Young Guns: PHD media planning manager Ben Lynch

By AdNews | 4 May 2017
Ben Lynch

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.

For our last Young Gun, we spoke to Pandora account director Stefanos Fernandez.

This time we chat to PHD Media planning manager Ben Lynch.

How long have you been in the industry?

Four years

Duration in current role/time at the company:

One year and nine months

What were you doing before this job and how did you get this gig?

I was working at MediaCom in the Direct Response arm of the business. I had developed myself into a role where I was spending much of my time advising marketers about brand building and media tactics through the modern developments of marketing theory and finally demonstrating the real benefits using data as my tool for explanation.

After a conversation with the MD and head of strategy at PHD, it was clear there was a real opportunity to make an impact on the latest PHD win at the time, Unilever, and expand my abilities at PHD. I joined as official employee number one on Team Unilever and the rest is history.

Define your job in one word:


What were your real and cliché expectations of working in the industry?

I was told two things about the media industry before I joined:

1. It was super competitive and cut throat.
2. It was rewarding and huge fun.

How does the reality match up?  

Super competitive and cut throat - false

I must say I’ve never faced too much of this in my experience. When you work in a great team who are all passionate about their work, you’re bound to have a great time.

Rewarding and huge fun - true

Media can be hard work, with long hours and no shortage of stress. However, taking on a client’s business challenge head on and coming up with a solution that they see the value in is massively rewarding. And then there are the odd Friday drinks and parties here and there...

How would you describe what the company does and what does your role involve?

PHD is a global communications planning and media buying network, built on a culture of smart strategic thinking and creative innovation.

Beyond what it says on the door, we’re here to help client’s reach their business goals.

We place a big focus on unpacking the right insights behind issues or opportunities - ensuring our efforts deliver smarter, more innovative advertising strategies.

My role as a planning manager means I create media strategies for clients using a toolkit full of marketing science theories, behavioural insights, rich data and a pretty robust knowledge of Microsoft Excel.

Best thing about the industry you work in:

Despite the cliché, it’s the hugely passionate and diverse bunch of people you get to work with.

Any major hard learnings in the job so far?

I think my most valuable learning is that hard work and self-belief is not enough. It doesn’t guarantee success. An ongoing commitment to new skills and knowledge is really what makes a difference to your development.

Also, that its key to remember you can believe in your solution with absolute passion, but this means little unless the team also share your vision.

If you had to switch over to another department, which would it be and why?

Tricky to pin me down to one department. To be honest I prefer to be well-informed on all attributes of media. I love to know how it all works.

Instead of changing departments, I would rather expand my own department’s capabilities by developing the methods we use to discover core insights from data and developing how we allow this to bleed into the methods of implementing campaigns.

What's exciting you about the industry right now? 

Our role within the client’s business is becoming more paramount as clients begin to use agencies to help fuel extensive thinking behind how they look to grow their business. Smart businesses are using media organisations like PHD to develop their strategic plans, and not just to try and achieve them.

What concerns you about the industry and its future?

There is always the danger of being sucked into the latest shiny, new trend or technology without being sure it does what it says on the packet. All agencies and marketers are at the mercy of their own perceptions of new channels and the latest ad technologies.

It’s up to all of us ensure we’re questioning the latest trends enough.

Who's your right hand person/who guides you day to day?

Right-hand person is my talented co-worker, Jack Monro. We work on nearly every brief together. Jack never tells me what he thinks I want to hear. With Jack’s creative mind and strategic thinking he tests my thinking, my logic and my solutions. Beyond that, he’s just an exceptional bloke to have around.

And your almighty mentor that you hope to dethrone?

I don’t know about dethrone but I take inspiration from many of the industry leaders including,

Byron Sharp: Someone who is brave enough to question the status quo has changed what we truly understand about how marketing works forever.

Adam Ferrier: A mind who inspires us all to think about business challenges with true strategic insight, grounded in the tenets of behavioural economics and psychology.

Alex Pacey & Stewart Gurney: Head of planning and head of strategy for PHD Australia. Having the amazing opportunity to work with them both has made me think broader and stretch my potential at PHD.

Career-wise, where do you see yourself in 2020 and how do you plan on getting there?

The industry is moving so rapidly it’s hard to say. I know I want to be in a role where I can make a difference to my clients. I know I want to stay at the cutting edge of the techniques of our industry and I know I would like to mentor my own team, to give back in ways that help to grow our industry.

What is the elephant in the room? The thing that no one is talking about – but they should be.

I’m not sure if it’s the elephant in the room but the industry’s obsession with tech can sometimes mean you can end up hurting your campaign’s effectiveness, either through cost or perceived or assumed effectiveness. Innovation can be great for marketing effectiveness, so I wouldn’t say avoid tech opportunities, but instead, asses them. Not just for their shine, but with the same rigor you would apply to any other opportunity.

Don’t be afraid that by not including a tech innovation in your campaign it will be somehow be less worthy. Tech innovation can often just be mask for a lack of good thinking.

The cleverest and most effective ideas are generally those well thought-out, regardless of the presence of tech.

Where do you turn for inspiration?

1. Books – I keep a book budget each month of $100 to ensure I keep reading, nerdy I know!

2. Learning new skills – I try to set myself new skills to learn over each quarter, this quarter it is the basics of Python language.

3. Agency brainstorming – PHD runs brilliant brainstorms where you can walk out with a fresh perspective on ideas.

4. Smart and interesting people – Both externally and internally I appreciate hearing the views of those high achievers around me.

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

I’m an ultra-marathon runner in rehab from a knee injury (going on three years now).

Favourite advert is:

Apple’s Response to the Microsoft Surface Pro. Using the emotion people hold with the Apple brand above the factual benefit that the Surface Pro offers.

What’s your personal motto?

The why comes before the what.

I got into advertising because:

The idea of understanding how people think and their behaviour is fascinating. To find ways to predict and change what people do and say is just insanely challenging.

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

I have always been interested in how things work. I would say if I didn’t enter the communication industry I would have pursued a career in macro-economics or behavioural psychology.

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