The Fishbowl: Howard Staines, BlowUp Media

The Fishbowl: Howard Staines, BlowUp Media

The Media Leader’s interview series asks the media industry’s top salespeople revealing questions, drawn from our fishbowl. The questions are drawn at random and contain some tricky posers set by the commercial chiefs themselves.

This week, it’s Howard Staines, BlowUp Media’s UK commercial director.

Howard Staines started his career at Hi-Tech Media as an account manager in 2011.

He joined outdoor media owner BlowUp Media in 2012 as a senior account manager and rose through the ranks to become commercial director last year.

Why are you passionate about media?

Media has always been a passion of mine; I gained work experience in a creative agency at 15, which I found incredibly interesting. This led me to complete a degree in advertising and marketing.

I only ever planned to work in the media industry. The real hook for me has always been the creativity media provides. That could be in the selling of media space such as banners, as we do at BlowUp Media; or the creation of the content and unique ideas developed at creative and media agencies.

This creativity and the incredible individuals involved leads to an ever-expanding and evolving industry that I find consistently fascinating.

What was your first paid job and why did you do it?

The first money I earned was working in a garden centre selling barbecues, but career-wise it was working on a defence exhibition at Reed Exhibitions.

I took the role because the subject matter was unlike anything I had experienced before. We worked with the US Department of Homeland Security and I was part of a large and experienced sales team. It was a good grounding point for me in sales, which has made up a large part of my career.

Peer question: What’s the best piece of advice a boss or colleague has ever given you?

“Break big goals into small steps.” It was made clear to me that even the biggest ideas or plans are always made up of smaller ideas. Taking them one at a time can make the final target seem far less daunting.

Question from Laura Chase, chief commercial officer, WeAre8

What key thing has changed in conversations with clients this year compared with last year?

For us, it has been long-term visibility. There was a definitive shift in the last couple of years to a shorter-term market, with campaigns being booked considerably closer to their activation periods.

However, at the same time, brands have been asking how they can stand out from their competition, looking at longer periods of activations, ownership of locations and areas.

This is not achievable in every case, but it was clear to us that many brands (including sectors that haven’t really looked to our formats before) are now looking far deeper into the effectiveness and accountability of each pound spent. It is on us as media owners collectively to provide this — to push the OOH market forward.

Peer question: What is the most fun you’ve had doing this job?

We have a real luxury in the industry of continuous relationship-building. Meeting new people, creating (often lifelong) friendships — I will always find that the most fun part of the job.

I was concerned that this part of the industry had the potential to take a backwards step with the arrival of working from home, but I am pleased to see that has not been the case. In fact, I would say the duration of time spent with our clients appears to have increased.

Question from David Wilcox, commercial director, News UK Broadcasting

When did you last change your mind about something?

Very recently! I am lucky enough to have a very accomplished and experienced team around me, who are not shy of letting me know when they disagree.

Most recently, my mind was changed on a new site location. The team have a firm grasp on what they believe is a good banner location and will often change my perception of an opportunity.

I think being flexible in your decision-making is important. There is very little point in hiring people who you believe are great at their jobs and then not listening to their opinions.

Peer question: Would you recommend your son, daughter or another young person in your life to get a job in media and why?

I would not put them off the idea, as I have very much enjoyed my time in the industry. However, my daughters already have strong views on their career paths — one wants to be a dentist and the other a fairy princess, so I wouldn’t want to get in the way of that!

Question from Clare Turner, sales director, Pearl & Dean

Has selling media become easier or harder?

Selling media should be hard. This ever-evolving landscape provides a multitude of opportunities to brands across an increasing number of platforms.

If it ever became too easy, it would mean that either the industry has stopped evolving or media owners have become complacent — neither of which is good.

Specifically, for OOH, selling in the Covid period was a challenge. However, off the back of that readjustment period, I believe brands have been able to really dial into what they are looking to achieve from their media activity.

For our slice of the market, it’s important to have the right product for the brand. Making sure you are in the conversation as early as possible and answering as many of their questions that you can.

If you could have any other job in the world, what would you do?

I would be a writer. I write scripts in my spare time, so I know that’s something that I would enjoy.

Peer question: Based on what you know now, what one decision in your career would you change and why?

Work-life balance — in the early days, I got that very wrong. It took a seismic change around me to realise a balance between those two things is incredibly important in getting the best out of yourself in both areas.

Question from Matt Salmon, UK sales director, Snap

Read more Fishbowl interviews here and see what media’s top salespeople say about working in the industry and what concerns their clients. To suggest an interviewee, contact ella.sagar@uk.adwanted.com.

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