Tim Howard, Sales and Marketing

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Account Executive (Xbox & MSN.ca), Microsoft Canada

Tim sells interactive ad space for Xbox, mobile devices, and online to clients ranging from Adidas to Hollywood studios.

Tim scored Microsoft Canada’s biggest online advertising deal ever. He and his boss noticed a prominent advertiser in New York had a strong market presence in the US but not in Canada. One of their accounts (the company that hired the advertiser) was LivingSocial, a daily deals website. Tim pitched the idea of promoting LivingSocial across the MSN and Microsoft Canada platform. They suggested ways LivingSocial could break into the Canadian market and together they built a relationship and sealed the deal. Tim was recognized for his role by Microsoft’s US and global teams. Not bad for a new hire!

Tim’s CareerMash

Tim mashes sales and marketing with Microsoft Canada’s Xbox, mobile and online “portals” – the places on msn.ca where you access news, information and celebrity gossip. “We design the advertiser’s digital strategy and then provide ways to reach consumers through various communication and tech channels,” Tim says.

These ads are strategically placed. Tim excels at creating interactive campaigns that generate different messages throughout the day or allow the user to explore a product – like a car interior - digitally with a single click.

Tim also organizes campaign teams. “If you imagine an orchestra, essentially I am the conductor.  I choose from an array of resources, people and strategists for any given advertising campaign. I can command the winds or the strings to play louder here but soften down there to create a harmonic end result.” Tim knows a little bit about every department, but when clients have a detailed request Tim works with teams such as the Xbox team to fully integrate the ad plan.

A day in the life

Let’s talk Xbox. When you come across a movie trailer or a download offer on your Xbox, Tim’s the guy who puts it there. Free coupons? Tim does that too. As of November, Tim’s job has been even more interactive. Twitter and Facebook have been integrated into Xbox. This lets advertisers run campaigns on Xbox just like on TV – but it links to social media so you can ‘like’ the brand and receive incentives. “It’s an update that totally changes what you see. It’s a more integrated way to connect with social media and the advertiser.”

Tim spends half his time thinking and strategizing internally for various ad campaigns. The other half he spends with clients designing, evaluating and tweaking campaign strategies. As in most sales jobs, Tim has a monthly goal for how much advertising to sell. Advertisers go to Tim with ideas, but sometimes he pitches ideas to them. This is where he gets to think outside the box. Tim works with the product team to explore ideas for creative sponsorship (a page sponsored by Old Navy, for example). There’s also coupon downloads, MTags (where you can click an ad or scan a code with your phone and receive instant incentives like coupons.) “Creative design comes in setting up the campaign, determining how it will run and what it should look like.”

Why this job rocks

Tim runs a portion of Microsoft Advertising like his own business – with clients across North America. Based in downtown Toronto, he frequently travels to Western Canada and the US.

Tim thrives in a fast-paced and dynamic environment and loves the intensity and responsibilities of his job. “I’m accountable for my numbers. No one is going to make it happen but me and my support team. A lot of stress comes with that – and challenges that stem from budgets, limited resources and competition. I could come into a new account and they could have a strong relationship with a competitor. My job is to move that relationship to Microsoft,” he says.

Roadmap

  • Tim’s father is a doctor. As the eldest son, Tim always thought he’d follow his dad’s example. He took sciences in high school and for three years at the University of Calgary before he realized it wasn’t his passion.
  • He decided to switch to business and specialize in finance as well as finish a degree in psychology.
  • He landed a co-op with Microsoft. “It was innovative, fast moving, very powerful, highly resourced – and everyone was smart. In my interview my manager said, ‘if you think you’re a shining star in your regular life, come into Microsoft and you’ll see you’re just average.’”
  • He continued in finance and worked at a bank and later for a venture capital firm, but it wasn’t for him. “I wanted a job that was competitive and where people were brilliant.”
  • He discovered the Microsoft Academy for Campus Hires (MACH) and applied to every position he could.  “I wanted in the program more than the role itself. So I ended up in sales in the entertainment consumer division of Microsoft in Toronto.” Tim will finish in less than a year and continue working at Microsoft.  

Speed Bumps

“Online advertising is very effective in determining the cost effectiveness and the return on investment. The challenge comes in trying to convince advertisers to start switching from TV to online,” Tim says.

He uses analytics to track how online users respond to campaigns – what they click, how long they stay on an ad, and what they do inside the ad. He creates mock campaigns to give clients a visual idea of what the ad will look like. He gets new clients to try test campaigns with small budgets, which often leads them to invest more.

“It’s interesting to what extent we can measure the success of an ad. The important part is to turn the data into a story we can tell the client about why the campaign worked and how we measured success. Then we can continue to build momentum and work with them to launch new campaigns.”  Tim recently formed a partnership with a Canadian-based financial services company that is new to online advertising and somewhat hesitant about how its product would be received. After a successful back-to-school campaign, they were able to measure the direct correlation between user engagement and awareness of their brand. The results were compelling enough that the client has started a Christmas awareness campaign and is starting to plan for future campaigns in Canada and the US.

Tips for success

  • Be business savvy – Clients may have an idea of what they want, but “you need to be able to show them what will and will not work, and why.”
  • Prioritize – One person can only do so much. You need to be able to communicate effectively to push back and re-establish expectations.
  • Follow your heart – “Try new things until you find something that feels right for you. Try job shadowing. Connect with and talk to as many people as you can about the cool jobs they have and see what fits you. Tell a mentor or family member what you’re thinking and maybe they can connect you with someone in their network.”