Meet the NGEN finalists - Kate O’Loughlin and Leah Franco at PHD

By AdNews | 22 November 2021
Kate O’Loughlin and Leah Franco.

The MFA's NGEN Award gives media agency executives with less than five years’ experience the opportunity to create positive impact by using their core skills: strategic thinking, creativity, storytelling and media execution expertise. NGENers were this year invited to respond to a brief calling for a bespoke fundraising campaign for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (IFL). 

AdNews presents, Meet the Finalists:

Kate O’Loughlin, Strategy & Planning Manager, PHD

Leah Franco, Planning Manager, PHD

How long have you been in the industry? 

Kate: Nearly three and a half years!

Leah: Almost four years!

What attracted you to working in a media agency? Was this always the plan? 

Kate: I actually interned at PHD just before the last semester of my degree, and was lucky enough to be offered a job off the back of it. Originally I kind of thought I wanted to end up in a creative agency, but during that internship I found media was actually far more creative and strategic than I had expected. I loved learning about all the different career paths and possibilities, and through that I discovered that I would actually be able to do lots of deep thinking and research (two of my favourite things to do) if I were to take the planning and strategy path that I have. While media probably isn’t where I originally expected I’d be, I definitely am so thankful I found it!

Leah: I interned at a few different kinds of agencies during university, with the ultimate goal to end up somewhere in PR or creative. I randomly took on an internship at a media agency just as I was finishing my degree and when they offered me a job I just said, “why not?”. I think I always thought I would eventually move into creative, but four years in, I am still here. I think it is the free lunches that really sweeten the deal.

What were your greatest lessons from the experience of entering the NGEN Award?

Kate: We took a pretty different approach to past award entries and kind of got to the idea quicker than ever. We definitely found that helped us, as we had more time to really flesh out the entry and how it would come to life in media. We were able to spend more time crafting than we ever had, and it was of extreme benefit in producing a clear and concise written piece. Plus, it definitely helped that our idea focused on one of our shared passion points! It made it a lot easier to get excited about doing the work.

Leah: Both Kate and I have entered competitions like this before, and I think our biggest learning this year was to trust your gut. In previous years, both of us have been guilty of overthinking it and not leaving enough time to really refine the work. 

What’s the one tip you would give future entrants of the NGEN Award? 

Kate: Try to think of your idea early on so you can spend a good chunk of time crafting it. Going line by line against the judging criteria and spending more time on the sections with the higher weighting is also a good idea, and it definitely helped to lay out the entry so that it was easy for the judges to check off.

Leah: These kinds of competitions can feel like just another thing to add to your growing list of things to do, but I encourage all to make the time because not only is it a great test on how clearly, concisely, and convincingly you can deliver an idea, it is also fun to get to think outside the box and not feel restrained by usual pressures in media planning (past campaign optimisation, client requests etc). It’s a blank slate and you can make it what you want!

What’s the best thing about the industry you work in? 

Kate: There are so many amazing things about the industry, but one of the things that makes me truly love my job is the fact that I’m being encouraged to think outside of the norm and to do things in a way that hasn’t been done before. In order to deliver good work in media, you’re constantly challenged to approach each campaign differently and find new ways of doing things. If I had to do the same thing every day I think I would be a very sad person, so it’s great that media encourages you to do otherwise.

Leah: When I started in a media agency, I felt unconvinced that it could fulfill me creatively. I believed that creative thinking was for the creatives in ad agencies and that is just how it is. I couldn’t have been more wrong! What I have grown to love about media is that it is this great intersection of the things I love: research, creativity, pivot tables, presenting, socialising and more.

I never imagined myself staying in media, but it ended up being the perfect role for me all along. It’s funny how these things work out. 

Where do you plan to be in five years’ time? 

Kate: I recognise that this is world’s sappiest/cheesiest/most-cringe response, but my biggest wish for myself in five years’ time is to be happy and challenged in what I do. I recognise that in five years there will likely be a role I want to do that hasn’t even been created yet, but I hope that whatever it is allows me to produce amazing work and to continue to think creatively.

Leah: Living my best basic Sydney Media Gal life in London, hopefully in a strategy role.


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