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What it Takes to Work in High-Level Advertising, With Vivien Marafko

Advertising and marketing is an enormous industry and a very influential industry as well. Yet, it’s an industry whose inner workings very rarely see the light of day. 

One of the more notable exceptions is the late great AMC television series Mad Men, which won all kinds of awards while placing a great deal of importance on historical accuracy when it came to depicting the New York ad men and women of the 1960s and 1970s. 

But even that lauded show was limited to a specific period in time. As many of you might be wondering, what’s happening in advertising today

How has the industry changed? What kinds of professionals are drawn to advertising in the first place? How has the work itself adapted to be effective during the digital age? 

This article will take a brief but in-depth look at advertising today, with the help of an in-demand advertising professional with some impressive work under her belt. 

Guest expert Vivien Marafko 

We’re going to be looking at contemporary advertising through the lens of a notable pro in this area, Vivien Marafko. 

Marafko is a Digital/Ecommerce and Account Manager who has worked in the industry for years. In particular, she did some very impressive work while working for McCann, one of the biggest and most famous ad agencies in the world. 

Notably, Marafko was heavily involved with the Aldi account while working with McCann. The work for this account earned the agency more than thirty national and international awards, including awards from Roses Creative and the Effies. 

As you’ll soon see, Marafko thrives in environments with an emphasis on fast turnaround and quality output. 

In her own words, 

“I love to be challenged and really love the problem-solving aspect of advertising and seeing the results. I’m also very much a people person and therefore enjoy the relationship-building aspect of my work, too.”  

Marafko shared some compelling information with us about the trajectory of her career and, more specifically, about the challenges and triumphs of working with McCann. 

Securing the Aldi account 

Just in case you’re brand new to the world of advertising, here’s a very general breakdown of how ad agencies end up working with different clients. 

Companies may not have an in-house advertising division or they may not be satisfied with the work of their in-house division or with the work being done by a different ad agency. 

That’s when a company shops around different advertising agencies to see who they want to make a deal with. Most often, a company will sign with a specific agency based on that agency’s past work and the results that work created. 

Ideally, ad agencies want to maintain long-lasting agreements with companies so that they can depend on income from those many clients. However, the quality of the work needs to stay very high so that the clients don’t start looking around at other agencies. 

So, in the case of the grocery retailer Aldi, they wanted to expand into the Ecommerce space and improve their online presence (more details on that later). 

They decided that McCann should be in charge of handling all this, and, as Marafko confirmed, that had a lot to do with McCann’s incredible reputation and the strength of their current talent. 

“At the time, Aldi was an up-and-coming grocery retailer with big ambitions. McCann won the account through our creative credentials and business insight. The agency gave me the opportunity as they were aware of my skills. I was also one of the main client interfaces, and therefore the conduit to a long-lasting, award-winning partnership.”

The stakes for this account were incredibly high, and McCann knew that Marafko was an excellent choice to get the job done. 

This is where we need to mention the stress that comes into play at the highest levels of the advertising industry. 

Client companies are very often spending millions of dollars on advertising, and potentially even billions of dollars over the long-term, and when that much money is being spent, those companies are going to expect results in a big way. 

But we’ll be returning to the stress factor in a bit. In the meantime, let’s talk about common goals for contemporary advertising. 

Improving online presence 

The needs of Aldi going into their relationship with McCann are an excellent illustration of contemporary advertising priorities. 

Whereas many years ago the main advertising channels were print, radio, and television. But now, while those older channels do still exist, the internet and social media are extremely important for virtually all brands.

Before beginning their relationship with McCann, Aldi found themselves behind the ball in terms of their online presence. Most national grocery retail chains had already made their mark on social media platforms years prior.   

After McCann secured the Aldi account, however, Marafko was tasked with helping to launch Aldi’s Ecommerce website, and she later managed their email campaigns, social media presence, and digital media activity. 

In other words, Marafko was instrumental in solving many different problems for the client, and, as a credit to Marafko’s ability and the abilities of the whole team, Aldi saw substantial improvements relatively quickly. 

Marafko: 

“Their engagement rate has become much higher than average in the industry. But most crucially, the creative messaging through their digital and omnichannel campaigns coupled with a consistent pricing strategy helped them overtake Walmart’s growth rate in the particular market segment, which speaks for itself.”

This account is a great example of just how much advertising has changed over the last thirty or so years. Many of the goals are different and the means of achieving those goals has changed as well. 

High-stress, big stakes 

Returning to the issue of work-related stress in advertising, it’s important to highlight the very strict timetables that professionals have to deal with. 

Marafko provided some crucial detail on the topic: 

“Advertising can be extremely fast-paced, often leaving you literally minutes or hours to resolve situations and come up with solutions. Working for the best of the best also comes with high expectations. This can be extremely stressful, especially when you have to get client approval.”

Imagine going about your usual work, but now the deadlines are hyper-accelerated and there’s also a possibility that all of that work will get thrown out at the very end, forcing you to start all over again. 

This may sound like a nightmare scenario for many, but in the world of advertising it’s a very real possibility, and depending on the client, it might even be a somewhat common occurrence. 

It might go without saying, but not everyone is cut out for a workplace environment where the stress is so high and the stakes are so big. 

Instead, the industry tends to attract professionals who aren’t just able to cope with these conditions but who actually enjoy all the challenges. 

Continuing challenges 

While advertising professionals can definitely feel proud of producing successful work that the client loves, there’s never really all that much time to rest on their laurels. 

There are always going to be more challenges ahead, and that means that Marafko and other high-level advertising pros have to keep upping their game even more. 

Even so, Marafko feels that experienced and committed teams, like the ones she worked with at McCann, will always find ways to do great work and keep clients happy. 

“There will always be things to improve on. As long as you and the team collectively learn from past campaigns and strive to improve at every juncture, that’s a sure way to do well for the client. Overall, I am proud of the work we did at McCann, working for one of the best advertising companies in the world on one of their largest clients.”

While advertising professionals and advertising agencies, on the whole, can certainly learn important lessons through multiple campaigns and accounts, each account and, likewise, each individual campaign, is always going to be laced with its own unique set of difficulties and problems to be solved. 

In other words, the playing field is constantly changing, and it takes a special kind of professional to be able to adapt to those evolving conditions. 

We hope that this article and our discussion with Marafko have given you an interesting and informative look at an industry that so rarely has its stories shared with the general public. We also hope that this information inspires you to look a little more closely at any advertising you see on TV or online. 


About the author

Artvoice

News and art, national and local. Began as alternative weekly in 1990 in Buffalo, NY. Publishing content online since 1996.

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