The Marketing Institute: What does a Head of Brand at Paddy Power Betfair do?
Emer McCarthy: There’s never a dull day, with two betting brands, each with differentiated brand ideas, distinct visual identities and segmented target markets. Unlike other partner brands, the Paddy Power and Betfair brands must activate around the same sports events, at the same time of year. So clear brand planning is needed to ensure we don’t compete with each other. It keeps me busy.
MII: What were your key career moves to get to your current role?
Emer: Ten years in O2 gave me exposure to lots of marketing disciplines. I cut my teeth in retail marketing, the principles of which have never left me. But it was in ATL comms that I found my flow. And not only selling phones or price-plans, but projects like The O2 music venue and the Irish Rugby team sponsorship gave me experience of the music and sports industries. And I think that’s how I found myself working in Betfair. I’ve been very lucky.
MII: What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?
Emer: Paddy Power Betfair is only one year into the company merger. Both brands are well established and have competed directly with each other for many years. So right now, my biggest challenge lies internally. We need to ensure that everyone in the company understands both brands – what drives them, where they should be evident, when they should come to life -and when they shouldn’t.
MII: What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Emer: You obviously need to know your stuff when it comes to brand and advertising. But all that goes out the window if you can’t manage and negotiate with your stakeholders. Being able to not just negotiate, but also listen to stakeholders, ensures you build a level of trust with them. And that applies to any role I’ve been in over the years.
MII: Describe a typical working day.
Emer: No two days are alike. It could swing from creating brand guidelines to briefing campaigns to our agency, Lucky Generals. Every day involves some form of agency management – and I think that’s the most important part of my day. It might only be a short email or a quick call, but ensuring the agency receive great briefs and are afforded every creative opportunity, gives us the best chance of great work. Then there are days, like during the Cheltenham festival, where everyone rolls up the sleeves and does whatever is needed.
MII: What do you love most about your role?
Emer: I love advertising. Always have. So having an input into the Paddy Power and Betfair campaigns in the UK, Europe and the US makes it easier to get up in the morning. I also love my football, so it’s not lost on me that I get paid to jump on a plane and meet FC Barcelona in the Camp Nou. It’s not a bad job.
MII: Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next?
Emer: I find the further up the ladder I climb, the further removed from the creative process I become. And being involved in the creative process is where I love to be. My current role has a great balance of both. It’s always good to know what it is that makes you happy and more importantly – what doesn’t. So I’d like to see where we can take the Paddy Power and Betfair brands in the future. And for a brand like Paddy Power, it’s always going to be fun.
MII: To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?
Emer: Dave Trott, the advertising planner and all ‘round advertising legend is my hero. I often go back to his books when I’m feeling uninspired. Ed Catmull from Pixar tells a great story about how creativity applies to business; I love his book. I’m also lucky to have had brilliant mentors – people like Damian Devaney (Smurfit), Johnny Cahill (Heineken) and Paul Dervan (Indeed) drove me insane – but taught me everything I know.