Me In Merkle is a series of interviews that showcase the incredible individuals who make Merkle a unique and diverse place to work. This week we chatted to Ciara Smyth, head of paid social, at Merkle.
1. Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I’m originally from Birmingham (although my accent doesn’t give me away too much… until I say words like “Lundun”). I went to University in Manchester and after a brief stint in the Philippines teaching English, I went back to Birmingham to work for a children’s charity. In 2013 I got the opportunity to move to London on a 6-month secondment, but I fell in love with the bright lights and have been here ever since!
2. What drew you to your current career?
Before Merkle I worked at a children’s charity as an executive assistant, I absolutely loved it but after a couple of years I decided I needed a new challenge. A few people I went to University with had gone into Marketing so I did a bit of research and felt that Digital Marketing was going to give me the perfect blend of being creative, whilst also being results driven and measurable. Being able to measure success and track progress has always motivated me, and once I had my first interview and got a flavour for the role, I knew that it was going to be the career for me.
3. Why Merkle?
I joined the business in 2015 when we were still Periscopix, a small and independent PPC agency. The sense of community and focus on culture and developing people is what drew me in to begin with and I genuinely believe this has carried through in our identity, even though we’ve grown as a business and have been through multiple acquisitions. Whenever I tell people I’m coming up to 7 years in the business they are always shocked – it’s quite rare to stay at one Media Agency for so long! The people here, and the passion we all have for what we do, is what keeps me motivated each day 😊
4. Tell us a bit more about your day-to-day.
I lead the paid social team at Merkle and can honestly say no day is the same. Given that I don’t have dedicated time on specific clients, my days can look fairly different depending on what the priority is at the time. They might be full of working on brief responses and strategy proposals if I’m leading a new business pitch, or I might be busy designing processes and setting out roadmaps if we’re onboarding a new client. I could be in and out of meetings with platform partners to review our joint priorities or opportunities for growth. There’s a fair amount of finance and forecasting to do too – essentially looking at our pipeline for the year ahead and ensuring we have the appropriate resource in place to service our clients. I also need to keep on top of what we’re doing across our clients and how the people in the team are getting on so there’s a fair amount of team check-ins throughout each week as well. All in all, a very varied role, but one that I really love doing!
5. What do you enjoy most about Paid Social? And what do you think future developments will be?
I love the fast pace of Paid Social, and that there always seems to be a new development in the industry to keep us on our toes. There’s no doubt that we’re moving towards a world where AR and VR will become a lot more prominent – what I would give to have a glimpse into where we’ll be with the Metaverse 10 years from now! There’s also no doubt we’ll continue to face measurement challenges as society becomes more aware and focused on data privacy - social media platforms will need to continue to address issues like this and create solutions which benefit users and advertisers alike. Finally, although the list really is endless, I think integrating paid and organic strategies should be a priority for any brand who wants to succeed on social. Organic and paid social can play very different roles for a brand, but ensuring they are thought of in unison, with customer experience at the centre, really is crucial.
6. What would your advice be to somebody considering a career in Paid Social?
I would say it’s important to understand what a role in paid social means before applying to the role. An answer I get a lot during interviews is that people are interested in Paid Social because they “spend a lot of time on social media” – but don’t we all?! Contrary to what my friends might think, the role isn’t just spending the whole day on TikTok (although I am guilty of that outside of work). The reality is you’re working quite a lot in the advertising platforms, setting up campaigns and pulling reports then manipulating data to understand performance trends. There’s also a lot of priorities to juggle at once as most people have multiple clients to service, so staying organised, managing your time effectively and having a keen eye for detail is crucial.
7. What is your greatest accomplishment?
Leading a team of 60+ talented, smart, passionate, and quite frankly inspirational paid social specialists. My team rock and I couldn’t be prouder to lead them all ❤
8. What inspires you about Merkle’s workplace culture?
The fact that so many genuine and deep friendships are formed here – we have such a strong sense of community in the team that it really does feel like a family.
9. What was your dream job growing up?
An actress. I did performing arts at school and always wanted to end up on the stage. The only stage I’m on nowadays is when I’m talking about paid social - lucky for most I tend to resist the urge to break into song and dance.
10. Are you involved in any of our DEI Pillars? If so, which one and can you tell us a bit about it?
To date I haven’t been, but after seeing some of the inspirational talks that our Gender Pillar organised about International Women’s Day I’ve just reached out to see how I can get involved moving forwards! I also represent Merkle on the Dentsu UK Media Social Impact Council which is aimed at driving our social impact agenda forwards by focusing on CSR and sustainability. It's such an important topic and I'm excited to be a voice for our business on how we can do more in this space for our people, our clients and our partners!
11. How do you like your eggs?
Poached and paired with avo if I’m feeling #basic, boiled with soldiers if I’m channelling my inner child.
12. What are you currently watching on Netflix/Prime?
Currently binging the new series of MAFSA, but less embarrassing bingeworthy series I enjoy include Succession, Ozark and Killing Eve.
13. What’s your guilty pleasure?
Peanut butter on a jacket potato. Am I allowed to say that?
14. What is your dream holiday destination?
Too many to choose just one!! Japan, New Zealand & Canada are probably my top 3 though.
15. Best advice or mantra you live by?
Stay hydrated. Don’t be racist. Wash your hands. Love yourself.