POSE & FOCUS: WOMEN IN ADVERTISING - MEL FERRER WALTER
One of the brightest personalities …hands down…in advertising. With her hot pink lipstick, giving heart and creative mind, Mel has made a name for herself in the industry. Having a resume that includes popular brands such as Myspace, Sony and Buzzfeed, she provides a great perspective on what it takes to make it as a leader and woman in the biz. I had the privilege of getting to know Mel very well during my time working on Hyundai and Kia, and what she speaks is truth. Work hard, ask for what you want, and create your own opportunities. So lets get to it and learn more about Mel.
For those that are not familiar with the industry, please provide a description of what you do. I am responsible for driving revenue for BuzzFeed across the Auto, CPG, Retail, and QSR verticals. I manage a team of very talented sellers who I feel fortunate to work with every single day.
How did you first become interested in advertising? I love storytelling and imagery. I was that kid that tore apart magazines and created collages on my walls to express myself, changing the design and layout weekly. Advertising is a very natural fit for someone that likes to tell stories.
What made you want to pursue a career in sales? I stumbled into the digital world at the best possible time. Prior to my career in advertising, I was a Creative Executive at Sony working on movies. My primary job was to read scripts…hundreds of them…all in service of finding the right material to develop into a movie. That process moves at a glacial pace, and I was so fascinated at how quickly the new digital world operated. The speed, nimbleness and ability to bring ideas to life quickly are what ultimately hooked me.
What is one unexpected expectation/duty of your job that most wouldn’t know? That you have to be a psychologist…. constantly analyzing the needs of your team, your clients, your creative. You have to be the glue that holds everyone together.
What does a typical day look like for you? Does it include any daily rituals? There is no typical day. Every day is different. The only constant is that it’s going to be challenging in some way…MOST of the time in good ways. My only true ritual is sweat. I have to exert myself physically or else I’m no good to anyone. Movement and exercise is equally about my mental health as well as my physical health.
What are the top pressures in your position? Revenue, Revenue, Revenue. I work with the team that keeps the lights on. Pressure also comes from clients always wanting bigger, better, never been done before ideas all the time. When you’re working in a creative capacity, it’s a challenge to keep clients happy all the time when creative ideas are subjective.
I also put a lot of pressure on myself to keep my team happy and well balanced. I pride myself on making sure that my team is set up for success and has a solid work life balance. We work in advertising; we’re not curing cancer. If you’re not having fun, it’s time to re-evaluate.
What personal traits do you contribute to your success? One of my most useful traits is my ability to be adaptable and read a room. I think it’s extremely important to listen and understand what the people are like around you. I also use my multi-tasking skillz to my advantage. I am very much a get it done kind of gal, and live/die by my to-do list. Lastly, I can be equally aggressive and equally nurturing. I don’t think that one vs. the other defines a “successful” businessperson…especially in our industry. There are 1,001 ways to get to a winning outcome.
Any big success stories that stand out the most when looking back at your career journey thus far? Without naming names, I am very proud of the ongoing partnerships I’ve built with brands. To be able to say that some of my clients have been my clients for nearly 10 years is no easy feat…people burn out!...but I’m still standing, and have so much farther to go. I have the unique perspective (and great privilege) of working for 2 digital companies that made a lasting impact. I was at MySpace during its prime days, and now I’m witnessing how BuzzFeed impacts the news and culture every single day.
What was your professional highlight within the last year? 2 great series were produced this year. 1-Tasty Date Night…a first of its kind series we produced in partnership with Toyota. 2-Young Entrepreneur Series…another first of its kind series we produced in partnership with Hyundai. This one has a special place in my heart because through this content, we were able to make real world impact. As a result of our work, received over 700 emails from people who want to help, including organizations like Uber, Whole Foods, and SpaceX
How did you end up working in Los Angeles? I attended the University of Southern California and never left Los Angeles. It’s home.
