Molly Flynn: I recently heard a great quote, “it’s not a career ladder it’s a jungle gym.” You’ve held an array of positions in film and television, and now you’re a content producer at Hill Holliday. Can you elaborate on your career jungle gym?
Arestia Rosenberg: From a young age I’ve known that storytelling is my thing. I went to film school at Boston University to pursue that passion. After college, I moved home to California to dive into the film industry in Hollywood. I landed my first job working for a studio executive, but soon I started working for a production company. During that role I realized that what I thought I wanted I didn’t want anymore. I hit the reset button and started thinking about leaving production, but then I was asked to work on a movie in Boston and I jumped at the opportunity. After the movie in Boston wrapped I wasn’t ready to leave entertainment and film all together, but I also didn’t know what that would look like outside of Los Angeles. I spent some time freelancing, at a production company that did television, and worked on a few movies that came through Boston. Now I’m pursuing film making at the advertising agency, Hill Holliday.
M: What did you learn while you were working on major motion pictures and television production, and how does it translate to your job at Hill Holliday?
A: I sometimes get a lot of flack because the kind of producer that I am at Hill Holliday is not a typical advertising producer. However, working in Hollywood and learning about production on a very large scale has been beneficial. I used to work on film sets with crews of 200 people. Now I can take a crew of 10 on my team at Hill, and manage them effectively on set.
M: On your LinkedIn profile you wrote, “I like to think I make the non-ads in advertising”. Can you elaborate on that statement?
A: Hill Holliday is an advertising agency, but my job title there is "Content Producer". Advertisements (ie. television commercials) typically interrupt your life, while content enriches it. Hill defines content as any marketing execution that a consumer chooses to spend time with. At Hill we strive to create content that will add value to your life, it just so happens that a brand is included in that relationship.
M: You’re a believer in the power of storytelling. What kind of storytelling is effective, and how does in drive great content?
A: I love storytelling because it has been part of our culture forever, but the mediums of how these stories are being told are changing. At its core, storytelling is just a good form of communication. When storytelling is done well, it can significantly enhance a customer’s relationship with a brand. A great story happens when there are characters that you are rooting for. It doesn’t necessarily matter what happens to the characters in the story, but they have to be relatable to your audience.
You can tell when an advertisement goes horrifically wrong. With poor storytelling brands can be viewed as inauthentic and not true to their values. Ineffective storytelling results in a disconnect between the brand and the consumer.
M: What’s one of your favorite stories that you’ve told for a client?
A: The project that stands out the most to me at the moment was for the One Fund. At Hill, I was on a team that worked on a series of videos and curated a gallery of items, letters, photos, and quotes of survivors from the Boston Marathon bombings. The project was called: One Fund, Many Stories. From that tragic day there were so many inspiring stories that came from it. We wanted to showcase the experience of people coming together, and to revisit the survivors a year later to hear their stories as well.
M: What's the best part about your job as a content producer?
A: As much as I love what I do, I wouldn’t as much if I didn’t love the people I work with. You could have your “dream job”, but if you don’t click with your co-workers forget about it. When you’re on a team of people that understand and support you, that’s when innovation and productivity happen.
M: Elaborating on content and creating, you are a cofounder of the group Boston Content. What inspired you to start this group?
A: When I started my job at Hill Holliday, I hadn’t worked in advertising or content creation before. I found myself exploring a vastly new frontier and was looking for a support system. I was introduced to my co-founder of Boston Content, Jay Acunzo, who was working in content too. I found my relationship with him to be immensely valuable. We both came from different backgrounds yet we found ourselves in the same field, but we also had completely different roles within the content field. The collaboration between the two of us was great. It was so beneficial to have a different perspective to bounce ideas off of.
We realized that there really wasn’t a space in Boston for people in content to connect. We wanted to create an opportunity for content makers of all kinds to flourish. At the same time, I was struggling to find people that were the right fit for my growing team at Hill Holliday. I wanted to create a group where people could learn more about content and its opportunities for all kinds of makers and marketers that would also serve as a great resource for people to network and find work. From there, Boston Content was born.
M: You mentioned you were struggling to find the right people to hire. For someone who is looking to work in the content field, what's your advice? What are some of the skills or qualities that companies like Hill Holliday look for when hiring?
A: Regardless of what position you have in our department, you have to be able to write. If you’re not a strong writer, we can’t bring you on.
Also, I still go back and guest speak at Boston University, and when students ask me what they need to do to get hired one of the main things I emphasize is to be a person. Be real. Be authentic. Hiring managers can see through the bullshit. We know that as a student right out of college, you really don’t know anything. What I want to know is:
a. Can I spend 8 hours a day, 5 days a week with you?
b. Do you have interests that make you a dynamic person?
You have to be passionate about something, and eager to learn. A curiosity for the world is vital. With content, we are always trying to create new and interesting stories from different places. When you have passions outside of work, it's easier to find inspiration.
M: What are ways for new grads to establish themselves, and gain respect?
A: I always tell young people at Hill Holliday, I want to see them fully engaged and being a part of communities. Join communities like Boston Content, or other networking communities that are aligned with your values. Meet professionals who are more experienced than you and express your desire to learn. This will help you establish yourself, and get your foot in the door.
Follow Arestia on twitter @arestiaR