Ilya Vedrashko: Hill Holliday

Imagine you are from the Republic of Moldova, you’ve studied abroad in the United States as a high school exchange student, and you are seriously considering beginning a Master’s program in Political Science. When an opportunity in public relations (PR) presents itself – what do you do?

If you are Ilya Vedrashko, you seize the PR opportunity, eventually move to Boston to get a Master’s in Media Studies at MIT and become the Senior Vice President (SVP) of Consumer Intelligence at the innovative Boston-branch of Hill Holliday, Media Magazine’s 2012 Full-Service Agency Media Department of the year.

Ilya Vedrashko of Hill Holliday As a member of Emerson College‘s Global Marketing Communication and Advertising (GMCA) program, I recently had the chance to interview and pick his brain and, lucky for you, I wrote it down. Learn from Ilya VedrashkoI know I did! – the first feature for my Marketing Maverick series.

Do you live by any mottoes?
If you are going to do something, do it well or don’t bother doing it.

What would you say you are best known for?
That is hard to say. Perhaps a researcher. I had a bigger profile when I was blogging about geeky ad stuff but as interests have shifted, so have my blogs.

Hill HollidayWhat is like to work in your consumer intelligence team at Hill Holliday?
It actually feels like graduate school, only with life insurance and different goals. In our group, we try to recruit team members with different academic backgrounds and interests. By working with different perspectives, we find solutions that are unexpected and as we collaborate, we learn from each other. It is quite rewarding.

How have consumers changed since you got into the world of media?
First off, it is hard to group all consumers but overall, people’s behaviors don’t change much; they are driven by same core motivations and desires. The way these are manifested has changed since technology changes action, but it’s not like the world is ending; people are people and the needs are the same.

Do consumers know what they want?
Consumers know their basic needs. They know which products will help them achieve solvable goals – it’s self-actualization.

Does data-mining make life easier?
No. Data-mining makes life more difficult for businesses. Businesses have to know how to use it. Data is gift that keeps on giving but it is a gift you have to babysit. It requires the right software and right people. Getting the data is the least of their problems – the real question is what data is relevant? This process is expensive to find and use appropriately.  Basically, massive data is like a double-edged sword; since there is so much available, it can make it harder to actually make decisions. Data assignments have to be realistic, especially at the price tag.

Can businesses today afford not to be the in the business of data-mining?
Plenty do fine without, so yes. Can they be more efficient if they do? Yes, of course, but plenty do just fine without it.

How should businesses go about advertising in media? How should social media be used and which tools are best?
It’s simple, use the one that gives best return. Every dollar in media should bring back two dollars in sales. Choosing which tool should be driven by economic sense. It should not be an emotional reaction. Being hip isn’t the goal, it isn’t a popularity contest and using the hippest plan isn’t enough. Use reason. Many companies do well using the Yellowpages and newspapers.

iPhone5What “screen” do you see the most?
Definitely my iPhone5. I see it too much.  It’s been that way for me since the original iPhone came out.

How long before the phone is replaces the wallet?
It is moving that way but it is a long time down the road. It is not yet soon enough that it works. Many ads are also going mobile, whether they should or not, so there is a mobile shift in general. Start by looking at the future; what is next, like remote payments? Real question– is it going to happen tomorrow, should I solve this problem now or focus on the one-day? If it is down the road, and you aren’t directly affected, no need to get to invested….yet.

Does standard television have a future?
Yes, especially since there is a continual shift from old media.

In regards to old media, what do you miss most?
I miss physical interfaces, things like knobs and dials. And I love keyboards; they can never be replaced. Is it never my preference to e-mail on the phone or iPad. Also, it is a good feeling not to be “plugged in” all the time.

Complete the sentence….
In 10 years, the cloud will…..be blown away
In 5 years, Google will……….know even more about me than they do today.
In 3 years, Facebook will……be on your phones; on your google glass telling you stuff about people you look at.

What advice would you have for student looking to get into the advertising and media world?
Get hard skills. Learn to do something with your “hands.” Learn how to grind data, harvest knowledge. Add something other than theoretical knowledge. Grad students do know everything, but that isn’t enough. It’s about what you can do, what you can get done. It’s 10% inspiration and 90% actual operation. Writing, for example, is a hard skill that is important and can be overlooked.

What does Hill Holliday look for?
Each department is different but a key is different backgrounds of expertise that, when you come together, complement each other and don’t simply replicate each other. It is common sense to aggregate different viewpoints in order to explore opportunism in new ways.

MIT BostonChanging gears a bit, what should anyone visiting Boston make sure to do?
Go on walking tours. I’ve been here nine years and I still love taking friends on different walking tours around the city. I also suggest checking out Memorial Drive, and make sure not to miss the incredible view from MIT – that view from my dorm room alone made me stay in Boston. As my housing director used to say, “it’s the best view you’ll be able to afford for a long time.” Finally, nearby outdoor environments like Fort Wilderness are absolute paradises and must be explored.

Parting thoughts?
Experiment! Don’t over think everything. The best memories from grad school come from outside of class involvement.

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