(Update 3.5.14: Audrey Siegel now serves as Managing Partner of Assembly, a new agency established by MDC Partners. See the press release here.)
AD Club Board Member Audrey Siegel, President & Co-Founder of TargetCast, discusses her personal career path in advertising and gives advice for up-and-coming professionals. (As originally published in The Flairist, February 13, 2014
Name: Audrey Siegel
Title: President and Co-Founder, TargetCast tcm
One sentence description of your work/job: Company management of growing mid-sized media agency
Education: BA, History, SUNY Buffalo
Please tell us a little more about yourself.
Media professional, mother of two wonderful young women, daughter of an amazing mom, devoted friend, passionate feminist, avid reader, great audience – music, theater, movies, art.
In 2002, with business partner Steve Farella, founded TargetCast – a modern media agency, designed to deliver the best of strategy, data, insight, communications planning and creative implementation for strong independent brands looking for high touch involvement and strong business partnership with their media agency. We’ve grown from two to 140 people, serving a diverse client portfolio including AMC TV Network, Expedia and hotels.com, Pfizer Consumer Healthcare Portfolio, New York Life, 1-800 Contacts and glasses.com, Gortons, DiSaronno, New World Pasta, 1-800-Flowers, and more. We plan and buy across all media, in a fully fluent manner, applying a robust research and analytics practice throughout.
How did you choose your career?
Serendipity has a lot to do with the development of a life – whether we are open to it makes all of the difference. I would say that advertising chose me, at least as much as I chose it – probably more.
I stumbled into advertising, and have happily built a career in an industry that encourages creativity, agility, insight and passion. The media profession is one that is dynamic, changing as consumer behavior, technology, and the product marketplace evolve. You can’t get bored, and you can be as successful as you can imagine – right place, right partners and the right attitude all play a part in that.
What’s a typical workday like for you?
I spend a lot of time talking with staff as well as Talent Management (HR), helping to sort out rotations, best client staffing models, career path issues and opportunities. I spend an equal amount of time on client business, working internally and with clients on issues and opportunities, identifying and supporting innovation and aligning with client business needs. Lastly, I am engaged with the marketplace, meeting with media vendors to understand marketplace change and new opportunities, as well as working with industry organizations such as The ADVERTISING Club of New York and Advertising Women of New York (AWNY) to keep our industry moving forward in positive and interesting ways.
What are some obstacles you’ve faced in getting to where you are right now?
Rather than talking about this as an obstacle, I’m going to talk about it as an opportunity – becoming a parent in 1983. The American workplace has made some progress in recognizing and addressing the challenges faced by working moms, but the pace and degree of change has been akin to the movement of an iceberg. As with any other needed societal change, those most impacted upon must be leaders of that change. And so, I negotiated a part-time “line” position as a media supervisor, and worked 3-4 days/week while my babies grew into school-aged children.
Working “part-time” did not mean thinking part-time. It was incumbent upon me to stay current on client business, marketplace evolution and company issues. I actively created a working parent network within my agency, and championed the early years of “Take Our Daughters to Work Day” with the Ms. Foundation. Upon returning to the workforce full-time after a number of years, I quickly regained my place in the agency’s management structure, and continued in my professional development.
What role have other women played in helping you get to where you are?
In a global sense, any woman who has successfully managed her personal life and her career has played a significant role in my development. If a woman, on the other hand, gave up having a life to have a successful career, that didn’t help me much, as that was never an option in my life. I have met both men and women who have been intelligent, compassionate and inventive in how they have crafted successful lives and careers; these are the professionals that I have looked to for guidance and counsel. Similarly, I have worked hard to provide that intelligent counsel to others in our profession, men and women, in the overall pursuit of a great workplace environment rich with opportunity.
Almost every path in life has its roadblocks, what were some of the things (and who were some of the people) that motivated you during difficult times?
Good friends; knowing when to lean in and when to leave it alone make a huge difference in life. My children; putting on a show at the end of a day that seemed endless, encouraging me to smile and to put into perspective the events of the day. Great clients; willing to talk it through and to engage in meaningful debate and help to move a sticky problem to the problem solved column. And a great business partner; there to catch me if needed, and to push me beyond my fears, helped me to achieve my greatest professional success – the building of something from nothing, the creation of opportunity for ourselves and others, and the development of answers to questions not yet even asked.
What advice would you give to other women in your career, or women in general, aiming to establish a successful career?
Be brave, work hard, look to the left and right for support and for opportunity. Learn to say no – not out of fear, but when no is the right answer. And to say yes when opportunity knocks on your door, or hits you in the head. Trust in your gut; learn from the best, and worst, of situations. Have a full life – however you define it – but go beyond work to find all of it. Be honest, be true to yourself, have patience and create communities that will nurture you, both professionally and personally.
Did/do you have a mentor? What suggestions do you have for other women hoping to find professional mentors?
I did not have a mentor, and I think it would have been easier if I did. But I found parts of mentors in lots of people and situations, which worked for me. To find a mentor, you have to put yourself out there in the world – ask for what you need, watch for people you respect and find ways to be in their company. Be a mentor to others and you’ll benefit from those relationships as well.
What keeps you motivated to excel in your career?
Personal passion; a desire to be good and great; the joy of succeeding; and financial reward.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you were first starting out?
That life is long, that there will be hard days, and even harder nights, and that success will look different at various points along the way. It’s good to have a plan, but it’s even better to be able to know how to adapt that plan as life unfolds.
How important do you think ambition was in helping you get where you are today?
Ambition is a funny word.
Is it about money? That’s important, but not at the expense of personal and professional integrity.
Is it about title? Early on, that mattered a lot. But looking back, the work I did was more important than the title I held – and it was the work that propelled my career forward, not the title.
I am where I am today because I have done good work and I have worked hard to do so. I have been a lean-forward employee and have learned to take risks when managed with reward.