How did you get started in advertising? What's been your career road map?
It’s almost as if I was drawn to digital advertising before I ever knew that it was a possible career path. When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to spend a week shadowing Colin Drummond at AKQA in San Francisco. It was my first exposure to agency life, and while I wasn’t thinking about the future at the time, it planted a seed that grew years later.
Flash forward eight years, I’m working at NBCUniversal, in a job without growth, and looking to find a career path. A friend (Travis Volk) invited me to a couple of ThinkLA events, and I was hooked. While I didn’t know what anyone did, I knew these were the people I wanted to work with. It was “SnowJam” that sealed the deal. I can’t think of a better way to recruit young/eager minds than a weekend trip to Mammoth that passes as “work”.
I was fortunate enough to fall in with a group of people who were willing to mentor me through the process and help me find my first job in digital ad sales. A year later, I had a sales role at a mobile start-up and was on my way to Mammoth for “SnowJam” (#lifegoals). Since joining the industry, I’ve grown alongside the shifting consumer behavior. I was selling mobile (ChaCha) before the application won the war against mobile web. Then I joined a leading network (Conversant) to learn the power of audience buy and pivot tables. There are few things more calming then a good pivot table.
With the rise of programmatic and the increasing demand for video, I made my way to a video DSP (BrightRoll) to learn how to apply data to the ever-elusive branding goals. A little industry reshuffle (BrightRoll gets acquired by Yahoo… Yahoo gets acquired by Verizon), and I knew it was time to follow the consumer once again. Now focusing on Advanced TV at Samsung, the same things that initially drew me to digital advertising stand true.
What has been an important, perhaps the most important, lesson you’ve learned in your career so far?
The most important lessons I’ve learned in my career are to never to stop learning and that everything is easier with friends. I wouldn’t have made it this far without mentors to guide me along the way. I’ve been fortunate to have some fantastic managers that showed me tangible and intangible skills about advertising, people, and life. I guess I would call it networking now, but early in my career I was just making friends. The positive relationships I’ve built along the way make the hard days bearable, the struggle manageable and reminds me that failure is human. I’ve learned the importance of cultivating positive relationships at every opportunity and in many cases, the ability to work with others is more important than the work we do.
What excites you most about this industry?
What keeps you motivated? Do you have a personal motto?
I believe that energy comes from energy and the energy you put in comes back with interest. If I can convince myself to wake up early and jump into the freezing ocean to surf, everything else seems more relaxed in comparison. While I have to put in a tremendous amount of energy to get myself going, the energy comes back in spades. I find that to be true in all areas of life, whether it’s a hobby, task, challenge, or relationship.
Finding the connection between technology and emotion is what excites me the most about our industry. It tickles both sides of my brain in fun ways. I get to understand how to use technology to facilitate a conversation between a brand and its customers. No matter how deep the ad tech rabbit hole goes, the human element is at its core. We can leverage predictive algorithms and attention-grabbing placement, but decisions will always be the customers.
I imagine crawling into the customers' mind to experience a campaign through their eyes to see how it feels: is there enough context to grasp its message, is it annoying, or helpful? I try to take a step back to see the whole picture from brands objective to the emotional state of a consumer and then connect the two. Maybe it’s all part of being a middle child that wants help translate one sibling’s intentions in a way the other can understand.
Photos: Don Lupo Photography
Where is advertising heading? What do the next five years look like?
Advertising is a facilitated dialog between a brand and their customers. I believe the tools we use to mediate the conversations will allow for more productive interactions with less. Through personalization, we can convey more. I think commercials will be shorter and consumers will see fewer of them. With less clutter and more impactful ads, we can reduce the frequency while maintaining recall. Instead of a lecture where an ad campaign hammers a message home through frequency, it will be a conversation. Consumers will drive the interaction as much as the brand, and the campaign will adjust as needed. While I believe this is the direction we're heading in, there are some technical and business hurdles we need to overcome.
Going through some old boxes recently, I found a notebook from a Mass Communications course I took during my senior year in college. On the third page, with little context, I wrote: “Someday TV and the internet will be the same thing.” While I wrote that line over 10 years ago, I think it will finally happen within the next five. The statement is simple, but the ramifications are far from it, and it will be fun to see how disruptions change the rules.
What advice do you have for young ad professionals who are beginning their careers?
Surround yourself with people who motivate you and cultivate friendships. You will grow together and share the things you learn along the way. It makes ThinkLA events a heck of a lot more fun, and you never know who you will be working for in the future. Maintain enough humility to ask questions and enough confidence to fail.
What’s been one of your favorite ThinkLA memories?
Hands down, the first Advanced TV Breakfast is my most meaningful ThinkLA memory. Taking the event from idea to reality was downright scary, and the day of the breakfast was emotional. From the speaker to the guests, seeing everyone come together to debate and learn as a community reminded me why I love this industry.
Any closing thoughts for the ThinkLA community?
I firmly believe that rising tides lift all ships. When we celebrate each other’s success and push for innovation, we raise the community as a whole. I challenge each of you to put energy into the betterment of our little harbor; you might be surprised by what you get back.
Kyle Carpenter is Senior Sales Executive at Samsung Ads and a member of the ThinkLA IDEA Council.