Industry Profile: Alex James at Alpha Digital

By AdNews | 29 September 2022
Supplied: Alex James

Our Industry Profile takes a look at some of the professionals working across the advertising, adtech, marketing and media sector in Australia. It aims to shed light on the varying roles and companies across the buzzing industry.

Alex James (AJ): Head of paid social at Alpha Digital

Time in current role/time at the company: 8 months

How would you describe what the company does? 
Pushing digital forward for brands of all shapes and sizes.

What do you do day-to-day?
My job really is to be the conduit between the reality of the consumer, the media landscape, where the brand is currently and how to make them stand out. Day to day I make sure the brilliant basics are nailed across all social channels. Ascertaining where we can push the boundaries of media specific to social. It’s also a big part of my job to think about how we can be unique, authentic and on-brand.

Day to day it looks like translating the brands vision and media strategy into something that becomes personalised and on brand execution - things like creative analysis and recommendations, audience quantification and testing.

Define your job in one word:
Kinetic! (Constantly energetic, dynamic and shifting).

I got into advertising/ad tech/marketing etc because:
Like most people who work in the agency/advertising space, by accident. I studied a double degree in Psychology and Marketing because I was interested in the psychology of marketing. When I finished university I had no idea what I wanted to do but I was offered an internship with AGL. I realised I enjoyed the technical side but not so much the fluffy side. So I got a job at their marketing agency - and the rest is history.

What’s the biggest challenge you face in your role?
Mostly it’s breaking down misconceptions. Everyone has a Facebook account and an Instagram account but people don’t have their own Adwords accounts or DSP seats - and a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. A big part of the every day challenge is educating clients and people we work with about the drastic difference between posting a picture of your salad and a complex media strategy on the same platform.

What’s the biggest industry-wide challenge you’d like to see tackled?
Right now we need to wean off the ROAS drug - I like to call it ROAS rehab. Because of increased tracking and anonymity online, we’ve moved past comparing like for like. People got used to ROAS as a reliable metric and now that it’s becoming less reliable, they don’t know what to do next. If you move away from a solution, you need something else to move to. There are data driven attribution and scientific measurement methods available but they aren’t out of the box solutions. They require a specialist and research and most businesses don't have that luxury.

Previous industry related companies you have worked at:
Most recently Country Road Group as a social lead for all Country Road Group brands and David Jones. Before that, it was The Media Store, an independent agency in Melbourne and before that, IPG Media Brands where I bounced around a few of their divisions.

Notable ads/campaigns you have worked on:
The 2021 David Jones Christmas campaign, I worked on being able to bring back the iconic jingle which was such a huge part of my childhood! Being able to bring that into the modern day was such a nostalgic and satisfying project to work on!

Who is/has been a great mentor to you and why?
The greatest and most consistent mentor is a friend of mine called Michelle Primrose. When we met she was our GM for Matterkind (previously Cadreon) at the time and she was based in Canada. She was the first strong female leader in the agency business I’d seen being unashamedly herself. She made an impression on me because of her authenticity. She wasn’t reserved, which was unlike how I’d seen other women be and how I, myself had been told to be. She was empathic but assertive and I still model my behaviour on that example. Even though she’s in Canada, we still talk and I still turn to her for advice when I have a career challenge.

Words of advice for someone wanting a job like yours?
Let go of what you think you know. Welcome challenge and differing opinions because paid social is the midpoint between art and science so there’s a lot of grey area. If you’re too set in your ways of working and can’t be flexible, you’ll be left behind.

If I wasn't doing this for a living, I'd be:
Probably raising bees by the seaside - so basically the opposite of what I do now.

My mantra / philosophy is:
An old zen proverb - let go or be dragged.

My favourite advert is:
It’s cliche, but my first cognitive memory of any interest in advertising was The Big Ad from Carlton Draught and it’s iconic for a reason. I was single digits in age. It was the first time I'd seen an ad not take itself seriously. It had ludicrously high production value and broke the 4th wall in such a silly way. It really broke down my idea of what advertising could be.

In hindsight, knowing what I now know about the industry, it probably ruined a bunch of careers, a bit like a one hit wonder song.

Music and TV streaming habits. What do you subscribe to? 
It’s a controversial choice, but I’m a big Youtube Premium advocate. The high CPM means creators make more for the content I consume and I want to give back to the creatives. Also, I signed up for my first Youtube account as a teenager so the algorithm is insanely accurate and uses data from all the way back then. Also Paramount+, a very underrated platform. If I’m honest, it’s all of them - way too many.

Tell us one thing people at work don’t know about you?
I’m actually an open book. The only reason people don’t know things about me is because they don’t ask. I feel a level of privilege because of my Autism; being really open and honest isn’t really an issue for me.

In five years' time I'll be:
I hope to be helping my clients explore the metaverse, or whatever the next new frontier will be. Things move so quickly in social, and I'm excited about not knowing what the future holds!


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