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Considering a Career in Shopper Marketing? I Wasn't Either!



INFLUENCER: Erik Stinson, Senior Copywriter at Geometry Global, on the difficult but adaptable world of Shopper Marketing

Considering a Career in Shopper Marketing? I Wasn't Either!

When I started ad school in 2009, I thought advertising was an elaborate conspiracy to get 1950s housewives to worship soap commercials. I was a recent English major.

The thing they don’t teach in most of the ‘creative’ ad schools is that clients are actually selling very simple products and services. And far from, for example, creating a whimsical TV campaign shot in Buenos Aires, most of the projects marketers do are numbingly dull and mired in logistical concerns that require tactical thought, not raw creativity.

I still remember my first day on the job at what was then called G2, being scolded for not knowing what a copydeck was. Nobody in school had mentioned it. We were young idea people with carefully manicured egos. Work hard, have ideas. Who needs organization? Who needs structure?

After two years at a reputable ad school, I landed in a pile of my own socks and underwear in Brooklyn with only a few months’ savings and the vaguest possibility of a paid job in advertising. Unpaid internships were the rage at the time. And I had already done three as part of the school program.

My portfolio, I knew, was too cerebral, too complicated. I was bad at presenting my ideas. I went to a few recruiting sessions over-confident and under-prepared.

I had done ad school all wrong. I fought the curriculum. I fought the art directors. I read about propaganda during the First and Second World Wars. I made friends with the clients and dismissed the instructors. I freelanced for production companies and directed little student films.

A recruiter asked me if I was serious or making a big joke about what advertising had become. Of course, I didn’t know.

In the next four years, I’d get the practical education I’d been seeking all-along. I’d learn what advertising is about, from the point-of-view of clients, not creative educators.

During those dark years closely following the worst years of the Great Recession, the economy slowly rebounded and the slashed corporate advertising budgets regained some of their former size, but little of their former structure or sense of purpose.

In the context of increasingly transparent marketing budgets, money moved away from creative advertising – the kind that makes great, heart-wrenching TV commercials that can run for years – to the sort of programmatic, tactically focused, cost-managed marketing that clients can understand better, control better and, most importantly, explicitly tie to sales or “conversions,” as they are known in the parlance of Direct Marketing. (What most people used to call “junk mail.”)

Agencies that had been quietly plugging away at Direct Marketing and CRM (consumer relationship management) marketing for decades suddenly became known as cost effective: targeted, measureable and activational. So they amped up their digital capabilities. Massive packaged goods companies wanted to emerge from recession with tighter belts and simpler, cleaner messages for a rapidly fragmenting, digital consumer economy.

Thus, Shopper Marketing evolved: ad agencies focused on advertising to a consumer who is in the process of buying something. That’s where I landed. The recruiter I talked to in July 2011 thought I was funny. He thought my student work was weird but salvageable. Who knows – maybe he even understood the direction of the marketing sector, away from big ideas and big budgets and into a segmented galaxy of competing internal client objectives?

As for my classmates who landed at those big, reputable agencies by making friends with everyone during ad school? They’re now in less adaptable position. They’ve been living the high life at jobs where their clients have money and time to spend on big ideas. I hope that lasts for them – but if it doesn’t, there will be plenty of jobs in shopper marketing, waiting for people with the ability to solve the creative problems that stem from shoestring budgets, impossible timelines and lost trust in the old system of mass TV marketing.

There’s nothing easy about Shopper Marketing, but it’s never going away as long as people buy things, in-store or online. That’s the kind job security that makes a job into a career.


Erik Stinson is a Senior Copywriter at Geometry Global

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Genres: People

VMLY&R COMMERCE US, Thu, 04 Feb 2016 11:35:49 GMT