Q&A with Mindshare Indonesia rising star Farhan Siregar

Farhan SiregarFarhan Siregar is one of Mindshare Indonesia’s brightest young talents. A product of GroupM’s Media Masters programme, three years on the 27 year-old now leads the national planning team for Unilever’s oral care business.

In this Q&A, Siregar talks about what he did and didn’t learn about media at university, what his parents and friends think he does for a living, the best, hardest and most frustrating things about his job, and why clients and agencies should be thinking about “the right way” to spend on digital in Indonesia.

Which university did you go to?

The University of Indonesia. I majored in broadcast communications then got a masters in mass communications.

Do you feel that what you learned at university prepared you for the real world of working in the media business?

We were taught enough about the traditional world of media, the media owner side of the business, and about news and news writing. But not about media planning. It was just a small part of the two-year course – only one semester.

What did you learn on the media planning part of the course?

We were given a brief to launch Revlon. Our task was to write a media plan for the brand. It was pretty straightforward.

Did you learn anything about digital media at university?

No. I learned about digital when I came to Mindshare.

What did you learn on Mindshare’s Media Masters program?

We were taught everything, from A to Z, from investment, planning and digital, to how to present and sell ideas.

What job did you get at the end of it?

I got a position as a media planner on the Mondelez business, reporting to Rubin Suardi [Mindshare Indonesia’s partner, who was recently appointed head of brand and marketing communications at Nestle].

Was this your first job?

No, previously I worked as a freelance video editor.

What did you think about the job when you first started?

It was exciting and completely new. To be honest, I wasn’t aware that for a brand to appear in the media requires so much thought and planning.

Describe the culture at Mindshare. What do you like about working there?

Most of us are young. I’d say the average age is between 24 and 35. If you have a job working for the government, there is no way you could challenge the authority of your boss. But here, you can discuss anything with anyone, it’s very open. You are free to talk about your life outside of work too, which is so important. And when there’s some downtime at work, there’s fun stuff to do, like play Xbox, surf YouTube or Google some trends. People don’t complain if you do your job and do it well.

What’s the hardest thing about your job?

Finding the right insight. Once you’ve cracked that, you’re half way there. But there’s no right way to uncover an insight and there’s no short cut. And there’s only so much you can do with data. You have to go to your target audience to get a genuine understanding and appreciation of the people you’re trying to reach.

What’s the most frustrating thing about your job?

Sometimes clients have amnesia. Say, we have agreed to a certain direction, and on a certain date to launch, then they suddenly change their minds at short notice.

A big part of agency life in Jakarta is getting around, which isn’t easy in a congested, fast-growing city. How long does it take you to get to work?

Sudirman, downtown Jakarta, at rush hour during Ramadan

Sudirman, downtown Jakarta, rush hour, Ramadan

I live a long way from Jakarta, in Depok, a town south of the capital. It takes me, without traffic, 45 minutes to get to work on the bus. With traffic, it makes me one and a half to two hours. I usually wait for traffic to ease in the late afternoon before going home.

What do you make of the salary you get paid when you start at Mindshare Indonesia?

Compared to other graduates in other media agencies and in media owners, I think we get well paid. But compared to my some of my friends who work in engineering or the oil industry, the salary is definitely lower.

What do you think the perception is of what you do among the general public?

Before I worked here, I must say I hadn’t heard of Mindshare nor did I know what the company did. When I called parents to tell them I’d got a job here, they asked what is it that I will actually do. Advertising in general they understand. And I think even now they think my job is to create rather than place ads. Even my friends think that.

You’re a digital native. What do you make of the gap between where money is being spent on media in Indonesia (the vast majority on traditional media, particularly TV) and where people are actually spending their time?

I think the gap is reducing. Together, ourselves and clients are trying to give digital more attention than before. But to be honest, my target market is the lower socio-group economic group, where the digital part of their lives is only mobile. We tend to think that we need to increase digital spend, but we need to be spending in the right way.

So where next in your career? Where do you see yourself in the near future?

I have two ambitions – both are still in media and marketing. In five to 10 years, if I am still at at media agency, I would like to head a group, running a team of people. I also would like to work on the client side.

What are you most proud of in your career so far?

My last campaign for Pepsodent toothpaste. It was a big campaign. Mothers sung our song in a competition to win a house, and appeared in a Dangdutz dance video.


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