Danni Sparkes: Marketing Manager
We caught up with Danni to find out more about her story.
Explain a little about yourself and the role you play in the creative communications industry, e.g. what inspired you to pursue a career in the creative industry? Did you always know you wanted to work in marketing?
Born into a family of accountants and bankers, at a young age I realised I was far more proficient in promoting my homemade lemonade stand, rather than counting the money I had earned from my efforts.
My father used to work (as an accountant) for Ogilvy and Mather, when they had an office in Adelaide in the 90’s. From a young age I was exposed to the creative environment. I knew right from the beginning I wanted to work in advertising in some capacity - I just didn’t know how I could fit in.
I ambitiously started a University degree in Media, majoring in Design at the University of South Australia. It became quickly evident that, whilst I enjoyed art and design, I wasn’t particularly good at it. I didn’t give up, I just realised that a career in a creative field was just going to be a little less linear. I then shifted my energy (and Degree Major) into business subjects that I was good at (not accounting). I then trusted that if I could work with someone else who could design, draw or create, that bringing our skills together meant we could make fantastic things happen.
Now, I am proud to have under my belt two degrees, 10 years of experience in marketing, branding and campaign management, and have for the last 2 years been the Marketing Manager for one of South Australia’s biggest mutual organisations, RAA. Working client side, I collaborate with Adelaide’s (arguably) best ad agencies to create campaigns that help RAA products go to market.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Meeting and working with creative and clever people.
At a more macro level, the change in the industry is something truly exciting. It’s just knowing how to create opportunities out of the challenges that comes with change. During my early University days that I realised that the job I wanted didn’t even exist yet. Instead, I focussed my energy on gaining the most amount of skills I could, and building a network of people that I could learn from and be inspired by.
What do you find to be the biggest challenge working in the creative communications/ marketing industry?
Keeping up with our disrupted, evolving world of change in all aspects of media, technology, data, NPD, creativity, PR and journalism.
It’s difficult to know how to use (or not use) the masses of information and news at our disposal. We are in an age that is so connected. What I have learned though, is that the worst thing to do is nothing.
Another challenge is breaking into the industry at the start. Getting that first initial job is one of the first hurdles to get over. It starts with patience, building your network, the willingness to work hard, and doing whatever it takes to get noticed and stand out from the pack.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the industry, particularly young women interested in pursuing a role in marketing?
First and foremost, you must have optimism, grit and tenacity. Don’t underestimate the power of rolling up your sleeves and being a hard worker. I truly believe if you want something done, give it to a busy person. At any stage of your career you should be able to have the right attitude to do any task with enthusiasm.
Secondly, being talented is important, but you must also have to have a sense of business. Try to strive for that commercial and creative balance. I found studying a Masters in business built my network even more than I could have anticipated. I got a lot more out our post-graduate study than my under-graduate degree.
From a more career direction perspective, it is crucial to gain multiple skill sets. We are in a world of rapid change and disruption. Try not to specialise, but rather be a polymath that is creative and curious.
How do you believe the industry could be more accommodating to women?
It would be fantastic to see the creation of pathways into more male-dominated streams such as coding and technology.
Fortunately, the pay gap is lowest in South Australia (9.2%) when compared to other states, so organisations are beginning to close that gap. We do have a long way to go though.
Women don’t want a cupcake on International Women’s Day, we want fair pay, opportunities to advance our career, and the ability to not need to sacrifice our careers to start a family.
We also need our male leaders in the industry to step up and mitigate unconscious bias, as well as act as enablers to normalise men working flexibly and spending time with their children/families. This, in turn, helps women with their careers and creates opportunities.