Ad Spotlight: Rufina Lawani, Head of Regional, Finecast
Welcome to the Ad Spotlight series where we hear from a different guest from the industry each month to get an insight into the landscape of advertising as well as their own personal experiences.
Our guest this month is Rufina Lawani, Head of Regional, Finecast.
Q: Why did you choose a career in advertising?
A: It came down to following my instincts in an industry that seemed full of energy. After 6th form, I worked client-side at Standard Life Healthcare as a junior print buyer. At 18, I was briefing out jobs to printers, getting wined and dined and discovering what a rare steak was.
It led me to study marketing at university and, eventually, getting an intro to ITV where I worked as a Sales Assistant based in the Granada Studios. It was great being out on the sales floor and I enjoyed the energetic atmosphere. I worked with some real characters, got to see content being filmed, felt part of the creative process...and even met Ken Barlow.
Q: What are the biggest challenges facing the industry right now?
A: There are plenty of challenges at the moment, but I suppose the thing that I have felt the most throughout my career is around audience fragmentation as it’s really the driving force behind so many of the other challenges the industry is facing.
Audience fragmentation is providing us with measurement and effectiveness challenges, price inflation and even challenges in acquiring and retaining talent as there is simply so much choice now. However, it’s also a good thing as the industry has been forced in innovate and provide solutions. Finecast is one of those solutions as it was developed in response to the changes in TV viewing and provides advertisers with a single point of access to the now very complex AV landscape.
Q: Sum up the future of advertising in three words.
A: Complexity, accountability, and automation. It’s already complex and it’s about working to streamline that for all stakeholders. Being more accountable is part of that. Regarding automation, the TV space is taking from - and building on - what happens in the digital space to support better understanding of performance and response.
Q: What is your biggest career highlight?
A: Spending quality time with clients and securing great results is always rewarding. Even more so when it involves NBC taking you to Los Angeles for a week after agreeing a three-year deal with a client to sponsor content across E! Channel. We went to the Emmy Awards, met all the E! presenters at NBC studios and essentially lived like celebs for a week. Securing the deal when I was relatively new to the role was great and the LA experience was an amazing cherry on top.
Q: What is your favourite advert of all-time?
A: As a teenage girl growing up in the ‘90s, I absolutely loved the Levi’s ads. And still do! Brad Pitt, tongue-in-cheek attitude, cinematic style, amazing soundtrack. What’s not to like!
Moving from ‘90s Brad Pitt to advertising in 2022 and beyond...
Q: How is the economic climate changing how brands interact with advertising?
A: Brands know they need to find new audiences and speak to their in market audience more regularly. We’re seeing brands embrace more of a test and learn approach to targeting and embarking on more creative testing alongside this.
Addressable TV offers a great platform for test and learn due to the targeting and measurement capabilities it offers. We’re seeing brands consider it as an option precisely because it does allow for more testing opportunities.
It’s great for creative testing as well, for example if you want to target by region, you can do that far more easily than with linear TV as you can target tighter geographical areas – even testing different creatives and using voiceovers with different accents for specific markets, for example. So, rather than new or smaller brands being put off TV advertising, we are seeing them embrace new strategies and seek out new audiences.
Q: Congratulations on becoming chairman of the regional committee for the NABS charity. What is the industry doing to support the wellbeing of its people? And where can it improve?
A: Thank you! I just think it is great that the industry even has a charity focused on wellbeing that is supported by the industry with donations.
It’s really important, particularly up here where regional teams tend to be smaller, and usually won’t have a mental health team onsite so you can lean on NABS for support. The fact it is an external resource helps too.
The industry is doing a lot right now. We’ve heard about many businesses providing employees with financial support through the cost-of-living crisis and many employees have undergone mental health awareness training so that they can offer emotional support where it’s needed.
Having said that many working in the industry are probably experiencing more pressure than ever before with huge challenges in attracting and retaining the right talent - which puts pressure on existing employees. It’s important to identify what can be cut back on or how they can pool resource to make sure no one individual is ever facing insurmountable pressure for an extended period. It’s all very well businesses having a variety of well-being initiatives and services but if at an individual level you feel overwhelmed and unable to take advantage of anything the business is offering you it’s going to be counteractive.
Q: What advice would you give your younger self entering the industry?
A: Don’t waste time worrying about how you’re being perceived and trust your instincts more. In reality, you get the best results when you just say what’s in your head and are honest, people usually respond to that and often feel the same.
There were plenty of times when I kept quiet in meetings and wished I’d spoken up as I watched someone else make the same point a few minutes later and everyone agree. Be less concerned with what people think because the reaction you get when you follow your instincts is usually quite positive.