Interview


Jess Summerfield

Senior Planner, McDonalds account

Completing a degree in art history can sometimes bring difficulties. After immersing and indulging yourself in the vagaries of Van Gogh’s mental state and Picasso’s personal life, it can be difficult to work out what the world of work has in store for you. A number of years ago, Leo’s senior planner on McDonald’s Jess Summerfield found herself in this position. She had loved her life at Manchester University, academically and socially, but was almost clueless about what to do with the rest of her life.

Her first job was in a media agency, her motivations for starting there were quite simple. “I suppose at that time in my life, advertising just wasn’t on the radar, but I had a flatmate who worked at a media agency who was always going for free lunches and I loved the sound of that, so I went for it and got in.” Her first job as a TV buyer was extremely different to her current role, but taught her that this was the industry for her. “I didn’t go in a typical grad scheme, but this was still extremely valuable experience,” she said. “I felt that although this job wasn’t what I would be doing for the rest of my life, I knew I was on a career path I wanted to be on.”

While gaining experience selling ad space to clients, Jess made the move across to planning for a variety of media agencies for six years. However, the goal by this stage was to work for a full advertising agency. “I realised after a while that working in a big above the line agency is what I really wanted to do, and once I decided that I was extremely determined to get there.” A period freelancing around various advertising agencies in London stopped when she was offered a job in marketing at the Sun newspaper.

After thriving for a few years in the fast paced world of red top tabloid journalism, Jess spotted an opportunity to come to Leo Burnett to work on McDonalds. “I heard that Leo’s were looking for McDonalds and I remember being really excited about it, the brand had always fascinated me,” she said. Despite nearly a decade’s experience working in planning, Jess was conscious that she was up against a raft of candidates with more experience. “I knew that there would be a lot of people who had far more experience than me working in agencies, but I was able to show how much I wanted to be in this job at this stage.”

Jess is the first to admit her route to her ideal job was not conventional. The path has been littered with both elation and frustration. However, she argues that any experience you can gather will be relevant to your career. “Nothing I did before hindered me, I would say try and leverage any experience you have, for instance, when I interviewed for McDonalds I was able to say I had worked for a big brand which was the Sun.” “My main advice to anyone applying to a grad scheme is to be tenacious, if you can’t get what you want at a young age, find out what else you can do to get you there. So many haven’t got into advertising the conventional way and if you want it badly enough you will definitely get there.”

Jonathan

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