The Fishbowl: Emma Callaghan, Reach

The Fishbowl: Emma Callaghan, Reach

The Media Leader’s interview series asks the media industry’s top salespeople 10 revealing questions drawn from our fishbowl. The questions are picked randomly from a list and contain some tricky posers set by rival salespeople in the industry.

This week is Emma Callaghan, Reach’s sales and invention director.


Emma started her career in the investment team at Omnicom Media Group agency PHD in 2008, before moving to Trinity Mirror in 2015 to take a group account director role.

In this role she had responsibility for all print, digital and creative solutions advertising for Omnicom and Publicis Groupe, and was promoted to sales director in 2018.

Callaghan now leads both the multi-media sales team and Invention Content Studio at Reach Solutions, with a team of 90 people responsible for all London agency business.

What one thing would you change when dealing with media agencies?

How much time we spend in-person. It’s the thing I love most about my job and prior to the pandemic over half of my time was spent in media agencies or with my clients. The reality now is that most of us come into the office a couple of times a week and it’s far easier to default to video calls.

I think as an industry we still have a lot to figure out in terms of maximising hybrid working – of course there are huge benefits that come with the flexibility of home working, but it’s definitely a big adjustment for the social amongst us. On the flipside, I think the majority of agency employees are far more open to sticking in a quick call than they were pre-pandemic, so we have greater access to planning teams than before.

If you could take a year off from work, what would you do?

All being well, I’m actually going to be taking some time off in the near future because I’m expecting my first child. But maternity leave isn’t my answer!

I’d spend winter doing a ski season and actually work on my technique (I love skiing but I’m very, very average). And then I’d spend summer travelling through Central and South America, exploring, relaxing and trying to get through a “to-read” list of about 150 books. I love reading, but never manage to find as much time as I should…

What are clients most excited about right now?

I’m sure they’re quite excited to see what Netflix’s advertising proposition looks like and the opportunities with retail media brands such as Tesco and Deliveroo.

Aside from new entries to market, I think most clients are feeling excited that they’ve got through an incredibly tough two years, that they’ve almost certainly better future-proofed their businesses as a result of Covid and now they can, (hopefully), look forward.

From a Reach perspective (shameless plug) they’re most excited about our upcoming Cost of Living research and the multitude of advertising opportunities with our proprietary AI tool Mantis. It can do some pretty exciting things, from recommending content to contextual targeting, to understanding customer sentiment and ensuring brand safety.

What is one important skill that you think everyone should have?

Curiosity. Not so much a skill per se, more a behaviour. I really believe it can get you a long way in life.

Name all the streaming platforms you subscribe (pay money) to.

I’ve definitely signed up to too many… Sky, Netflix, Disney+, AppleTV, Paramount+, Amazon Prime, Spotify…  One set back is that we usually spend the best part of 30 minutes trying to decide what to watch! I also subscribe to Apple News and The Economist.

What’s your favourite ad of all time?

Not to be a cliché, but #LikeAGirl by Always — I still remember the impact it had the first time I watched it.

My favourite campaign of all time has to be the All Together Government Covid comms in response to the pandemic. We worked alongside the entire UK newsbrand market — over 600 national, regional and local websites and papers — uniting for the first time to coordinate advertising messaging to 40 million people across the UK. We managed to make the previously unachievable a reality, and in an extremely short space of time. I think everyone involved will always feel very proud of being part of that collaboration.

If you didn’t work in publishing, which other media sector could you see yourself working in?

I’ve always loved going to the cinema and I also love cinema advertising… I’m one of those people who gets there early to watch the ads. It’s an important part of going to see a film! So based on audience experience, I’d have to say cinema. Plus they’ve got year-on-year revenue growth to really shout about. It’s great to see the market recover after a tough couple of years.

**If you were to acquire, or consolidate with another media company, which would it be?** (asked by MailMetroMedia’s Dom Williams)

I can’t speak on behalf of Reach here, but if a decision like that was given to me, it would be a data or ecommerce business. Future made a great business play when they took over GoCompare. Our strategy is focused entirely on better understanding our customers and how we utilise that insight and data. If you combine that with trusted, quality, curated content and strong products, you should have a great proposition.

What was the last movie you saw at the cinema?

Top Gun: Maverick. It was ace. How is Tom Cruise 60?!

How did you end up working in media?

I got back from a year travelling the world without a penny to my name, promptly moved to London and signed up to every graduate recruitment agency I could. One of them specialised in media agencies and so I was sent off to PHD to interview for a grad role, with absolutely zero clue what media planning and buying was… I somehow made it through and the rest, as they say, is history.

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