By Justin Brouckaert, scholastic media assistant
Posted March 21, 2017
Rebecca Pittman is a media planner at Brunner, a marketing organization responsible for one of the most memorable 2017 Super Bowl advertising spots. She graduated from the College of Charleston with a bachelor's degree in communication in 2013.
Talk a little bit about your path since graduating from the College of Charleston in 2013. Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to do after graduation? How have your interests shifted over the past three or four years?
I started out at College of Charleston thinking that I would end up going to film school when I graduated. I then shifted my focus more toward public relations, and then to social media by the time I graduated. I knew I wanted to go back to Columbia for a bit after graduation, and I applied to just about every job I could find that had anything to do with communications, PR or social media. Through several conversations and a little nudging to check out some local ad association websites, I ended up on the sales team at The State newspaper. Although I didn’t know it at the time, part of my role included media planning. As I shifted jobs over time, I organically found myself moving closer and closer to an official role as a media planner.
While I had no idea my freshman year of college, or even a year after graduation, that I would be in Atlanta, working in media planning at an ad agency, I did know that somehow I was meant to be in the communications field. I had no clue what I’d do, but I was drawn to it. Through some perseverance and sheer luck, I’m now in a role in which I truly feel I belong.
What is your role at Brunner? What do you do there on a daily basis?
I am a media planner. You know how you magically see all of these ads on TV or Facebook or when you’re reading the news, and how it often seems like they’re creepily tailored to you and your interests? It’s my job to figure out that those ads will be relevant to you and then to figure out what the best way is to make sure you see those ads.
I’m typically given an objective such as “raise awareness of X product/brand” or “drive online sales.” I then dig into the brand or product with which I’m working and determine who the appropriate audience is and what the best media tactic is to disperse the messaging. I use research tools like Simmons or MRI to figure out media consumption of our audience, and then start compiling a plan based on that data. I reach out to different TV networks, digital platforms, newspapers, etc. and start negotiating costs and a schedule. I then present all of that research and strategy to the client, and keep my fingers crossed that it’s approved. Once the plan is given the go-ahead, I execute it.
That’s the really long and high-level version of what I do, but I think it’s pretty fun! I get to combine the audience data and research with my knowledge of the industry, and then use that to disperse the beautiful works of art that our brilliant creative team creates. It doesn’t get much better than that for me.
What do you like best about your job, and what do you find the most challenging?
I love the people I work with. Brunner plays host to some of the most brilliant and creative minds in the industry, and I am truly humbled to be part of that group. That aside, I love that I come into work every day knowing that I will face a new challenge. There will always be a new product launch or a new digital technology that I will have to figure out. I’m always learning, always growing. While it can certainly be tricky to keep up with all of the trends and changes in the ad industry, it’s really cool to know that each day will be different than the last.
Brunner was behind one of the most memorable commercial spots (for 84 Lumber) from the recent Super Bowl. Were you involved at all in the production of that ad? Can you speak at all to the response Brunner has received since its airing?
While I was not directly involved in the making of 84 Lumber’s “The Entire Journey” Super Bowl spot, it was a huge success for Brunner and for 84 Lumber. The entire team dedicated their time and talent to the creation, placement and dispersion of the spot, and we are thrilled with how the hard work has paid off. The outpouring of feedback and coverage has been absolutely incredible. I’ve had teachers from high school and people who I haven’t spoken to in years reaching out to me, congratulating Brunner and the client on an impactful and thought-provoking spot. I don’t think it’s possible to feel more pride for Brunner and the amazing people who work here than I do right now.
How did you first get involved with SIPA? How did the program shape your interest in journalism/communications and prepare you for your future career?
I first attended SIPA my sophomore year of high school (2008, maybe?) as part of the Silver Screen Report staff (shout out to Room 252!). It felt like home, honestly. I was never exactly a social butterfly, but it was a major bonding experience with my fellow broadcast staff and, in turn, people from other high schools.
What are some of your favorite memories from SIPA events? What did you learn or experience that still sticks with you today?
Is there still the SIPA dance? I think that was one of my “favorite” memories – watching the insanity of that. In all seriousness though, the sense of pride that SIPA allowed me to feel in my work and my fellow J-students’ work, has always stuck out to me. It’s not often that you get to produce work as a 16 or 17-year-old student, and then get recognition for it.
I also took part in the story-on-the-spot competition two years in a row. I honestly can’t even remember whether or not we won, but I do remember how much I actually enjoyed the pressure of producing a story in just a matter of hours. That’s how my life works now. I have constant deadlines, and items are sometimes due in a few days or even a few hours. If I hadn’t learned how to deal with that pressure and stress in high school and through things like SIPA, there’s no way I could handle it well today.
Goodness – I even ran for SIPA president. I completely forgot about that! While I lost, and was super disappointed about that (Max – wherever you are now, I suppose I should forgive you for getting more votes than me), I had so much fun campaigning and meeting people from all of the other schools. It really broke me out of my shell, and I am so glad to have had that experience.
What advice do you have for scholastic journalists coming up through SIPA?
Ask questions and take advantage of every opportunity you have. While you can and will learn the practical knowledge and the theory of journalism/communication in school, you learn even more through actually doing and experiencing it. Also, maintain your network and do not burn bridges. The media/communications world is an oddly small one, and you will inevitably end up running into the same circle of people again and again.