11. Sidavy Chau, Financial Controller for Grey

A financial controller for Grey Healthcare, Sidavy Chau has +4 years experience working with creative and commercial teams to handle the budgeting and administrative side of the advertising agency campaigns as well as benchmarking and reporting on the campaign results.

How does your job fit into the marketing process? I’m not directly involved in advertising campaigns and I don’t work with our clients. I handle the administrative side (back office) of the advertising agency.

I work with account managers, and all the other departments in collecting timesheets and receipts. I then compile all of the agency’s billable hours and expenditures into a reports and compare them with the forecasted budget.

Many agencies using online analytical processing software which allows the agency to track business and financial reporting for sales, P&L (profit and loss), marketing, and management, as well as data mining. I report on the campaign results – i.e. the balance sheet, and other internal reports. I then analyze the reasons for over- under- budget estimation between the originally forecasted campaign budget and the actual campaign budget and offer solutions to improve the profitability of the advertising campaigns. These reports are then used by the group’s board to provide direction for the agency and to keep the account managers up-to-date on budget limitations and objectives.

That’s the job of the financial controller – to provide new solutions to increase revenue.

What’s a misconception people commonly have about the industry? From the administrative side, I think the advertising industry is much different than any other industry, such as banking and finance. The advertising industry has a much more relaxed and ‘cool’ environment. This also means that while people in advertising also have a lot of processes and rules and responsibilities to do, the relaxed environment can cause people to neglect their administrative duties (reports, accurately filling out time sheets, etc.).

Failure to keep up with these important duties can have severe financial consequences on the project because it can cause the campaign to go over budget (not enough time spent on big paying clients, insufficient hours logged, etc.), and on the advertising agency as a whole, causing the agency to actually lose money on campaigns.

What’s an important lesson you’ve learned? Pay close attention to all information because as you run your advertising campaigns you’ll have to sort through a lot of it. Be able to quickly identify between useful and non-useful information, important and unimportant information, urgent and non-urgent demands.

For the person requesting information from you, it’s always urgent and top priority for them and they want it immediately. You have to be able to manage all the requests for information and respond in a timely manner. If you try to treat everything as high priority, you’ll end up killing yourself.

A website you often go to for ideas? I use Fiducial.com to get information and to stay up-to-date with accounting laws and practices.

What’s your favorite advertising campaign?

I have a small advertising budget, any advice? Make sure you do a really good job forecasting your advertising budget. It’s easy to under-estimate a budget and end up broke and with an incomplete campaign. Also factor in how much time you’ll spend on the project. The more time you spend, the less per hour you’ll take from the advertising results, hours which could have been better spent earning money or working on other projects.