Career Advice May 22 2012

Marketing Execs a Distracted Bunch

By Damian Ghigliotty

Constant distraction has become something of the norm in ad land.

These days the average marketing and advertising executive is only able to work on a single task for 30 minutes without being interrupted, one staffing firm found after surveying 500 executives at small to medium-size agencies.

The Creative Group, which specializes in recruiting interactive, design and marketing talent, said the biggest cause of distraction for those executives is other people stopping by to talk. Among the 500 executives surveyed, 27% said they are unable to focus for very long due to interruptions from their colleagues.

The other main distractions that keep marketing executives from focusing on a single task for more than 30 minutes are phone calls, email alerts, instant and text messages, and social media activity.

"Every workplace has its share of distractions these days," said Greg Detter, vice president of The Creative Group, a unit of global recruiting firm Robert Half International. "Since advertising is so collaborative and fast-paced by nature it lends itself to constant interruptions."

The advancement of digital technology and social media has exacerbated the level of at-work distractions in recent years, he said.

Detter suggests marketing executives group tasks that are similar in function, so they won't need to change gears as frequently. He also said those in advertising should put off small talk and unrelated social media activity for set times throughout the day. "There are tactful ways to focus on your work without coming off as unsociable or unlikeable," he said.

Brian Mitchinson, senior vice president of marketing at digital advertising agency Blast Radius, said he rarely allows his work to be interrupted.

"If it's a bleeding neck wound situation and I can sense the urgency, I'll let myself be distracted," said Mitchinson, 45. "Otherwise I don't answer the phone and I definitely won't go on Facebook or Twitter while I'm working on a project.

"I adhere to a model that I call the lightening strike model," he said. "You should try to build up to an impactful moment with any project you're working on."

Blast Radius, which employs about 500 people, wasn't included in the Creative Group survey. Mitchinson said that interruptions may be a bigger issue at small firms where employees are expected to take on more roles at once.

"Regardless of your work environment there are always ways to work around the distractions," he said. "I can't imagine how I could be successful without working on one task for more than 30 minutes."

Write to Damian Ghigliotty at

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