Bant Breen, the founder and CEO of Qnary, has had a long career in global communications and marketing. In 2011, he left his position as Worldwide CEO of Reprise Media, Interpublic Group’s global search and social media agency, to start a company focused on helping individuals benefit from their digital identity, the publicly available information about them that could be found online. We sat down with Bant to figure out how he discovered his passion for advertising, when he realized he was good at it — he was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Achievement in 2010 — and what advice he would give to others who were just starting out.
Q: In the beginning how did you know that advertising was right for you?
BB: I was excited about advertising and the advertising industry from a very early age. I grew up close to Chicago and visited the ad firm Leo Burnett when I was a kid. The characters that they created inspired me. As a teenager, my best friend and I created our own ad agency and made ads and promoted events in our hometown. I liked the clever nature of the work. I also loved the idea of pushing yourself to do something that nobody had done before.
Q: You led search, social media, and mobile components of advertising campaigns before those areas were well known. How were you able to stay ahead of the curve?
BB: I like to play around with new digital media ideas — even really bad ones. At the birth of the digital media era I remember sitting in college messing around with all of the very basic HTML things that were possible at the time. New ideas, even when incomplete, start to share a glimpse of what is possible. I don’t know if I stayed ahead of the curve, but I certainly have always lived and worked comfortably within the curve. I always welcome change.
Q: What made you want to start your own company?
BB: I have spent my career split between being inside large companies and outside launching startups. I am almost always an intrapreneur when inside a large corporation coming up with new ways of thinking and innovative business models. When I am outside the big companies, I am the entrepreneur trying to raise the relevance and importance of a new product and service that in many cases is a radical departure from the normal way business is conducted.
Q: What do you look for when you’re hiring people?
BB: I only hire people who can write well. For some reason, writing is the one skill that seems to have been overlooked by higher education over the last decade. The quantitative skills are at an all-time high but conveying ideas and arguments in written form alludes most graduates.
In terms of personality traits, I tried to create Qnary as a business with a full range of characteristics in its staff. We have the highly analytic and introverted, the extremely outgoing and every mix of the two that you can imagine. We are an interesting, eclectic bunch.
That being said, there are work traits that matter to me. People have to be passionate, have to be willing to work very hard, have to have a “find a way” attitude to problem solving, and cannot take themselves too seriously.
Q: What types of experience should college students try to get to improve their career outlook?
BB: The reality is that getting exposed and involved in any and all types of work helps improve a career outlook. Do something and be interesting. Doing nothing and just partying in college is the only thing you should avoid.
Q: What organizations were you involved in during college that helped you early on in your career?
BB: My college experience was pretty wide-ranging. I tried sports and realized quickly my days as an athlete were over. I dabbled in student government. I moved on to writing for magazines and the college newspaper. I worked at the Admissions Office of my university.
My big eye-opening experience in college actually took place at graduate school. I organized a film and television society that ended up working with one of the first cable providers of interactive TV content. The exposure to this interactive technology drove me towards digital media.
Q: What advice would you give someone who is just starting out in his or her career?
BB: Work hard — really hard — and learn fast. Make mistakes, once but do not be afraid to make them. You aren’t pushing yourself enough if you don’t make mistakes.
Q: Why does your online identity matter to those who are looking for a job? How can you improve it?
BB: Before people meet you, they look you up online. After they meet you they look you up online. If you’re looking for a job, your recruiter has probably seen at least one of your social profiles. According to Jobvite, 86% of recruiters check candidates’ social media profiles. An additional 77% scanned search engines in 2006, according to ExecuNet. A Reppler study showed that 69% have rejected applications based on what they found online. Go to Qnary.com and follow the optimization steps to improve your online presence.
Manage and maximize your online presence with Qnary CEO Bant Breen!
Qnary allows individuals to see, optimize, and benefit from their digital identities. The platform (http://www.qnary.com) provides users with an understanding of how they look online and a tool suite to help them improve their online identities. Qnary’s consultants provide brand strategy expertise for those who seek individualized engagement.
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