23. Tenin Coulibaly, Accountant for DDB

Accountant for DDB, Tenin Coulibaly has +12 years experience monitoring billing and expenses with revenue and helping her company comply with accounting rules and regulations.

How does your job fit into the marketing process? I don’t work directly with our clients. I’m more back office administration. I control the funds and profitability of the ad agency. Make sure that DDB respects the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) accounting rules and regulations. I work with the account managers and financial controllers to look after the time sheets to compare work done on projects and monitor billing and expenses versus revenue.

What’s your favorite ad campaign? Here are three:

What’s a misconception clients commonly have about the industry? I have monthly meetings with my superiors to forecast the upcoming budget for our clients and the overall running of the company and to compare our forecasted budget with the actual budget from the previous month. All reasons for not making budget must be investigated and explained. 

This can take a few days and it can be difficult obtaining actual receipts to match the paperwork. Once the advertising campaign is finished, it can take a couple of days getting the client to sign off the estimates, and from the time the ad campaign is finished to the time I receive the client’s payment can take upwards of one month. Clients may change or even cancel the advertising campaign. Sometimes the client has no money to pay for the work we provided for them.

In the advertising industry doing the administrative paperwork such as timesheets isn’t everybody’s favorite. However, it is still an important aspect of the job. It can be frustrating tracking everyone down and constantly sending reminders to get their timesheets accurately filled-out and turned in on time so that I can submit our financial filings on time in accordance with SOX. There are no real sanctions for colleagues who don’t manage their administrative paperwork deadlines; however there can be sanctions for the company if I don’t respect mine.

One trick is to have a deadline #1 and a deadline #2, that way you have plenty of time to do your job correctly. Usually I’ll get approximately 40% of the timesheets turned in by deadline #1, with the remaining 60% turning the timesheets in by deadline #2. There have been times though where I had to actually go into someone’s office and refuse to leave until they fill-out their time sheets. Abiding by the legal accounting rules is important.

What’s an important lesson you’ve learned from your experience? Be very patient and plan ahead because both your colleagues and clients can be late in turning in what needs to be turned in. Learn to use Microsoft Excel for planning and budgeting all your performance and expenditures. The more accurate your accounting, the less chance you have of running into planning and finance difficulties in the future.

What’s a website you often go to for work?

  • Fiducial.com to keep up-to-date with accounting procedures.
  • Societe.com to find info about officially registered companies (in France), mostly for suppliers to see if they are real, reliable, and serious. There is a publically available free version which provides basic information, and there is a paid version which gives you much more information about the company.

I have a small advertising budget, any advice?

  • Learn to keep very good details of your spending
  • Consider using freelance

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.

09. Hervé Thevenard, Fin Controller for Ogilvy

Financial Controller for Ogilvy, Hervé Thevenard has over 8 years experience monitoring advertising agency finances in running campaign projects.

What is your job’s role in advertising? I’m in charge of all the finances of the agency in the running of campaign projects and other corporate-related business – reportings, profitability, budgetary problems on projects, etc.

What’s a misconception people have about advertising? Not everyone appreciates this, and so it’s easy to neglect, but the everyday mundane paperwork of keeping your schedule planning and timesheets accurate and up-to-date are very important for the profitability of an advertising campaign as well as the future of your company.  This is because this information allows you to monitor all your expenses and time spent.  Financial controllers work with this information everyday, and many financial reports that companies use to make strategic decisions have precise deadlines, and thus rely heavily on this information. 

For example, to reconcile time spent on your advertising project or to see if a project is profitable or financially feasible, you need accurate information from everyone involved in the advertising project. If that information is incorrect, it reflects on the financial reports, which influences your advertising direction.

An important factor in evaluating the worth of an advertising campaign is on the amount of time necessary to complete the project. If you allot 10 hours for a project and you complete it in 5 hours, that’s great. But if it takes you 20 hours, then you’ll have lost time and money on the project.

What’s an important lesson you’ve learned in advertising? When pitching to a client, or when preparing for your own advertising project, prepare a VERY detailed project outline. It’s safer for you to put a lot of details of what you’re offering because if the client later wants something additional you can show them that what you originally agreed upon and that what they want isn’t included in the originally agreed upon deal.

For example, if you agree to ‘sell a website’ to a client at a set price, then afterwards the client wants more and more functionalities and options, if your project outline wasn’t very detailed as to exactly what the website would include based on the set price, then you have no choice but to say yes. This is a very common problem, especially for small projects and clients advertising on a limited budget. If you estimate a project at $5K, and then decide to include additional functionalities that may take 2 days more, then you’ve lost money in the project.

What is one of your favorite advertising campaigns? I like the Louis Vuitton website because it is so complete.

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I have a small advertising budget, any advice? Find something to create buzz. Without money you can’t go to an agency, so find freelancers. Spend it wisely.