Media is an industry that can be unpredictable—an environment that Bhavana Smith is an expert at navigating. As Chief Client Officer at the global media agency MediaCom, she oversees all of the company’s accounts in the U.S. “Even though I’ve only been here a year, I feel like I’m just getting started,” says Smith, whose hiring brought the number of female senior leaders at MediaCom up to more than 50%.
Here, she shares how MediaCom is changing with the times, which of the company’s teams are growing, and advice for those interested in media careers—whether they’re just starting out or have worked in the industry for years.
How would you explain your job at a cocktail party or networking event?
The way I’ve always explained media at a cocktail party is: “We decide when and where to place the ads and spend the money.”
Tell us about your career journey and what led you to your job at MediaCom.
My media career started as a summer intern when I was still in college and I basically never left the business. I worked mostly at full-service agencies so was exposed to working with all the disciplines, which gave me the broadest view of the advertising landscape. It helped me understand how media fit into the narrative.
After 15 years on the agency side, I moved over to media consulting where I worked with marketing clients to help them improve the effectiveness of their media spend and quality of their agency relationships. It’s funny I had to leave the agency world to better understand how it all worked and got a very different view of the client mindset. It’s the combination of my experiences in agency and consulting that led me to this role at MediaCom.
What are you working on right now that excites or inspires you?
So much! Even though I’ve been here a year, I feel like I’m just getting started. The most exciting thing right now is working with our client leaders to help set the vision and growth agenda for our clients’ business. We now have annual account planning sessions where the core team on each account gets together to decide how we will help our brands grow and foster strong relationships. This is the core of my role.
How is MediaCom evolving with the state of rapid change in the media industry?
MediaCom is evolving in many ways—and we try not just to keep up, but also to get ahead of the changes in the industry. We continue to prioritize creativity. Media (the when and where) is only half the story, with content being the other half. I believe it is on us to challenge the creative message to ensure it fits within the context of its environment. If the message isn’t resonating, then we are just wasting our clients’ money.
Are these changes affecting the types of roles MediaCom is hiring for?
This is changing how we view ourselves as a media agency and the people we’re hiring. We need to continue to shore up our capabilities, which encompasses content creation, organic social, and sports and entertainment as well as data science and buying strategy. Sometimes the solution isn’t to run more ads, but rather to look for a different way to overcome the brands’ barriers. As a result, we need people with all types of backgrounds and interests. Copywriters? Yup! Producers? Yes, please. Web developers? Absolutely!
Given the fast-evolving media landscape, what advice would you give those starting out in the industry? And what about long-time media experts who want to adapt to the changes?
For someone starting out, I would say get as much differing experience as you possibly can. If you want to be in media, you have to understand the various media channels for sure. But you also need to learn about creative, public relations, and in-store promotions. Media isn’t just about paid advertising—it’s anywhere you can put the brand message. Beyond the various disciplines, also work on as many different client industries as possible. I loved that I had the opportunity to work on everything from local retail to high-end watches to travel and soup before I ever made it to a supervisor role. There is a confidence that comes with experience.
For someone who has been around for some time I would suggest pretty much the same: Learn something different. Identify what you would like to be doing in two to five years and then decide what experience or training you need to make it there.
What are the newer areas of innovation that MediaCom employees get to focus on?
For us right now, it would be about how we solve business problems for clients, not just solving for the best media plan. Everything we are doing within MediaCom from our teams, talent, and capabilities is focused on that.
How does MediaCom approach recruiting with diversity in mind?
Hiring top talent is more than just finding capable individuals. We believe in hiring individuals who bring their difference to work—whether that difference be a difference of thought, background, skill, or career.
What teams at MediaCom are hiring right now?
We are seeing growth primarily in creative, search, social, and analytics. Anyone who wants to lean in to some or all of these should give us a call.