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Peter Wallace is Head of Performance at Total Media, a London-based media buying agency. I asked him a few questions to explain more about his role, focusing on a typical working day.

If you're looking to break into the world of media buying then be sure to check out the range of digital planner / buyer jobs on our digital jobs site.

Please describe your job! What does a Head Of Performance do?

I always receive quizzical looks, followed up by a lot of explanative detail from me, when I mention I am Head of Performance at independent media agency, Total Media. Fundamentally, however, my role is to oversee the digital direct response output across the agency.

Traditionally, this would have meant that I managed the typical direct response digital disciplines within the agency such as DSP trading and PPC, however over the last 18 months I have found myself working more with the brand and social teams. 

As the industry becomes a lot more data centric and clients begin to look into how they can drive incremental conversions, it has become absolutely key for us to function and integrate as one team at Total Media. I think there are still distinct skillsets required cross discipline, however, they do need to sit a lot closer to one another.

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

I sit in the digital team, primarily working with the Display and PPC teams. The display team was brought into the digital fold earlier this year. Being mindful of the amount of publishers and new technologies in the market, it made sense to ensure we were ahead of the game and planning effectively and efficiently.

I report into the Head of Media Operations – Celine Saturnino. This is another evolution within the agency. Celine originally managed the digital department, but was promoted to oversee both the digital and TV department. There is clearly huge synergy between the two disciplines and when we can all afford connected TVs in the not too distant future they will effectively be one and the same.

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

Working at an independent agency with more than 100 clients to service means that the skills required are probably distinctly different to other agencies. One day I might be talking about how the publishing industry is being impacted by Amazon, the next day could be about how we can drive sales of a robotic vacuum cleaner! Therefore being able to adapt to different verticals, challenges and objectives is absolutely key.

As well as this, I am a firm believer that having your head screwed on when it comes to technology is massively beneficial. During the time I have been in the industry, the increased focus on technology has been stark: people who are able to combine technology with creative flair will do best – creativity can be fuelled by data. 

Tell us about a typical working day…

The day generally kicks off with a trip to the gym for a quick pick me up – I’m commonly known as a fitness super freak – followed by a download of the latest gossip from the team. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some really talented forward thinkers, but they don’t half get themselves into some awkward situations outside of work!

When in the office, the key things for me are looking over what major briefs are currently being worked on across the agency and understanding how we can make our planning work harder for these clients through optimisation or new technology within the market.

Away from briefs I try and catch up with the different digital teams as much as possible to find out what they are working on and identify ways in which we can integrate further. Where we are finding most traction with clients is where we can bring together a variety of disciplines and make these all work to common accountable goals. It’s not a new idea at all, but I think it is one that is difficult to get right.

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

The metrics that we look at in order to measure success are rapidly changing. As different companies try to perfect the idea of attribution I think that this will be an on-going discussion.

Fundamentally, there are no set metrics or KPIs that we use to define success, as ultimately it is dependent on what we want to achieve. However, there are metrics such as engagement and ad visibility that we are experimenting with to understand how these can be utilised more effectively to build a greater picture of success.

As an industry, I feel we are still a little way off effectively using engagement metrics and agreeing on set benchmarks, but I am confident that these will have a big impact on how we report and trade on campaigns going forward.

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

Tamper Data – Just a standard tag tracer, however, this has saved me so many headaches when people have come to me with floodlight tag issues.

Jing – A very simple screen grab tool but I use it every day.

Google Docs – Has made workflow across the teams a lot simpler.

Google Tag Manager – Has helped save a lot of time with numerous clients.

Trello – Works fantastically for projects spanning multiple teams and for keeping visibility on team workload.

Total Media Data Team – Granted not a tool, but the data infrastructure the guys have put together helps me massively from automated reporting through to micro-analysis.

Spotify – Sometimes you just need that special song to keep you motivated though a late night in the office.

What do you love about your job? What sucks?

There are actually a lot of things I love about my job, ranging from the amount of input that I get on key agency decisions to new products through to key plans. Total Media has a habit of empowering its staff and this is highlighted by the amount of autonomy given to staff.

The thing that sucks the most is that no matter how many times I explain it to her, my mum will never really understand what I actually do for a job!

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

I can’t say that I always dreamed of working in digital media as a kid. In all honesty I kind of fell into it as I furiously applied for any marketing role after finishing university.

I initially started working for a digital consultancy as their first employee. It was quite daunting starting out, but fortunately the two guys running the company were really passionate and forward-thinking in everything that they did, which really helped me bed into the industry.

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

Having met a number of people looking to get into the industry recently I was astounded by just how much knowledge a lot of them already had. The skillset that many graduates are bringing with them at the start of their careers is already so advanced.

The best advice I can impart for anyone trying to get into the industry is just to keep researching and reading around your subject. Learn as much as you can about your particular discipline and then learn some more. 

Which brands do you think are doing digital well?

I recently took a trip to the Telegraph Experience Room. This is essentially a room that houses lots of amazing techy goods and it overlooks their massive editorial team.

I was hugely impressed by the way the Telegraph is incorporating digital media into so many different elements of what it does. This ranges from the fact that its social media editor is the first person who talks about the key editorial pieces, the increased use of video on its platforms, through to the widgets it builds for key articles online.

The way it has adapted to digital means that it is in an incredibly strong position to react quickly to news as it breaks, across multiple devices - ultimately getting the content in front of its readership in real time. 

Chris Lake

Published 15 May, 2013 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

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