Jackie Lyons: media has ‘a genuine need’ to give back

Jackie Lyons: media has ‘a genuine need’ to give back

The Media Leader interview

Jackie Lyons, head of planning at Havas Media Group, talks starting a new job in the pandemic, the power of authenticity and responsible media.

Jackie Lyons, head of planning at Havas Media Group, describes herself as “a process queen” as she wonders about episode release strategies watching Dopesick on Disney+.

“This is how sad I am, I wondered if they had a strategy for different programmes. So they have some they’re happy for you to binge in one go, but the ones that will drive penetration, the ones that will bring new people in, do they manage and release in a clever way so you can look around in between the show being dropped?”

Crowned Future Media Leader of the Year at the Media Leader Awards 2022 last month, it’s not surprising Lyons has media planning and strategy on the brain.

Lyons’ role is “central”, involving coaching planners that work with Havas’ clients and spending time with investment, strategy, content and data teams to “push the agency vision forward”.

A full believer in lists and notebooks to keep track of her time at work and looking after her twins, she jokes you are not a media planner without a diary or a calendar to keep track of your dates and deadlines.

An Irish approach to media

Originally from Dublin, her experience starting in media agencies there has made her approach media differently: “A planner in Ireland goes much, much deeper into understanding the nuances of in-channel buying. You’re more of a planner buyer, and I think that really has stuck with me.”

She enjoys going deep into the maths and science behind why different channels drive attention and a big thing for 2022 will be building tools and solutions around those findings.

Lyons always wanted to work in advertising as she explains to The Media Leader: “I loved art in school and I either thought I’d be an architect or work in a creative agency from the age of 15, which is kind of weird. And then after I did a master’s, all the jobs that were easier to get into [in Dublin] were in media agencies, so I got into media agency and I never left.”

“I thought at one point I’d be a strategic planner or something in a creative agency but that hasn’t happened yet,” she said smiling.

Lyons initially joined Carat in Ireland and then worked for MediaVest, now Spark Foundry, before coming to London to work for PHD where she mainly worked on the Sainsbury’s account.

Describing her move, she said: “Coming from Dublin, the budgets in the retail grocery category were just astronomical and I was blown away by both the scale but also the impact that media had on sales.”

She moved back to Carat (overall she worked for the Dentsu agency for nine years in two stints), saying: “I ended up going back but I was lured in by Guinness. You can take the planner out of Dublin, but you can’t take Dublin out of the planner.”

By the end of her time at Carat, she was doing the media planning across the UK and Ireland for Guinness as well as having a viewpoint of the whole portfolio.

‘The pandemic forced you to think quite differently’

Lyons started her job with Havas a week before the first lockdown came in, after she took maternity leave from Carat.

Starting a new job remotely is something many people over the last two years can relate to.

Lyons says of the experience: “You have to adapt and focus on what you know and, for me, I think the one thing I am is quite friendly, so what I lost in human contact, I definitely tried to make up for in hours of Zoom introduction calls. The number I had in the first few months was off the charts, but I genuinely think it did help.”

She predicts other habits like gaming and podcasting, which hugely increased in popularity during the pandemic, to stick and be “absolutely massive” for media and advertising in the future.

Although she acknowledges podcasts have not quite “cracked” the advertising solution yet, she highlights the scale, the community and subscription potential of podcasts saying they are “at another level” now compared to pre-pandemic.

Research Havas carried out shows podcasts becoming more and more popular as people want to avoid screen time, given most of us are on video calls of some description every day.

The same research revealed “cycles of media” over the course of the pandemic correlated with different “need states” across different channels.

Lyons says these cycles are holding true with today’s news around the conflict in Ukraine as everyone initially has a need for information, trusted news sources and live updates, which then shifts to wanting escapism and entertainment later on.

‘Feedback is a gift’

While the main adjective Lyons describes herself as is “friendly”, she maintains that as a leader it is your “obligation” to help people and to grow them.

“I think you can do authenticity and positive feedback that gives direction in a nice way and I think if you don’t you’re wasting people’s time. If you can’t give people direction or you can’t give people feedback, they’re never going to grow,” she explains.

However, this “positive encouragement” does not mean leaders should take personal ownership of the results afterwards.

“You really need to just pretend you weren’t involved and just let them push on and own the achievement themselves,” she adds.

Another way Lyons tries to get the best out of people is by figuring out their “media superpower”.

She confesses: “I started quite quickly classifying people in my head; that person’s a very good storyteller, that person’s a very good performance planner, that person seems to know a lot about accuracy and the IPA.”

This classification system helps her understand how to work with people in terms of how to relate to them and also play to their strengths to create “shortcuts” for briefs and projects, which came into its own while working remotely.

Media with ‘a proper purpose’

Also, Lyons highlights the importance of “the need for media to do good” going forward as well as reach people.

“It’s nearly an obligation on us to try and think of how we can do a better job in that space,” she comments, pointing to not doing events for events’ sake but aligning with a proper purpose.

Especially as we are (hopefully) coming out of the other end of the pandemic, she says there is “a genuine need” to connect with people in a way that will resonate but also give back.

She links this to the Change The Brief initiative, which her colleague Tony Mattson works closely on with the IPA, and stresses that every single brief, cue and subliminal message needs to be re-evaluated.

Lyons says: “You’d never have someone drink driving in an ad, so we need to take that kind of care and rigour into carbon, diversity- everything basically!”

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