4 April 2019

What Does a Head of Product Actually Do?

In this feature, we take a look inside the working lives of people whose job titles often warrant the question: 'but what do you actually do?' This week, we speak to Anna Stoyanova, Vice President, Head of Product, Australia and New Zealand at data and measurement-driven agency Essence which is part of GroupM.


What do you actually do?


My superpower is being able to see through the clutter straight to the heart of a problem or the size of an opportunity. My role is a bit like an architect as I help to create a unique offering for each one of our clients, perfectly suited to their needs.


I partner closely with our client leaders to ensure they are getting the best from the agency. In order to do this, I need to be across all of the tools, technologies, specialist disciplines and capabilities of the agency, from communications strategy, data strategy, analytics, media planning, media activation to advertising operations. But I also need to have a solid grasp of the issues clients are dealing with. With this knowledge, I can help our teams to pull together the right skillset and solutions. And I can also help clients to understand how we can help them.


To inspire a conversation of possibilities, it is a very exciting job!



What might a typical working day look like?


I am not a morning person, so my day starts quite late with a long black coffee. Nothing happens before coffee.


Before I start reading emails, I typically kick off a few conversations first.


Last week, we had a great quarterly business review with a client and I am keen to work out what made it great and how we got there, so we can create a blueprint to help other offices and clients.


Getting stuck into my emails, I receive one from a client congratulating the team on a recent campaign analysis. These are my favourite emails. I make a note to catch up with that team and in the meantime, have a read through the analysis again. It is really impressive and insightful. I spend some time finding the right GIF to celebrate with – sending a good GIF is an Essence tradition.


Time for lunch and a walk around North Sydney. I like wandering around during the day. It helps me to think.


I get a call from a client. They want to know if we can help them with cross-channel measurement and build a bespoke attribution model. Sounds like a fun project to dive into but I will need to assemble the right team to tackle it. Hmm, this one needs more thinking, so I let it simmer for a bit. Will come back to it tomorrow.


There is a big presentation going around for a client, so I put some fresh eyes on it and give the team feedback on areas to dial up or down.


Next up, a conversation about dynamic creative. This is a passion project for me – I truly believe ALL creative, banners and video should be dynamic, so they can be relevant and interesting. As humans, we never communicate with two people in the exact same way, so if brands want to talk to me, I expect them to say something I personally would be interested in or nothing at all. It is a mountain to climb to establish a new norm in the industry, but I am committed to making it happen. I leave the room fired up and excited. We are making significant progress to integrate our creative and media thinking.


Wrapping up the day with a conversation with our technology team. We have been migrating our database to a new solution and they share some exciting updates which are going to supercharge our reporting and data processing powers. It is very exciting. The second point on the agenda is campaign automation. We are starting to see more applications of artificial intelligence throughout our business. I know our media teams will be beyond excited about that and cannot wait to share it with everyone. That is a good way to end the day.


How does your role keep you on your toes?


A large part of my job is to imagine what the agency of the future could be, today. I find it relatively easy to see areas for improvement but the big ideas and concepts – the breakthrough opportunities – come at the edge of comfortable and uncomfortable. I readily push myself to be uncomfortable to free my mind to think differently. I have the habit of asking myself: “If there were nothing telling you what to do and how to do it, how would you go about achieving your goal?”


My job requires me to be a jack of all trades and master of a few, so there is a lot of reading involved and keeping up with what is going on in the world. I am genuinely a curious person so that suits me.


My biggest personal journey and challenge are to always make sure I am enjoying myself and having fun. When I moved into a leadership role, I discovered that a lot of the fun leaves the room as leaders typically spend their time dealing with the biggest challenges instead of the fun problems. I am doing my best to flip that on its head.


What’s your favourite part of your role?


There are quite a few. I get to break things and challenge the status quo. I am the type of person that asks a lot of questions and wants to know: “Why?” Why are we doing things this way? Why is this project important? Why are we even discussing this? I think it is important to start with why – it keeps you honest about focusing your energy on the right things that will have the biggest impact.


I love helping businesses grow and have the pleasure of working with some of the most amazing and inspiring brands in the world. And I am also doing this with some of the most brilliant, kind and talented people I know. What’s there not to like?


Anna Stoyanova is vice president, head of product, Australia and New Zealand at data and measurement-driven agency Essence which is part of GroupM.