How to hire your next media buyer and creative strategist


Hiring is hard. You get a couple 60 minute sessions to decide whether a total stranger is going to be a fit for your team. Not easy at all.

It's even harder if you haven't taken the time to document what success looks like for that specific role. You end up getting sucked in to all sorts of personal bias—using your gut to determine what you'd like from the person across from you. You end up with more of a first date than an interview.

If you want to hire better, get clear about what it looks like to be successful in that role.

The good / bad doc

The team at Common Thread Collective have taken an old document written by Ben Horowitz called Good Product Manager / Bad Product Manager, and applied that to roles across the agency.

Let's take the paid media buyer role, for example. The process makes you think about what a good paid media buyer does, and what a bad paid media buyer does. Once you get define and document it, you get a more objective picture of what you're looking for in interviews.

And you end up hiring better.

Taylor Holiday has been kind enough to share two of their internal good / bad docs for the paid media buyer and creative strategist roles.

It's been helpful for their team. Hope it helps you, too.

Good paid media buyer / bad paid media buyer

A good Paid Media Buyer is relentless about account performance. They have situational awareness in all of their accounts and know what is working and why. A good PMB takes ownership of the success of their accounts on the social platforms and thinks about success from a holistic point of view. A good PMB breaks through foam walls to solve performance issues. 

A bad PMB makes excuses for unsuccessful accounts while a good PMB continues to adapt and iterate to find success. A good PMB continues to test copy and creative combinations, utilizing every tool that is at their disposal in order to win for the client, whether that be increasing the account’s ROAS, spend, or creative. A good PMB knows when to ask for help, collaborates with their peers, and knows how to utilize the wealth of knowledge within our ecosystem to constantly be an asset to their team. A bad PMB tries too long on their own and is afraid to ask for help. A bad PMB gets discouraged and fails to persevere when the account is not at success. 

A good PMB leverages machine learning and best practices in order to tap into the full power of FB. A bad PMB tries to hack their way to success, wasting valuable effort that could be used in top-level strategy. A good PMB is aware of their clients’ budget targets and constraints and is not afraid to spend their client’s money because they are confident in their abilities and strategy. A bad paid media buyer hesitates to spend their client’s money because they aren’t confident in their abilities and fail to think through their strategy. 

A good PMB is an asset to their team constantly communicating what is happening in the account and flagging any potential issues or concerns. A bad media buyer keeps their team in the dark on what is happening in the account and doesn’t foresee potential issues. A good PMB loves to learn about cutting edge media buying tactics and is able to deploy these quickly for the client. A good PMB wants to test new tactics and share findings with their team and the company as a whole. A bad PMB is not willing to change and continues to use old methods of media buying.

A good PMB thinks about the client holistically, not just in the ad account. They spend time looking through the content on organic social, email, and the client’s website——taking the whole customer journey and profitability into account when making decisions. A bad PMB looks at client success through the limited window of Facebook ROAS and is therefore limited in how much value they can add to the client. 

A good PMB has reasoning behind every decision they make. They use historical account data to make informed hypotheses and create strategies based on the tests they want to conduct.  A bad PMB relies on impulse and has a lack of data-driven decision making, unable to provide clear reasons for the decisions they make in their accounts.

A good PMB takes calculated spending risks and is confident in their ability to manage large budgets. A bad PMB is not willing to spend to learn due to a lack of confidence in their abilities and the process.

A good PMB continues to reach out to their ADmission members because they want to help them achieve their dreams. A good PMB wants to provide ADmission members with support, training, and expertise to help them grow. A bad PMB neglects the needs of their ADmission members due to bad priorities.

A bad PMB gets overwhelmed when performance is below success and becomes paralyzed or tries to fix the problem through forced spend. When things go wrong they don’t have a process for fixing the problem and accept defeat. They don’t take accountability and are quick to pass the blame on to the client’s website, the team’s creative, or any number of other things. 

A good PMB follows the ever-growing “How To Solve A Problem” doc when their account is not performing at success. They begin their investigation and do not stop trying to solve the problem until it is solved. This can include deep data dives, googling, going to other team members, anything in their capacity to find and solve the problem(s) in the account.

Good creative strategist / bad creative strategist

A good Creative Strategist brings life to their team. Why? Because weird facts, new eats, and cultural critiques are worth giving a damn about. They care about their loved ones and know when to power down work and open up to what inspires them. 

Bad Creative Strategists are bored with or uninterested in the larger world, or they’re ashamed of their passions and refuse to share. 

Good Creative Strategists are relentlessly curious about their clients, their work, and the products they sell. Bad Creative Strategists neglect certain clients because their product is dull.

Bad Creative Strategists are aloof - aloof about people and their clients. Their ego cannot fit in an elevator. Bad Creative Strategists push an idea through because it's ‘theirs’ rather than looking out for their client’s needs. Bad Creative Strategists are unwilling to accept outside critique or ‘fresh eyes’ on their concepts.

Good Creative Strategists love the craft of advertising. Bad Creative Strategists secretly harbor a distaste or disdain for advertising as a creative pursuit.

Bad Creative Strategists nurse a resentment that they’re not writing a TV show or writing the great American Novel. 

Good Creative Strategists actually are working on a TV show or Great American Novel in their off-hours (if that’s they’re passion).

Good Creative Strategists have an innate sense of the “right” and “wrong” creative choice, and they’re willing to send work back to the kitchen when it isn’t up to their standards.

Bad Creative Strategists don’t critique their peers or themselves. Sub-par creative gets pitched to the client on their watch. 

Good Creative Strategists mesmerize through design thinking and human-centered storytelling. When a Good Creative Strategist rejects work that’s not good enough, they’re able to explain why so clearly that the person who received the critique is excited and inspired to do better.

Good Creative Strategists are confident enough to stand their ground on their creative. The reason good Creative Strategists are willing to fight for their Art Designers’ work is because they are passionately committed to their clients’ vision and success. 

They believe in their process and are willing to put up with a bit of discomfort in order to get the best outcome. Good creative strategists thirst for new and innovative ways to bring out the best content possible for their client.

Bad Creative Strategists quickly become a “yes man” because in the moment that might feel right. They don’t realize that sacrificing their beliefs can end in a toxic and draining client partnership.