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ARMLife Interview with International Group Account Director Jessica Viles

In this month’s article, we spoke with International Group Account Director, Jessica Viles, about moving from London to Amsterdam, the challenges she faced along the way and her one piece of advice for those looking to move to a new country.

Arianna Ross: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you first started in the media industry?

Jessica Viles: I grew up in Woking and studied at Bournemouth University, where I pursued an advertising degree with the hopes of moving into the creative world. However, after realising I was better working with a spreadsheet than a pencil, I decided to explore media planning instead.

Prior to moving to London and starting at All Response Media, I worked at a very small agency called TMA, and in 2010 I was invited to participate in a graduate day at All Response Media. This led to an offer to work as a media executive alongside another ARM veteran, Maria Yiangou. When I first started there were around only 50 people in the office, which differs a lot from the present day.

AR: What was your first role at ARM and how did you start working internationally?

JV:  Though it was typical for teams to work across both online and offline media, I booked predominately online media when I first started, on (ARM board director) Dylan Moss’ team. My first taste of working with Dutch media came later when I was introduced to the JML account, and as time went on I shifted my focus to TV buying across the Netherlands and Belgium. ARM began to grow rapidly and we continued jumping into regions we had not bought media in before.

A few years ago, the ARM board in consultation with an existing client, started due diligence on the creation of a Dutch media business. When talks turned into action, I decided to put myself forward; to go all in and move. Truthfully, I was ready to leave London and move somewhere different so when the opportunity came up it was the perfect blend of the right time, new challenge and new place. I had always wanted to live and work abroad, so this opportunity seemed perfect.

AR: So, what does your role in Amsterdam entail?

JV: As an International Group Account Director, my main responsibilities revolve around running the team on the day-to-day tasks for our clients. However, because there are only 5 of us in Amsterdam – but actively hiring – I also work as the part time office manager and chief dishwasher emptier! In addition to team management, I help run our trading deals, maintain relationships with media owners in new countries, work on new business and increase exposure through events and PR.

We currently plan and buy media in France, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and many more.

AR: What are the main challenges with taking ARM to new countries?

JV: Our company ethos revolves around data and accountability, but when we expand to new regions, we don’t always have the systems and resources to allow us to access data in the same way that we do in the UK. Therefore, we have to be very resourceful to find alternative methods to be just as effective. Although there may be extra hurdles to jump over, it is exciting to research and pursue various markets for our clients. Whether it is Italy or UAE, we invest our time into learning all that we can.

Personally, I really enjoy this challenge. Although at times it may be overwhelming, it makes everything more thrilling when you find yourself moving into new countries quicker than you could have anticipated! Overall, we are finding everyone is really receptive to our DRTV proposition, which is great.

It’s also vital that the culture is reinforced but allowed to evolve in a way that’s appropriate to market. Aspects such as our proprietary technology, training and development is still housed in London in the main, and there is always a constant flow of UK ARM’ers coming through our office, scoping European roll-out opportunities for our clients.

AR: Has anything surprised you since working there?

JV: I had not realised how disruptive holiday schedules can be! Because some European countries will take an entire month off in the summer, you need to take the schedules into account when trying to plan strategies. It is a major learning curve adjusting plans to ensure you get things done, though it may not have been in the month you wanted. Unlike the UK, when people take holiday, everyone is off so you can’t rely on other contacts within the same company to move things forward.

AR: How was your experience moving to a new country? 

JV: I am not going to lie, during the first month, all I kept thinking was “what have I done?” I had arrived in December and Amsterdam was dark, wet and uninviting. To make matters worse, I really struggled to find a place to live, as renting property here is difficult. However, once I bought my bike, learned some Dutch and made some friends, I started to absolutely love it. I just bought a flat so I do see this as a long-term move.

Amsterdam is a fantastic place to live. I have gotten used to the 15 minute commute through the park on my bike versus an hour on a sweaty tube! I love how I can get everywhere quickly and it helps that there is a huge expat community full of people who are keen to make new friends and experience new adventures. The main law of living here is that bikes have right of way, so once you learn that everything else is easy.

AR: Do you have any advice for people looking to move and work abroad?

JV: This may seem obvious, but I encourage people to really look into the housing situation, taxes and visas before they move. There are always surprises once you arrive but eliminating unknowns prior to coming helps a lot!

Also, be prepared to really put yourself out there as you are basically starting your life from scratch. I used meetup.com to attend events to build my network and had a lot of fun. When you move abroad, you realise that you can change your situation at any time. Nothing is ever set in stone so if you want a change, go for it.

AR: What is your favourite part about working at ARM?

JV: My favourite part is that there is no limit to what you can do when you work at ARM. The agency will not put a cap on what you can achieve, so if you want to do something and you’re capable of doing it, then they will absolutely let you. This was definitely the case with my move to Amsterdam.

AR: Where do you see the future of ARM in Amsterdam?

JV: Over the next 5 years, we will focus heavily on growth and new business. Long term, I don’t see why we can’t expand our offices to build out our global proposition beyond just Northern Europe. The new opening of our Boston office also reinforces our show of ambition. The opportunity in the US market for the customer acquisition expertise we have is huge as is the existing talent pool within our business that we can draw on to realise these goals. That’s the exciting reality at ARM, we’re as entrepreneurial as our clients are.

AR: What are you passionate about?

JV: I started taking a pottery class when I moved here in an attempt to meet people and I loved it so much that I have not stopped! It is nice to do something with my hands rather than just work with excel spreadsheets.

AR: What’s your favourite ’90s jam? And why?

JV: My favourite 90s jam is Would I Lie to You by Charles & Eddie. It was the only cassette I had when I had my first car so I used to cruise around the mean streets of Surrey blaring it out.

AR: If you could sum up your time at ARM in one phrase what would it be? 

JV: Challenging but rewarding. It is one of those places where you get various tasks thrown at you all the time, but if you work hard, you are rewarded.