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Ben Sarmiento, VP Sales at Eyeview and ThinkLA IDEA Council Member

Posted By Web Admin, Thursday, July 26, 2018

How did you get started in advertising? What's been your career road map?

Fax machines and follow-through is how it all began.

Over 20 years ago, I was a recent UCLA grad with no experience and working knowledge in advertising. I stumbled upon our industry by accident, flooding the market with my résumé for entry level positions. After having been turned down by several agencies for zero experience, I had a great interview with the Sony Theatrical media planning team at McCann-Erickson. Within an hour after it ended, I went straight to Kinko’s, typed out my thank-you letters, and faxed it to every person I met. I got an offer that day and I accepted. Key life lesson learned: be hungry and never underestimate the follow-through.

Since my days at McCann, my career road map has been more like a Lego set: everything connects and builds. It’s very interesting to see over the years what’s been added and taken away, but understanding it is all part of the process.

What has been an important, perhaps the most important, lesson you’ve learned in your career thus far?

Stay even keel, because with every peak, there’s a valley.

What keeps you motivated? Do you have a personal motto?

Being a part of something bigger than me. Seeing how my contribution impacts the greater good. This is why I thrive in start-up environments and why I volunteer my time with ThinkLA.

What excites you most about this industry?

The ever-changing tech landscape. It’s fascinating to see how our industry continues to evolve as new technology gets developed.



Photos: Don Lupo


Where is advertising headed? What do the next five years look like?

Data-driven video creative and analytics will be the next big wave. Consumers want relevancy and brands want to tell their story in a more impactful way. In this mix will come better creative storytelling and the ability to assess its effectiveness.

What advice do you have for young ad professionals just beginning their careers?

The most important brand is you. It’s not the ones you work for or work on, because all of that is temporary. You should ask yourself: What can you do to make your brand unique? Successful? Long lasting? Then put it into action.

What’s been one of your favorite ThinkLA memories?

Winning ThinkLA Sales Person of the Year.

Any closing thoughts for the ThinkLA community?

It’s more a question: What can you do to give back to our ThinkLA community? ThinkLA has helped many of us find jobs, advance our careers, create long-lasting friendships, and even marriages. What can you do to help ThinkLA thrive well beyond our generation?


Ben Sarmiento is Executive Director, Sales - Auto at Eyeview Digital and currently serves on the ThinkLA IDEA Council as Co-President.

Tags:  #thinkMembers #memberspotlight Advertising  Brand Marketer  Future of Advertising  LA Advertising  Members  ThinkLA  ThinkMembers 

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5 Questions for Pete Imwalle, EVP, COO at RPA, ThinkLA Board Member

Posted By Emily Hope, Thursday, September 7, 2017

Pete Imwalle
RPA Advertising

What’s the biggest challenge or opportunity facing the ad industry right now?
The challenge: Margins are the biggest challenge facing the industry right now. There is simply more competition in almost every industry. Our clients have slimmer margins, our vendors have slimmer margins, and we have slimmer margins. Obsession with efficiency and cost cutting have us all chasing incrementally cheaper solutions. That combined with the multi-agency model has caused an erosion of the relationships between clients, agencies and their partners. The hunt for revenue has led to price cutting and fee slashing. In the end, that hurts margins even more.
The opportunity: Continue to evolve the agency business to maintain the highest-quality work while reducing the cost and effort to get there. The solutions are out there. We are excited about some we’re already pursuing.

What is the single most significant change you need to make in your agency in the next 12 months?
We need to reduce the effort required to make great work. Our clients have never been happier with our work, but today everybody needs things cheaper and faster. Improved workflow and technology will greatly aid efficiency.

What products/services/unique skills do ad agencies offer that guarantee the industry’s survival for another 100 years? I’m not sure there are products and services that agencies will still be providing in 100 years, but a truly objective perspective and cross-client experiences are agencies’ greatest assets. It’s hard for in-house teams to maintain objectivity, and creativity is greatly aided by a variety of experiences that come from working with other clients in other industries.

What attributes do you look for in your next generation of leaders/managers?
Curiosity and a collaborative spirit. The industry will continue to evolve. The people most able to evolve are those who embrace change instead of resisting it. The curious. Collaboration is critical in the agency business today. There is no place for “rock stars” who go away and work in isolation. The solutions and executions are so interrelated and complicated that we need people who welcome subject-matter experts to make their ideas better. Award-show credit sheets are getting longer and longer. It takes a village to make a great holistically integrated campaign. I want a village where people complement each other instead of competing.

If you weren’t working in advertising, what would you be doing as a career?
I’d be a sports talk radio host. I love sports, and my opinions are just as valid as the people I spend way too many hours listening to on my L.A. commute.

This content was originally posted on 4A's '5 Questions' series.

