Geneva Swanson

Christa Akkary of Publicis Media: Great Content is Key

Throughout the semester we were to find someone within the media industry whose job focuses on innovation. I chose Christa Akkary, Michigan State University graduate, and strategy planner at Zenith in New York City. Zenith is under the large wing of Publicis Media, which is a multinational advertising and public relations company. Christa started out in the media training program right after graduation through Blue 449, another wing of Publicis Media. She then moved on to the position she has now.

christa headshot

SPARTANS INNOVATE: Can you tell me a little bit about your role and past roles at Publicis Media? (what do you do, what platforms do you work on, who do you work with etc.)

AKKARY: I specifically focus on the strategy side, as opposed to activation or investment. I work on the Hudson’s Bay account, with a specific focus on two of the brands in the portfolio, Saks Fifth Avenue and Gilt.

Prior to my work on Saks and Gilt, I was at Blue 449, Zenith’s sister agency at Publicis, working on strategy for Richemont (Cartier, Chloe, Van Cleef & Arpels, Piaget, Montblanc, and others).

In short, the brands will brief us in on their business goals and objectives for the year; we put together an overarching strategy based on that; and then work with our buyers to vet out appropriate partners and build out an actionable, tactical plan that we can then execute.

As far as platforms, I typically use MediaTools, Kantar, Pathmatics, Comscore, MRI/Ipsos/Simmons on a regular basis.

What media outlets do you work with and why?
It depends on the needs of the client. Saks has a larger budget, so we are able to cover different channels from digital display, social, search out of home, magazine and newspaper. Gilt is an online only retailer, so it makes most sense to activate in a strictly digital capacity.

That said, when I worked on Richemont, many of the brands were inherently more traditional, so I planned a lot of print and some out of home in main markets.”

What do you think about the state of the media industry right now?
It is such an exciting time for media — especially for young people! Things are constantly changing, which means everyone, from CEOs and senior executives, all the way down to entry-level assistant planners. Media agencies in particular are in an interesting place because we now can act and operate in a similar way that major consulting firms do. We don’t just buy and place ads. Clients depend on us to be thoughtful and strategic in every single thing that we do—the state of their business literally depends on it.”

Is all advertising and marketing going to shift to online and social media?
I think digital and social will continue to play a major role, as that is certainly how most of us are spending our time and consuming information. That being said, I do not think it is the end all be all of media.

There are hundreds of thousands of generic banner ads flashing on our screens every day, the influencer market is becoming way too oversaturated. Simply putting a product in an Instagram post with a popular influencer once or twice simply just won’t cut it anymore. I think creating exciting content, creative partnerships, experiential executions and thoughtful use of data and targeting are really the future.”

What is something great about the media industry as a whole?
Although it sometimes seems a bit creepy, we now are really only seeing ads that our relevant to our needs and lifestyle. Not only is this a great way for companies to ensure the most efficient use of their digital ad spend by making sure their messages are not reaching blank eyeballs, it is also great for us as consumers.

Today everything is curated to fulfill our interests and needs. I live in New York City and use the subway to commute every day. There is no reason for me to be getting served ads for a new Ford SUV, gas or car accessories. Instead, it is probably more useful if I was served advertising for a new ride-sharing service. Again, while it may seem creepy, it definitely has a mutual benefit to both the advertisers and consumers.”

Do you think more jobs and roles will be integrated into the media industry now that the internet and technology is exploding?
Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that the internet undoubtedly plays an enormous role in our day-to-day lives. No, in the sense that I do not think it will ever 100% replace traditional mediums. I do not believe that brick and mortar stores will become obsolete; I do not think people will stop watching television; and I do not think people will stop reading articles.

Rather, it is all about adapting. It’s not that people aren’t watching TV, they are just watching it in different ways than they were. It’s not that people no longer are interested in reading a fashion magazine, they are just consuming it differently.

For retail, stores are going to have to focus more on experience and integrating technology rather than pushing out masses upon masses of new product each week. Brands like Reformation and Glossier, who started off as online-only, have opened vastly popular and successful stores in a time when many retailers are closing their doors. Brands like Bonobos have made stockless stores the new norm. It’s simply about adapting.”

What do you think is a problem within the media industry? What is a set back?
I think now more than ever we are able to really effectively reach the right people at the right time in the right place. But we just need to have more thoughtful content out there. Again, you can only have so many one-off influencer posts or Buzzfeed “list” articles out there before it gets stale. (Which, in my opinion, it has). We need engaging content that will not only excite readers, but offer relevant and interesting integration opportunities for advertisers.

Anything else you would like to add about the media industry or what you do?
“The media industry is so massive and multifaceted. You can be a journalist, a strategiest, a media buyer, a media seller, a data analyst, a content producer, a project manager, the list just goes on and on. There are so many opportunities for people with so many different skillsets, which makes the field very diverse.

Now more than ever, collaboration between strategic teams, data-driven teams and creative teams is crucial. You shouldn’t only be a numbers person, or strictly a creative. You have to allow your mind to understand it all. With technology changing the way we live and work, we need to constantly be adapting, learning and working together.”

This interview was edited for length and clarity.


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