Donna Ahern talks to Simon Kennett, chief client officer/retail business lead, MediaCom.
How would you describe your role?
My role is to ensure we are keeping all of our clients happy and, in particular, to ensure that our retail and commerce clients are kept abreast of changing consumer habits, as well as understanding evolving and new models of shopping.
I also help businesses to see the bigger picture through more focus on data and analytics, innovation and consumer-led thinking, as well as by tapping into the wealth of retail expertise across the WPP global network.
What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
When I left school, I was not sure what I wanted to do.
Rather than run headfirst into further education, I worked in retail for two years, as news manager in the newspaper and magazine department of a large stationery chain of stores.
It did two things for me; it gave me a love for fast-moving retail and a strong connection with customers, and it also fuelled a passion for advertising that remains with me 25 years later.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I will always enjoy working with clients on planning brilliant new advertising campaigns, and building out strategic communications plans that live across the total client ecosystem, from their shelves and their staff, to owned digital platforms and paid spots on TV and radio.
What was your worst job, and what was so bad about it?
A summer job as a teenager in a factory that made chemical bonding and sealant products. It was a tough gig and a brutal introduction to the world of work.
However, it did afford me my first holiday abroad with my mates at the time!
What do you think the government could do to help business in the current climate?
It is tricky, as we are all still in uncharted waters, but I think the minimum they can do is be consistent and clear about their plans so businesses can plan and adapt as best they can.
I think some of the biggest challenges have been the somewhat flip flop nature of communications.
In addition, government needs to ensure that the mechanics are in place to support those industries that are most hard hit.
What three business people do you most admire, and why?
Karen Blackett, now WPP UK country manager, previously MediaCom chairperson UK & Ireland.
I have been lucky enough to work closely with her on a couple of projects, and she is very impressive.
Next, Sir Terry Leahy, previously CEO of Tesco, for the trajectory that he put Tesco on as it reached its peak and scale worldwide.
Finally, Emme and Cathal, founders of Rascals Brewing, for bringing Yankee White IPA into my life!
What advertising campaign have you most enjoyed in recent months?
We were lucky enough to secure the media planning brief from Lidl Ireland earlier this year and since then I have been blown away by their energy and willingness to innovate and try new ways of engaging with Irish consumers.
So, I would say the work we have done with them on ‘Win a night in Lidl,’ where someone would be lucky enough to win a five-star staycation in a Lidl store. Just brilliant!
If you could bring back one product that is no longer available in Ireland, what would it be?
Well, it is not available anywhere now, but a men’s aftershave called Versus by Versace. I was devastated when they discontinued it as I am very fussy about how I smell!
What was your favourite grocery brand when you were growing up?
As a complete chocolate fiend, there is no contest. It would have to be the iconic Rowntree’s Cabana bar that was discontinued in the 1990s. I can still taste the combination of coconut, caramel, cherries and milk chocolate.
Who would come to your ideal dinner party (living or dead)?
Madonna for the unpredictable star factor.
Prince, because he was a powerhouse of talent, and went far, far too soon.
Miriam Margoyles, because she is absolutely outrageous and would be a total hoot.
What is the best piece of advice somebody ever gave to you?
Listen and listen properly to what is going on around you and be in the room fully, not constantly thinking about what you need to be doing next week. We spend too much time not appreciating the moment we are in.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I am a big fan of music, amassing a significant vinyl collection, now that its back in vogue, and I am looking forward to being able to go to gigs in Whelan’s or the Olympia again!
How much time do you spend on social media in an average week?
Not a lot these days.
For all the benefits of connecting people the way it does, I think it is also responsible for bringing out the absolute worst in people sometimes. I am not sure if too much of it is good food for the soul.
Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn?
LinkedIn, for the reasons above, usually a safe and sane space – usually.
With which fictional character do you most identify?
Brian, the character played by Anthony Michael Hall in the iconic 1980s movie ‘The Breakfast Club.’ He was quiet, unassuming, nerdy but likeable (I hope!).