Industry Profile: Essence ANZ VP, head of product Anna Stoyanova

By AdNews | 2 October 2018

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

Meet this week's industry profile, Essence Australia and New Zealand VP head of product Anna Stoyanova.

Time in current role/time at the company:

I joined Essence four and a half years ago in London. Since then I’ve worked in Singapore, Tokyo and now Sydney. I’ve been in my current role since October 2017.

How would you describe what the company does?

Essence, part of GroupM, is a global data and measurement-driven agency whose mission is to make advertising more valuable to the world.

What do you do day-to- day?

My superpower is being able to see through the clutter straight to the heart of a problem or the size of an opportunity. My role is a bit like an architect as I help to create a unique offering for each one of our clients, perfectly suited to their needs.

My job is to help our clients to get the best from the agency and that means products, services, skills and all of our resources.
In order to do this, I need to be across all of the tools, technologies, practices, departments and capabilities of the agency.

So I typically spend my days keeping up with all the great work and initiatives around the agency, and figuring out what that means for our clients in Australia and New Zealand and beyond.

Define your job in one word:


I got into advertising/ad tech/marketing etc… because:

I love the blend of technology, science and creativity in marketing. I wasn’t always a fan of advertising though. I studied marketing at university and really disliked the advertising modules – there was a lot of emphasis on TV ads, ethics and what’s legal, which made me think that the only jobs I could get would be a creative (I can’t draw!) or a personal assistant.

When I left university, I wanted nothing to do with advertising. For seven years, I worked in product quality control jobs and it helped me to develop very strong attention to detail but also to understand what it takes to achieve the highest product quality and innovate.

When digital marketing became more mainstream, I knew I wanted to get involved so I quit my job and took an internship at a digital agency. The rest, as they say, is history.

What’s the biggest challenge you face in your role?

Essence has expanded into a full-service agency and we’re seeing this as an opportunity to re-imagine how things should be done. The pace of change in advertising is astonishing and yet, there’s still so much room for improvement and innovation.

When I talk to partners about some of our key initiatives to drive automation, rigour, precision and accountability across all media, not just digital, I see a lot of heads nodding in agreement.

But I ask, why hasn’t it been done already? The answers quite often point to a legacy of sorts – in ways of working, historic technology systems, old pricing models, outdated success metrics, etcetera.

We need to speed up the change in the entire advertising ecosystem, not just parts of it. It often feels like a mammoth task but I do also have a lot of allies. This is the right time to press for major change.

What’s the biggest industry-wide challenge you’d like to see tackled?

The integration of media and creative thinking is something that continues to be a challenge in our industry and one that brands are crying for solutions to.

It will take a different way of working to really solve it as it is a systemic issue. At the same time, it has the highest probability to drastically increase the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, so we need to tackle it decisively.

Some of the big creative and media agencies are pushing the collaboration agenda more in recent years and that’s reassuring, but we need to ensure the integration of communication strategy and principles happens at the beginning, not as an afterthought.

Previous industry-related companies you have worked at:

I have worked at advertising and media agencies for the past nine years – Razorfish, Havas Media, Blue 449 (previously Walker Media) and Essence. In this time, I have worked with amazing brands across many verticals and industries – finance, retail, government, non-profit, education, travel, technology, energy, sports. I love learning how businesses work.
Who is/has been a great mentor to you and why?

I am very fortunate to have had many great mentors during my career. I’ve always had more than one at a time. For me, it is important to have perspective and I like to hear different points of view.

Andrew Shebbeare, Essence’s Chief Product Officer, has a strong influence on my work. For someone who is undoubtedly one of the smartest people I know, he is also incredibly humble, approachable and full of wisdom that resonates with me.

I like his approach of not taking away the problem (even if he could!) but helping me to see that I’ve got it and I can deal with it, in my own way.

Dave Hompe, Fiona Cloke, Mark Syal, Kyoko Matsushita, Jovy Gill are all people who have helped to shape my career and are all deeply invested in my well-being as an individual as well. They all bring something different.

Dave holds me accountable, Fiona reminds me to look after myself, Mark is a rock, Kyoko pushes me out of my comfort zone and Jovy is my partner in crime. Ultimately, they all believe in me.

Words of advice for someone wanting a job like yours?

Go for it! It’s okay if you don’t have it all figured out. Nobody does. Some people are just better actors than others. Surround yourself with people who will give you honest feedback and challenge your point-of-view but also support you no matter what.

Find your allies – the like-minded individuals that will get behind your agenda and help you to make stuff happen. And if you feel nervous and a bit fearful, it means this is really important to you. Keep going!

If I wasn't doing this for a living, I'd be:

Running my own business or helping Elon Musk get to Mars. At least once a week I come up with a business idea, so I started writing them down.

My personal goal this year is to launch at least one of my business ideas. I’m absolutely terrified that nobody else will find them even remotely interesting so I’ve decided to crowdsource opinions first. It’d be great to get Elon Musk as my mentor.

My mantra / philosophy is:

Something that I heard often as a child: “There is no ‘I cannot’, there is only ‘I don’t want to.’” More recently, it has evolved to: “Don’t be delicate, be vast and brilliant!”

My favourite advert is (and why):

It changes every year but most recently, I loved the “Towards Zero” ad campaign - here.
It has a very clear message and powerful emotional connection.

For me, the best ads all have this in common – they make you feel something, whether that’s joy, excitement, curiosity, surprise, sadness or fear.

Did you know that there are more than 7,000 words to express emotion? Brands should pick one (or a few) and really centre the message around it.

Music and TV streaming habits. What do you subscribe to? (Spotify/Netflix etc)

I like discovering new music but I am lazy to research or keep up with new bands.

I listen to pre-curated playlists based on moods or genre, and pick out songs and bands that I like. My go-to place is Google Play Music. I don’t have a Spotify or iTunes account anymore.

I watch Netflix a lot. I pretty much only use my TV for Netflix, movies and YouTube.

Tell us one thing people at work don’t know about you?

People at work know me quite well as we spend a lot of time together, but recently I realised people didn’t know I have a fear of heights.

It’s quite bad! When we rearranged the office, I got a prime spot, right next to the big windows looking out at the city. I was terrified. Why does everyone think that the best seat in the house is a corner office, hanging off the side of a building?

In five years' time I'll be:

Running a company. All while living by the beach and working from home two to three days per week.

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