What do they do all day? Seen’s Melisa Dagli on the role of an associate project director
This week, as part of our series demystifying the many job titles that make up adland, Melisa Dagli of experiential agency Seen Presents talks us through the role of associate project director.
Melisa Dagli, associate project director at Seen Presents explains what her job actually involves / Seen Presents
When I first started out, I worked at a startup agency that was partnering with Croatian music festivals. I was doing a lot of social media, but because it was a startup company it was one of those things where it was all hands on deck. Everyone got involved in everything. I realized that I liked more of the project management and pulling all of the pieces together.
I joined Seen Presents two years ago. I started as senior project manager. I was promoted recently [to associate project director]. There were four people when I first interviewed; from that to get to 20, delivering international events for global brands, is exciting. Louisa, our incredible MD, is building something exciting here.
My boss is the project director. I have two people who report into me, I’m their line manager. It’s quite new, growing a team underneath me. I’m learning to look at my work capacity differently, to give me more time to have an overview, to delegate, to give others room to grow as well.
Day to day, I’m responsible for everything from receiving a brief to interrogating a brief to working with a client to build out a brief. At times, they’ll come to us knowing exactly what they want to do and they’re looking for a delivery partner. But as we grow our work with clients, they sometimes come to us to shape that brief, to help it meet their KPIs, and we’ll develop a creative solution for them.
I’ll take that brief and look at everything, including budgets, timelines, working with the creative team and the production team, finding external suppliers that we’re working with, finding venues, straight through to execution on-site. It’s delivery all the way through to reporting budget reconciliation; the full run from brief to execution.
The associate position means having a broader understanding of the business; all of a sudden you’re sitting at a table with senior leadership pretending to know what you’re doing. You’re helping to build up a team around you and supporting them in turn. And you step away from the details of the day-to-day, which I find quite hard. I like being in with the details – that comes naturally as a project manager.
It also means a lot of Excel sheets. I’m selling the dream here, aren’t I?
A recent project I’ve come off was delivering Netflix for the first time at Cannes Lions. It was incredible but now I’m getting into the post-reconciliation and the debrief for my team.
This was one of those briefs I helped to build out. One of their favorite quotes, right from the beginning, was ‘learning to build the plane as we fly it.’
Being their first year, this was about finding their space. But because they’re a global brand, there was added pressure to deliver something that was right for them and which displayed the breadth of their content.
Going on-site is one of my favorite things. This year I’ve been to Stockholm for a TikTok event and there were multiple site visits to Cannes. In the coming months, we are activating in the US.
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In project management, you get to work with all the different departments and the different suppliers. You kind of sit in the middle and get to speak to everyone. But for me, it’s all about being on site and seeing the weeks and months of planning, designing, going into details, putting together the what-if scenarios and seeing all of those things come together. Fingers crossed that it does that seamlessly.
Our big thing is driving an emotional response. We had a rooftop space in Cannes and watching people come up to that rooftop, seeing their immediate reaction and how they respond to the activation… that’s what you remember.