What was your first gig in the industry and what were the steps you took to get hired? My first job was an assistant to a line producer on a feature film called “The Brothers”. I had no idea what I was doing, but I figured it out. I think that’s an extremely important quality. If you don’t know how to do something, figure it out. Ask questions. Be curious. Don’t be afraid to look dumb.
What advice would you give women who are thinking of working in the industry? 1. Find your tribe! Network and put yourself out there and make contacts everywhere. 2. Do your job and the job you aspire to have. You have to create your own opportunities. 3. Once you start to rise in your organization, always think about how you can lift people up. 4. Positive energy is contagious and the best currency you can have in business.
What has changed in the industry from when you first started out? The advertising industry is always changing. From radio to print to cable to TV to digital…it’s in a constant state of evolution. You can choose to see the frustration in that, or see the opportunity.
When starting out, any mistakes you learned from that you would like to share? Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want in terms of salary and title. The worst they can say is no.
In moments of self-doubt, how do you pick up and keep moving forward? In moments of self-doubt, feel what you need to feel in the moment, but try to gain greater perspective and gratitude for what IS working. Then take some deep breaths, pull yourself together, put on some bright lipstick, and get back in the game.
With just three adjectives, describe yourself. Vibrant, Multifaceted, Loving
What is one interesting thing about you that most people don’t know? That I used to be a professional tandem surfer (that’s two people doing acrobatics on a surfboard). At 17 I competed internationally, and tried to defer college, so I could move to Hawaii surf all day everyday. My parents were not down with that hahaha.
What does the word “success” mean to you? I define success as having a work/life balance, and knowing I have the freedom to do work that fulfills me beyond money. Success is having choices and a voice. Success is feeling valued.
As women we tend to have a lot of roles between home and work. How do you manage a healthy routine between personal and work responsibilities? It’s a juggle and all you can do is try your best to prioritize what is most pressing for the day.
What are your go to resources for inspiration? Instagram. I search locations and hashtags for places that I want to travel to. Nothing beats visual inspiration.
In sales you get exposure to a lot of really great restaurants. What is your #1 recommended restaurant in Los Angeles right now? And what menu items are a must?
Solid reccos: Gjelina, Mozza—both never disappoint for pizza and salads
Recco of the moment: Felix—great addition to Abbot Kinney Blvd., super delicious pastas
Classic recco: Chateau Marmont…this is an LA institution. Always cool.
What is one thing in Los Angeles you have been dying to do/try, but haven’t had the chance to yet? Staycation on the East Side! I want to spend a weekend in an old Los Feliz home and do things/eat at places that are just too far from Venice. OR, I’d like to spend the night in the fancy Airstream Trailer park in Malibu.
Los Angeles Rapid Fire Qs: Top Pick
1. The Grove or Americana? Never been to the Americana…too far east hahaha!
2. K-ZO or SugarFish? Sugarfish
3. UCLA or USC? DUH…FIGHT ON FOREVER. USC
4. 405 or the 101? Neither, I go where Google maps takes me
5. Fast Track or Carpool? EV baby….I got dem stickers. Carpool lane all the way!
6. Shutters or Terranea? Aw man…that’s tough. Shutters is good for in town, Terranea is like leaving LA without actually leaving.
7. Museum of Ice Cream or Getty Museum? Museum of Ice Cream…you don’t get churro ice cream at the Getty hahaha
Thank you for your support in reading this post! Pose&Focus: Women in Advertising is my personal passion project dedicated to highlights women in the advertising industry through interviews and creative expression. Having been in the business myself for over a decade, I found it very important for women (and men) to support female leadership in our community & industry. Especially with our current political climate this mission is more important to me than ever before. I want our female readers to know when they come here they will get solid advice and actionable steps that they can use to elevate their own careers. To learn more about upcoming posts or when nominations for future volumes will open, follow me on Instagram or Linkedin for the latest news.
Thank you and be cool.