Adam Konowe is vice-president of client strategy for US advertising and commuications agency TMP Worldwide. Konowe also teaches communications at American University in Washington DC, which he says "keeps me on my toes".
Have you always been passionate about aviation?
Yes, between my jet-setting grandfather and private pilot father, aviation was part of me from an early age. I have fond memories of taking glider flights in upstate New York and spending time at Danbury Municipal airport in Connecticut, where my dad kept his planes. I was also fascinated by space, leading me to use my high school’s observatory, visit the Kennedy Space Center for a shuttle launch, and begin my undergraduate studies in physics and astronomy. Although I changed majors later and again in graduate school, those university-level science courses still pay dividends.
What is your role at TMP and what is your typical day like?
As vice-president of client strategy, I lead an account service team focused on aerospace and defence (A&D) where we devise and execute advertising, public relations and recruitment communications for organisations around the world. This practice in the Washington DC area spans three decades and some of TMP’s other offices have A&D credentials as well. A typical day could be spent with my team co-ordinating research, branding, media, creative and digital resources. Alternatively, it’s at a client site discussing strategy, tactics and metrics, or attending one of the many air shows, conferences and industry clubs with a client.
What kinds of clients do you support?
My clients include airframers, tier one and two suppliers, plus non-profit organisations. In total, they cover the global supply chain from OEM to MRO, general aviation to space. I can honestly say a client’s size is less important than their willingness to fully engage. The latter is often the best indicator of a productive and enduring client-agency partnership. Some of my best work has been for small- to medium-sized enterprises.
What do you enjoy most?
I really enjoy getting to know my clients, from overall business positioning to the talents of amazing individuals who dedicate their careers to A&D. For such a global industry, it’s a surprisingly tight-knit family, so building and maintaining a positive reputation is crucial. The more access we have to our clients, the better return on investment from finite budgets, which is rewarding. And even after 20 years, I still enjoy a great airshow.
What are the challenges?
No organisation is required to use an agency for advertising, public relations or recruitment communications. They can execute any of those solo, so it’s incumbent on us to demonstrate value. Part of that comes from industry insight, which is why I’m active with the Aero Club of Washington, National Press Club, Royal Aeronautical Society and Wings Club of New York. But we need to be an additive force throughout all activities. That means helping clients define their brand, hone their messages, and navigate a rapidly evolving media landscape by knowing which outlets are right based on audience, tactic, price and past performance. There is no shortage of aggressive and even misleading sales pitches out there, so we embrace our role as stewards of client brands and budgets.
You work in a competitive business. How do stay ahead?
I read a lot and welcome the opportunity to trade perspectives with my peers. Executives often pose questions beyond our scope of work, so it’s important to be well versed in recent trends and developments. Also, I’m fortunate to work for a global agency with the resources to research, identify and leverage new marketing and recruitment technologies. Finally, teaching communications at American University in Washington keeps me on my toes.
What advice would you give to someone looking to get into marketing and communications in the aerospace industry?
First, find a great mentor. I was fortunate to have one when I originally joined TMP in 1999. He provided the perfect balance of encouragement and accountability, allowing me to flourish in A&D following a career in television. Second, choose an area of interest and consume as much news content as possible. Doing so will help you form your own viewpoint. Third, never hesitate to ask questions. This industry is full of smart, enthusiastic people who enjoy sharing their insights.