10 questions with... James Smith, managing director at The Kite Factory

The Drum Network
Digital Scoop

Charley Caines is a Social Media Strategist at Manchester based, integrated, creative communications agency HGA Creative. Specialised in building communities and developing comprehensive strategies for a broad scope of clients, she has also produced award winning social media and content strategies in previous roles and is interested in all things digital.

James Smith, managing director at The Kite Factory, answers questions about his approach to making it work in advertising.

As part of The Drum Network's mission to profile individuals behind the media and marketing sector who are doing things differently within the industry, the 10 Questions with... series speaks with members to gain insight on their process. This week, James Smith, managing director at The Kite Factory shares his thoughts.

What was your first ever job?

My first proper job was as a mystery shopper, buying alcohol at pubs, bars and supermarkets to ensure that they checked for ID properly in case it was spot-checked by the police.

Which industry buzzword annoys you most?

‘Circle back’; it just feels like you’re going around and around and not getting anywhere.

Who do you find most interesting to follow on social media?

I really like the no nonsense attitude of Mark Ritson on Twitter - he’s not afraid to stand up against our industry bullsh*t.

Highlight of your career (so far?)

After being promoted to MD, I’d actually say it’s seeing the way the agency team has reacted to the Covid-19 lockdown. As despite operating in entirely different circumstances, we’ve continued to show real agility and be able to deliver best in class service for our clients, which is admirable.

What piece of tech can you not live without?

Portable battery chargers.

Who or what did you have posters of on your bedroom wall as a teenager?

Embarrassingly, Britney Spears. I can still remember pretty much all the words to ‘Baby One More Time’.

In advertising, what needs to change soon?

Agency remuneration models. The hardest thing to demonstrate to a potential client is the value that an agency can add to their business without being able to prove it beforehand. Everyone can say they deliver great client service. With procurement intensely focussed on commanding the lowest possible commission from the potential agencies at pitch, it damages our ability to commit time and resource to truly become a client partner as opposed to a functional media buyer. Payment by results is one way to ensure we’re rewarded for our time and effort, but effective campaigns are effective because they’re the sum of so many moving parts, and media is just one of those, alongside website, creative and everything else that drives conversion.

What is (in your opinion) the greatest film/album/book of your life?

It’s not quite the answer to the question but I’ve never really been into films; I struggle not to get distracted. However, the recent discovery of ‘Hamilton’ has rekindled my love of acting and musical theatre. I’m still trying to get HR to approve acting and musical theatre lessons as a form of presentation training.

Which industry event can you not afford to miss each year and why?

I love an awards ceremony and celebrating great work; the inspiration also really motivates me to deliver the most effective work for our clients.

What's the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Right at the start of my career in adland, I was told: “There is no right way to do anything in media”. Always looking at things through that lens allows you to question and improve what’s gone before - be that improving legacy agency processes or finding creative ways to make a budget go further.

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