OMG UNITE’s, Serhat Ekinci, amongst Media Leader of the Year 2021 nominees
Serhat Ekinci, Managing Director of OMG UNITE, has been shortlisted at the Media Week Awards for Media Leader of the Year. Read the exclusive Q+A interview here.
As Maisie McCabe, UK Editor for Campaign, nicely summarised: “The Media Week Awards are the most prestigious celebration of commercial media in the UK.”
So when we found out our very own, Serhat Ekinci, was amongst a shortlist of 7 nominees for Media Leader of the Year 2021, we immediately tracked him down for a quickfire Q+A. Here’s how it went…
Serhat, firstly congratulations on making the shortlist for 2021’s Media Leader of the Year! Can you tell us where you were and how you felt when you heard the news?
Serhat: Well I was in a client meeting and suddenly I started getting messages from colleagues and friends congratulating me on the shortlist which put a nice smile on my face. To be perfectly honest, I was skeptical of being shortlisted for the award as I’m not the usual type you see on a list like this, but I guess I was wrong and things might be changing after all.
That’s amazing. If you had to describe yourself in 3 words what would they be?
Serhat: Ambitious, eclectic, determined
If your peers, friends and family had to describe you in 3 words what would they be?
Serhat: Oversharer, fixer, resilient
Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
Serhat: The extrovert part of me probably weighs heavier now, though I feel that I’m a massive introvert inside just pretending to be an extrovert on the outside!
What’s your motto in life?
Serhat: It’s probably a bit cliché but for me it has to be “where there is a will, there is a way”. It describes my way of life well. I have faced many struggles and have achieved things that people kept telling me I couldn’t…I really do believe that regardless of what you want to achieve or how hard it is, if you put your head and heart into it, nothing is impossible. The proverb is a gentle yet powerful reminder to keep on going, even when the path doesn’t seem simple.
That’s very true and a great outlook to have. What are your interests outside of work?
Serhat: I’ve been to 40+ countries in the last 10 years alone, so I’d have to say travelling. Specifically, the kind where you get to explore and learn about different cultures, their lifestyle, and the food! I’m a big foodie and love trying new things, so that type of travel and exploration would definitely be up there on my list. I’m also a massive DIYer and enjoy fixing things around the house. But above everything, my family is my biggest joy, and I love spending most of my time outside of work with them.
What would you do if you won the lottery?
Serhat: Buy an island and bring all the people I love to live together on it. I’d keep only what I need for the rest of my life and donate the rest across charitable causes.
What is your desert-island luxury item?
Serhat: I’m tempted to say coffee but I’d probably die of dehydration, so I’ll have to go with drinking water.
What was your first job?
Serhat: A trainee car mechanic at the age of 9 where I fixed car windows and locks. I did it for 5 years during summer holidays and weekends and I loved every bit of it!
If you weren’t in the role you are today, where do you think you’d be?
Serhat: I have an obsession with insight and research especially surrounding people and their behaviours, so I’d probably see myself in market research. But if it wasn’t a desk job, I’d probably be restoring classic cars.
Nice! Let’s talk about the brand – OMG UNITE. Tell us a bit about why you joined the agency in 2016?
Serhat: Well, I worked in a lot of big agencies and subsequently I worked across well established, well-known brands. One of the things that I found frustrating was that everyone talked about diversity and inclusion from an internal people and culture perspective, but there wasn’t much on actual client outputs and whether they represented those from different backgrounds.
It seemed to me that unless clients had a product that was specifically made for a diverse community, they wouldn’t really think to include them in their strategy or audience otherwise. And the few that did, felt ancient and more suited for my aunties and uncles than me.
It’s almost impossible to feel included when the work you do isn’t representative of who you truly are, despite being a user or a part of that target audience. So when an opportunity came up at OMG to do things differently, I jumped on it and never looked back!
Well we’re so glad you did! If you had to summarise OMG UNITE in a few sentences, what would you say?
Serhat: OMG UNITE is “informed by data, driven by culture, inclusive in nature”. We diversify our clients’ marketing and media to be representative and inclusive of marginalised communities, their lives and consumption. In a nutshell, we want more, if not all, people to feel seen and heard at various touchpoints in their life, e.g. through the media and content they consume.
We’ve got to start asking you harder questions. Who’s your least favourite client?
Serhat: Hard to choose 🙂
Okay fine, you can skip that one. What makes you the perfect candidate for the Media Leader title?
Serhat: We’ve gone against the norm of doing things and created a business to serve an unmet industry need, proving that it works and is highly successful when executed with authenticity.
I moved to the UK in 2006 not knowing a word of English and without a degree. My background and upbringing is very different to most at my level and I want to see more people like me being given the chance to make a difference – but it comes down to that very phrase again – where there’s a will, there’s a way. And I have my drive and determination to thank for this shortlisting.
Having said that, for me, that’s not necessarily what makes a perfect leader. It makes a great go-getter and hard-worker, but to be a great leader, you need to inspire and motivate change for the better. So I’m not a perfect candidate for this award because of my differences and my success despite my struggles. I’d say I make a fine candidate because of what I’ve done to make everyone else’s differences more visible to the industry.
Absolutely, and we couldn’t agree more. Tell us about a campaign you’re really proud of.
Serhat: It has to be Childline’s #UnderstandMe campaign, especially our partnership with SB.TV. That was the most challenging yet rewarding campaign ever. We pushed boundaries on every level – everything from the range of artists and platforms used, the creative content produced and the timeline to delivery, to the success it brought to all parties involved.
Most brands would not do what we recommended back then, including the NSPCC, but they did, and it just goes to show what you can do when you really want to do the right thing with the right people behind it.
I still listen to the 5 tracks created for the campaign and encourage anyone who wants to, to have a listen.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Serhat: I stopped thinking about these plans a long time ago. Instead, I just give my best to everything I do in the present. I create and grab opportunities that I have now and see where they take me. That’s why my career has never been linear in one profession. Life is much more dynamic than ever before, so we need to be too.
Any advice to young talent just starting out in the media industry?
Serhat: Be bold and proactive. The best opportunities and learnings I’ve had come from jumping on things that no one else wanted to do. The beauty of media is that it’s about people and knowledge can be found anywhere and from anyone regardless of their level or experience.
Thank you so much for your time Serhat, some really powerful and inspiring stuff here. Take care and all the best for October 21st.
Serhat is joined by Nadine Young, Natalie Cummins, Kate Rowlinson, Rob Pierre, Dominic Carter and Julian Lloyd Evans, and the category winner is influenced by public vote.
The event will take place at the JW Marriott Grosvenor House London, Park Lane on Thursday 21st October.