Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Published in Jan-Feb 2015

A 24/7 existence

A day in the life of Bilal Alvi, Creative Director, SocialSell.

Digital marketing, the word brings to mind a fun filled life – full of social media, web surfing, flexible working hours, the luxury of working wherever you please. All you need is a laptop and an internet connection. Right? That is what I thought as well. But I could never have been more wrong.

Yes, you are online and surfing, connected to social media and you can even sit wherever you want (provided it is in the office). However, when people say that digital marketing has flexible hours, I think they probably mean working at all intervals at any given hour.

No, this is a 24/7 job, where one has to be responsible and accountable for everything that happens to the clients’ digital presence.

So this is how my day usually unfolds. I start early with a hearty breakfast and then brave the morning rush hour. When I get to the office, I have to have my coffee before I can deal with the real world. While sipping my coffee, I check my emails, survey the client pages and portals and read the news.

Once the first cup is down, in comes my fabulous team with their ideas and questions for the day. We work out strategies and ideas. The workflow at SocialSell is designed in such a way that the content and artwork for all campaigns are developed two weeks in advance, so in these meeting we discuss and finalise upcoming work. The latest news and trends are discussed and we decide which stories should be highlighted on our digital platforms. On social media, it is a challenge to come up with campaigns that will go viral; this requires a lot of intuitive thinking and content development to hit upon what will pique the interest of the audience.

The team gets to work and by now I have had enough of my desk and I move to my comfy bean bag with my laptop to start reviewing and editing work. By late morning, one of our clients will usually come over or we go to their office to discuss progress on their brand.

Client meetings are another challenge. To convince them about a campaign, to make them understand the concept and see the potential benefits is a dialogue that is both fun and frustrating. These meetings often require a fine balancing act, where we sometimes need to make the client understand that the idea they want us to execute may not be suited to the brand’s digital image. Sometimes we win, sometimes we concede, and we then ork to bring out the best results. Then there are clients who are constantly worried about their sales. Despite multiple previous detailed discussions about digital media, we have to explain to them yet again that digital is a communication platform and doesn’t always lead to direct sales.

Lunch is a celebrated event almost every day when my team and I discuss what to order and since I am blessed with a team of foodies, there is always something new to try. There are some glorious days when the workload is less and we go out for lunch and those days are a treat we cherish. I try to have lunch with my team and I have made it clear to them that this is a break to relax and not talk about work. Although more often than not, something or the other leads to a brand discussion, and we do come up with some brilliant ideas during this time. After lunch, I sit with the CEO and the account management team to discuss future projects, new pitches and timelines.

By mid afternoon I go into the creative cell to review the progress of the day’s work. I look at designs and captions and assess them on my ‘wow factor’ scale. My team probably hates me for this, but they indulge me and it helps us improve. The wow factor is a simple way of measuring the quality of work that goes on our digital platforms. It basically means that the content and artwork should be so catchy that the audience feels compelled to engage with the brand.

There are times when I am working on a new strategy and I have a mental block. When this happens, I have learnt that it is best to stop there and divert my mind. So I leave the office and look for inspiration around me. I sometimes walk to a mall and observe what is going on. People observation is a delightful research exercise, which often leads to breakthrough ideas. Other times, I go to a mid afternoon movie. It might not always bring me inspiration but it refreshes me so I can work with revitalised energy. However, sadly due to work pressures and team management responsibilities, such solitary midday breaks are not a regular feature. Usually my way to unwind is to sit with a good book and lose myself in it for a while. It opens the mind, takes me into the author’s world and inspiration often strikes during these solitary reading sessions.

Late afternoons are the dreaded time in the world of advertising when an urgent brief comes in from the client and the work is required immediately. This is when some members of my team often go into panic mode and I have to delegate tasks and timelines to streamline the work. I am not a fan of late sittings and I encourage my team to wind up at around six. The social media team has to check the pages for updates and queries periodically so their work continues elsewhere.

The CEO and I are the last to leave. Once the team has left, we sit and unwind over a cup of coffee and discuss the day’s developments. One would assume that this is when work is over for the day. But while officially the work day concludes at six o’clock, monitoring digital media goes on at all times and thanks to smartphones the work day never really ends.

Bilal Alvi is Creative Director, SocialSell – Digital Creative Agency. bilal@socialsell.com.pk