrelevant to an audience. On the other hand, content tailored to them is the best possible way to build a great reputation. Use social listening, join Facebook groups, read local blogs, connect with influencers.

4. Don’t hang about. In terms of global social media, it’s all about spotting the opportunities and reacting to them quickly. Very few big brands do this well but those that do reap big rewards.


If you're looking for a new challenge in digital, see the Econsultancy jobs board or benchmark your own digital knowledge using our Digital Skills Index.

Alternatively, if you already work in the digital industry and would like a Day In The Life profile, you can email us via press@econsultancy.com

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