WIMS Away Experience: Edmond Quan at Giant Agency
Exploring the unique and exciting world of advertising, hands-on
This past winter break, Occidental students participated in the Walk In My Shoes (Away) program, shadowing professionals at 29 sites in 6 states. Hosts provided participants with 2-3 days of career exposure to learn what they do, how they do it, and why. Students got a behind-the-scenes view of a profession and the opportunity to begin building a network within the field.
We’re showcasing a few students’ experiences with WIMS Away over the next few weeks. Today, Edmond Quan '16 tells us about an average day at a pharmaceutical advertising agency.
If I could say anything about my three days of shadowing at Giant, I would definitely say, without a doubt, that it was the most enlightening experience of my entire winter break. Before I entered their office, located across the street from San Francisco’s iconic piers, I had never stepped foot in an actual marketing agency. Alex, my host, however, helpfully ensured that I would make the most out of my time. He spent the first day filling me in on all the minor details of his work and introducing me to all his co-workers. In addition, he helped organize interviews with the various professionals that worked at the company based on my interests in market research and creative planning. During my last day, he was able to connect me with the head of the human resources department, who was looking for prospective interns over the summer.
Alex works as a senior account executive only after two years of experience in the company. Despite his young age, everyone at the office respects and trusts him as the primary liaison between Giant and their clients. I definitely noticed how committed and enthusiastic Alex was; he contributed to every meeting at both the company level and the team level and often sacrificed lunch breaks to finish his work. He was always up to date with the status of projects, which is the key to reassuring restless clients. Additionally, he was meticulously organized, as he was able to retrieve files within seconds of their request by coworkers. This combination of dedication and fastidiousness makes him the perfect fit for his position.
The work environment at Giant seemed very casual as the unwritten dress code of the office was jeans and sneakers. Every day that I was there, some employee had brought their dog to the office. Senior members of the company were all very friendly and surprisingly accessible. The office itself was designed like an open loft, with the well-stocked kitchen integrated into the room. Despite the seemingly laidback environment, the agency worked like a well-oiled machine. Employees in each department were organized into teams that worked on different projects. Work is often organized through emails and through cloud-based programs such as Google Documents, allowing instantaneous progress on accounts. Meetings occurred quite often and were less tedious than I had initially thought. Great food was usually provided and discussions were simultaneously productive and entertaining, as department directors tended to crack hilarious jokes to ease the tension during intense brainstorming sessions. I attended three such meetings during my stay and everyone seemed to leave the meetings feeling accomplished and optimistic.
My three days at Giant were extremely busy. I interviewed a copywriter, three members of art direction, a medical consultant, and an account supervisor about their roles within the company, their backgrounds, the working environment of Giant, and how they eventually found themselves working at the agency. Everyone was extremely informative, knowledgeable, and patient (I spent, on average, forty-five minutes per interview). Though each interview was enriching and interesting, my favorite person to interview was definitely the account supervisor, who had an extensive background in market research. I learned that although pharmaceutical marketing faces unique challenges due to more stringent regulations imposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the industry is, in essence, the same as consumer marketing. Preliminary research must be done to better understand the behavior and psychology of the target audience. This is accomplished through individual interviews with doctors, surveys, and experiments. Secondly, a plan of action must be calculated based on the data gathered to suit of the needs and desires of their audience. The key here is to eloquently convey the main solution that the product provides. For example, a brochure for medication that treats juvenile pulmonary embolism would contain images of happy, active children alongside information charts and statistics in order to show the increased quality of life that the product provides for children afflicted with this genetic disease. The last step is execution, which includes the printing of advertisements and the production of websites, a step mostly handled by third party companies.
My experiences at Giant greatly reinforced my desire to work in marketing. I was given the awesome opportunity to interact with seasoned professionals within the field and to observe the typical life of a modern agency. I am thankful to the WIMS program for this learning and networking experience, and I hope that Occidental can keep this dream alive for generations of sophomores to come.
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