Our Young Guns profile takes a weekly look at some of the young talent across the advertising, ad tech, marketing and media sector in Australia. It aims to shed light on the varying roles, people and companies across the buzzing industry.
This time we chat to Deepend head of planning Kim Verbrugghe.
How long have you been in the industry?
Five and a half years.
Duration at the company:
Four and a half years.
What were you doing before this job and how did you get this gig?
I migrated here from Belgium when I graduated and my first gig was as a conference manager. I ran an advertising industry event and met a whole range of interesting people. One of them even tried hypnosis on me during an interview. I was blown away by the energy, kookiness, kindness and passion of everyone I met and knew this was the industry for me. I called up Adam Ferrier, a founding partner at Naked Communications at the time and he gave me an internship. I’ve loved every second since.
Define your job in one word:
Down the rabbit hole
What were your real and cliché expectations of working in the industry?
I expected to become a copywriter and the cliché expectation was that you’d create Don Draper style theatre for every pitch.
How does the reality match up?
Besides the obvious commercial and time limitations around pitch investments, pitch theatre is a fine line to walk before it becomes weird or self-involved. I also quickly realised that becoming a copywriter in your third language is practically impossible. Sorry, did I just say ‘chicken pocks’? I meant ‘goosebumps’.
How would you describe what the company does and what does your role involve?
The easiest way to describe it is by saying that we’re not an advertising agency, not a design studio, not a service design firm, management consultancy nor digital production house. We’re all of the above. We solve problems holistically, whatever the method or outcome might be.
My role involves understanding our clients’ problems and helping them succeed. This is mostly by bringing together several smart people and facilitating the problem-solving process. I love going deep on a problem.
Best thing about the industry you work in:
We don’t take ourselves too seriously and we don’t need to apologise for being slightly crazy or out there – standing out is seen as a great thing. Also, the fact that we get to solve interesting problems, either by changing people’s behaviours and perceptions, developing new products or services or starting trends.
Any major hard learnings in the job so far?
You are not successful if you arrive at the finish line by yourself. Change management is probably one of the most important skills I’ve learned in my career.
If you had to switch over to another department, which would it be and why?
Creative. I’m still blown away by how impactful and clever some creative solutions can be when they touch on a real human truth, change your world view or just really make you laugh out loud.
What's exciting you about the industry right now?
Business consultancy, innovation and advertising meeting in the middle. We can create more impact across the board when we attract an audience by creating a new product or involving consumers in co-creating a new business model. The lines are blurred and anything is possible.
What concerns you about the industry and its future?
When data mining or personalisation tools are used for manipulation. Think about how Trump got to power through the spread of fake news and hyper-targeting. He got help from a data analysis company that could determine exactly what the individual voter’s concerns were by mapping out 8,000 data points per individual. This means his campaign could personalise messages to sway swing voters. That stuff scares me. When new tools or tech exist, they can always be used either for good or bad.
Who's your right-hand person/who guides you day to day?
Adam Washington. He came into the agency three years ago as a freelance strategist and helped me build a strategy-first approach. He has inspired me to become who I am today, is wonderfully philosophical and really sees the best in people.
And your almighty mentor that you hope to dethrone?
All my managers have been legends: Rose Gallo, Rose Herceg, Amer Iqbal, Dan Robathan to name a few. I could not have been luckier.
What is the elephant in the room? The thing that no one is talking about – but they should be.
Training at senior level. Somehow a lot of people stop learning, but I think it’s even more important than ever as suddenly what you say and do has scale. You’re influencing those younger than you. Continuing to learn about leadership and people management is the most important thing in my opinion.
Where do you turn for inspiration?
Economics and business podcasts, TED, psychology literature and Seth Godin’s daily thoughts. School of Life is great too for behavioural insights.
Tell us one thing people at work don’t know about you?
How to pronounce my surname.
Favourite advert is:
Heinz’s Pass the Heinz. How meta. 50 years after Don Draper’s ‘Pass The Heinz’ ads, it is still relevant. So simple, yet so true and effective. It’s also incredibly nostalgic for anyone who works in advertising or who has seen Mad Men. Whoever signed this off, deserves a medal.
P.S. – if you’ve never seen the ‘Never Say No to Panda’ commercial, you need to check them out:
What’s your personal motto?
I got into advertising because:
I love the combination of art and science. Also, the industry’s attitude that everything is possible and that pushing the boundaries is considered a great thing.
If I wasn't doing this for a living, I'd be:
An architect or interior designer. I love the idea of creating experiences in a physical environment with a literally ‘captive’ audience. Home spaces are so personal, so to create the best experience, you have to truly understand the user. The thought of being able to decide how someone’s environment will affect their mood is highly intriguing to me.
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