Making the Leap from Agency to Client
Matt Giese MBA’13
Associate Brand Manager, ConAgra Foods
“To get access to a lot of the top CPG jobs, previous experience helps, but it almost always takes an MBA.”
Even for those with deep industry experience, the distance from advertising agency to brand management can seem vast. Before Matt Giese came to Kelley, he was a successful account supervisor at a large interactive advertising agency. There, he helped brand managers for some of the biggest names on store shelves—Dr. Pepper, Clorox, Jack Daniels—understand the potential of digital advertising and developed imaginative new ways to use the medium.
At the same time, he understood that what he was doing affected only a small part of the overall brand strategy. Channel management, promotions, packaging, pricing—all these aspects intrigued him. He wanted the challenges of holistically managing a brand. But to make the leap from agency to client, he knew he’d need an MBA before the big names would give him a chance.
“To get access to a lot of the top CPG (consumer packaged goods) jobs, previous experience helps, but it almost always takes an MBA,” Giese says. “The top companies go to their core business schools to recruit brand managers, and it’s hard to make the jump unless you go through the typical channels.”
A school with proven success
So, when he decided to go back to school, one of his first considerations was to find a program whose graduates were successful at top consumer packaged goods companies. Giese was also looking for a program that was intensely focused on preparing students for the career search. Kelley fit the bill.
“The Consumer Marketing Academy works hard from day one to ensure we’re ready to succeed in networking and interviewing,” Giese says. “They really made sure I could speak the right language, that I was able to talk knowledgeably about industry trends, and ask smart questions in those early networking events.”
Giese landed a highly competitive internship at Procter & Gamble after his first year, where he focused on e-commerce for its oral care division.
“There were three components to my project. First, I did an analysis of how much growth P&G could expect and an examination of what other brands had done. Next, I worked on a strategy for growing the business—which retailers and consumer segments were most promising. Finally, there was a creative aspect—actually leading the development of an e-commerce site,” Giese says.
It was an incredible learning experience. When choosing a full-time position, however, his decision came down to fit.
Education for career preparation
“I saw ConAgra as kind of a new company in a way,” he says. “As far as being a truly integrated packaged goods company, they’re still evolving. They don’t always have an established process for every single aspect of marketing. It’s fun to be in that environment. It feels entrepreneurial—a lot like the agency background I came from.”
As an associate brand manager for the company’s Banquet frozen foods brand, he’ll draw deeply on his Kelley experiences.
“In brand management, you’re working in cross-functional teams most of the time,” Giese says. “You touch a lot of different aspects of the business and rely on the people who’ve been working in those areas for 20 years who know what’s best for your product and your consumer. Kelley was great preparation for that environment.”