Me In Merkle is a series of interviews that showcase the incredible individuals who make Merkle a unique and diverse place to work. This week we chatted to Benjamin Gravell, junior strategist, at Merkle B2B.
Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
Hi, I’m Ben and I’m a Junior Strategist at Merkle B2B. I love music (90’s hip hop and old rock are my faves), Frank’s hot sauce and sneakers. I grew up in a place called Epsom in Surrey (most famous for relaxing bath salts and the Derby horserace), but I now live in Ricky Gervais’ beloved Slough (or “Upper Eton” depending on who you’re talking to, and the impression you’d like to make).
What drew you to your current career?
I’ve always being really interested in people and the psychology behind human behaviour. I also love brands and making stuff. After finishing four years of Philosophy at university, one key question remained on my mind, “what now?”. After a stint in a small creative start-up, I stumbled across a job description for an advertising account planner and thought “well, that!”. Essentially, I couldn’t believe my luck that such a job existed.
What opportunities do you see coming from the newly merged DWA + gyro into MerkleB2B?
The opportunity to unify and utilise the combined power of all the brilliant creative and media minds that make up Merkle B2B. Having this large and multi-faceted team come together to solve any and every problem for our clients, whilst also delivering brilliant work. And ultimately, to be the best B2B agency in town!
What advice would you give to somebody pursuing a career within Strategy?
Don’t give up when you're trying to get that first strategy role, it can take time. It took me four and a half years working in client services before I moved into strategy. Also, don’t get too hung up on pure strategy positions. You can get a great foundation just being in an agency. Once you’re on the inside, get close to the strategists, let them know your aspirations and get involved wherever you can. Everyone is always looking for an extra pair of hands!
Also, be interested and interesting. Read everything and anything you can, especially that which doesn’t fall within your immediate interests.
B2B may not be the home of the ‘sexy’ brands, but what would you tell somebody considering pivoting from B2C?
Advertising is all about using communication to solve problems for brands. And you are going to enjoy solving B2B problems just as much, if not more, than those you find in B2C. The B2B world is full of big, chunky, complex problems and challenges (a strategist’s dream!). Plus getting under the skin of the brands, their offerings and the audiences they are trying to engage is extremely interesting.
Also, these days more and more ‘sexy’ brands are operating in the B2B space so don’t worry, your friends and family are still likely to have heard of lots of the brands you’d be working on!
Are you involved in any of our DEI pillars? If so, which ones?
Currently I’m not, but I think they are an extremely important and valuable part of the business.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
That’s a hard one… I wrote a 20,000 word dissertation on consciousness at university that I was pretty proud of. I had a year to complete it, but had to start again from scratch with only 3 months before the submission date after my laptop was stolen from my student house (a nice finish to the summer term (not!)).
I also made a guitar for Design and Technology A-Level, which I’ve always thought was kind of cool.
Tell us a bit about your experience so far with MerkleB2B?
I’ve only been here since last August and so far, it's been brilliant! I've already had the opportunity to work on lots of big brands (Cisco, Shell and Vitality, to name a few). I’m learning a ton, getting exposed to different types of projects and problems, developing my thinking and getting to try things out. It's great to be focused on learning/ doing strategy every day and Merkle B2B's diverse set of clients means the work is always different. The team here are fantastic too, everyone has warmly welcomed me into the agency so overall, the experience so far has been dreamy!
What inspires you about MB2B’s workplace culture?
It’s super supportive, inclusive and nurturing. I started during a time when everyone was mostly WFH but that hasn’t stopped me getting to know people, forging relationships and (already) feeling like I’m one of the family. There’s a real buzz and energy at Merkle B2B right now and a lot of excitement for the year ahead. It’s an exciting place to work for sure!
What was your dream job growing up?
Probably playing guitar in a band, which I did a lot of as a teenager. That or creating a clothing brand.
Why would somebody want to work in your team?
The strategy team here are awesome! There’s so much collective experience and knowledge, which is fantastic for someone like myself who’s doing a lot of learning, discovering and absorbing.
Plus, everyone is super nice. I love the “no such thing as a stupid question” attitude, which is exactly what you need when you're starting out in a strategy role.
If you love strategy (or want to be doing it) and are looking for complexity to bring clarity to, this is the place to be!
How do you like your eggs?
Scrambled with butter (not milk), as recommended by the late and great Antony Bourdain.
What are you currently watching on Netflix/Prime?
Currently watching Friends for the first time (I know, I’m late to the party!), while also dipping into Madmen here and there. I recently watched Succession and Ozarks, which are both very good.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Too many to name, but my top three would be:
1) Trainers. I have “too many”, but just can’t stop.
2) Picklebacks, which consist of a shot of bourbon followed by a shot pickle brine – it tastes like McDonald’s Big Mac).
3) I’m also very partial to peanut butter straight out the jar.
What is your dream holiday destination?
Rome and Tokyo have been top of my list for as long as I can remember.
Best advice or mantra you live by?
Perfection and failure don’t exist, so don't measure yourself against them. Don’t dwell on things you can’t change. Just do your best and try to squeeze as much fun out of everything you can.