About RPA
RPA is an independent, full-service advertising agency located in Santa Monica, California. They believe in a 'people-first' approach.

Tags:  collaboration  Curiosity  Future of Advertising  Future of Leadership  Pete Imwalle  RPA  ThinkLA Board 

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Interns, Advertising, and the Future

Posted By Emily Hope, Friday, October 14, 2016

When the challenges are obvious to the interns, it's time to realize the platform we're standing on is burning, writes Tim Leake, RPA's SVP of creative, marketing and innovation

A couple of times a year, I do a presentation for our current crop of interns. I begin by asking them to think about "the future of advertising" and what it looks like. Inevitably, they surprise me with their remarkably clear vision of what's coming. And then I explain that it was actually a trick question, because the future of advertising is, of course, them.

If you just rolled your eyes, that's cool. I probably would, too. But the gag is effective. Suddenly, the interns aren't at the bottom of the totem pole, hoping for a glance inside the Wonka-esque magical idea factory. They realize they're important. They realize the factory is going to be theirs someday.

Any agency is fundamentally only as good as the people that make it up. People are everything to us. Internships aren't just an opportunity for them—it’s an opportunity for us to show them why we love advertising and why it’s worth keeping their smart brains in our industry. And perhaps even more importantly, interns are an opportunity for senior folks to learn as well.

So, at RPA, we commissioned a survey of recent interns from agencies in the Los Angeles area (not just our own) to see what else we could learn about the future of our industry. Here’s what we learned:

They really do want to do this. One thing we learned is that they didn't stumble into this field by chance. Ninety-five percent of them were already interested in pursuing a career in advertising before their internship. And only 4 percent were less interested in the industry after their internship.

Also interesting is what they aren't interested in. For all we hear about the freelance economy, startup culture and the millennials' passion for doing good, the vast majority of our interns want to work for either a well-known brand (84 percent) or an advertising agency (81 percent). Less than half of them have any interest at all in working for a start-up (44 percent) and 26 percent expressed an interest in working for a nonprofit. They did intern for an ad agency, after all, not for Heal the Bay—so maybe this shouldn’t be surprising.

But this is surprising: only 21 percent have an interest in working freelance in the future. Considering how mainstream the idea is today, it’s interesting that our future leaders have a much stronger bias towards full-time work.

Creativity is (still) our secret weapon. Whether they plan to work in the department with the word "creative" in its name, or not, people are attracted to our creativity. Seventy percent of respondents listed "Creative Work and Environment" as one of the top-three most appealing aspects of the industry.

This is vital, as the industry continues to evolve. In this big data, programmatic, digital-everything world, it’s easy to let creativity take a back seat. But creativity is the one job artificial intelligence will have a hard time replacing. It requires people.

And the silo-ing of creativity into a dedicated department has a similar effect. Too often, both young and seasoned people disclaim an idea with "I'm not creative, but...." This needs to stop. Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes, and we need to foster it across every discipline if we want to thrive in the future.

They see our challenges without bias. Interns aren't part of the advertising system already, so they have no interest in perpetuating legacy thinking. This helps them see industry challenges with clarity. In one respondent’s words, they "worry about the ethics of the industry and how the continued use of digital media may turn off more and more consumers to advertising in general."

They don’t resist change, they adapt to it—even when it comes to where they see themselves. They recognize that "the trend of doing more in-house will continue," and as such, can potentially see themselves as being client-side in the not so distant future, or even understanding why their friends are "more interested in working at Facebook and Twitter than advertising." When these challenges are obvious to people who've been working for only a few weeks, it's time to wake up and realize the platform we're standing on is burning.

They can remind us how to thrive. For even the best of us, it's easy to get bogged down by our day-to-day tasks and forget the attitudes and actions that help make superstars.

We asked the interns what traits they believe are most important for achieving success. Their answers are valuable advice to anyone who wants to make an impact, at any level:

  • Adaptability – Being able to go with the flow was key for them, and given the industry’s unpredictability, that’ll be good trait to have moving forward.
  • Open Communication – Simply talking to people outside of your own team was something they valued. Finding mentors is key these days, and so is finding new ideas.
  • Initiative – Being told what to do isn’t in this generation’s DNA, so it’s no shock that standing up and creating their own projects that can benefit the larger team is something that they gravitate towards. 

In general, internships exist to help the interns learn. But in an industry that's all about people, there's a lot to be said for taking the time to learn from the interns as well. They are often more sophisticated than we give them credit for, and it’s up to us to help them grow into tomorrow’s industry leaders.

--Tim Leake is SVP of creative, marketing and innovation at RPA in Los Angeles

This article was originally written for Campaign Live and can be found HERE.

Tags:  #InternSummit  Career  Future of Advertising  Infographic  Interns  RPA  Survey  Survey Results 

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