Antonello Sessa: a Campaign Manager success story

The digital advertising ecosystem is complex and sees many actors involved. In this global industry, there are not just Facebook or Google as may appear to most, but the advertising scene counts thousands of technology providers, media owners, publishers, and media agencies sharing the cake. The fast-growing technological opportunities offer more job opportunities day by day as well, around 7 million only in Europe right now.

Let’s introduce the main character of this story, a professional whose career took off starting as Campaign Manager, a crucial role for understanding advertising basics and for progressing in advertising careers thanks to the many opportunities arising in the market.

Antonello Sessa is an online advertising expert, Head of Sales at Outbrain (Italy), and now, with our great pleasure, a GAMS Coach too. During his career, Antonello had the opportunity to gain expertise in digital as he worked in different companies whilst growing with them, using his insatiable curiosity as a powerful engine. We explored his professional path so far and asked him to explain the leitmotif of his career: the Campaign Manager’s role, including its main characteristics and relevance today.

Hi Antonello, would you like to tell us about your role? What do you do at the moment?

I am currently the Head of Sales for Italy at Outbrain, a discovery platform that operates in native advertising. Its best asset is about finding users looking for a product or service by using more noticeable ads which result more effective than traditional display advertising.


As Head of Sales, I am responsible for a commercial team on one hand, and an account managers team on the other. My role is about coordinating the teams mentioned and collaborating with the managing director responsible for Italy. At an international level, I work in coordination with the other Heads of Sales on the commercial behalf, and on other projects too.


That’s my role today after three months: agency relations, coordination, client management, often with big technology companies such as Amazon, Google, Xandr, always keeping eyes open for new profitable opportunities for the company in the marketplace.”

What path did you follow to end up in your current role? Do you think there are specific steps to appraise in order to succeed?

“Probably there are no specific steps to follow as my experience also shows. My first internship experience was at “Monte Dei Paschi di Siena” over brand identity, which was a kind of offline experience, far from what I did after that. After the internship, I started working for Quisma, a GroupM performance agency, working on Operations. My passion for online advertising and digital advertising in general started since then, I can say that!


I had other experiences for a short period in affiliation, which was useful for learning to manage campaigns, arbitrages, and optimization until I started working at Adform, where I stayed for six years. In Adform, I was first a Technical Account and Programmatic Account Manager, then I moved to manage the Agency Sales and a team, with great professional satisfaction. The technical account manager is a role I’d like to define as a “super campaign manager” as it involved both technical and relational aspects. At that stage, I was in charge of format upload and tracking, third-party tracking, tag checking, but I also supported sales and managed agency relations about campaign delivery, tracking, ad server checking, and more. I also started working on the first SDK implementations with big clients, setting up all the ad servers and DMPs from scratch.


Many duties and opportunities to learn for me but, at that point, I was already too attracted to the big tendency of the moment: programmatic. So I showed up in the programmatic world and had the chance to invest large budgets for top Brands clients on Entertainment and Telco.


After a short period at Connect Ads (Italian Twitter reseller) managing brand and agency portfolio, I came to Outbrain as Head of Sales and Account Manager.


There is no right or wrong path to follow. My career path was a continuous learning adventure, starting from a very operative role and ending up in a commercial one with consulting traits. I think relations with clients are crucial, but it is also important to have the know-how for explaining and suggesting the right product for your clients.” 


In your opinion, are Italian universities able to satisfy business needs, especially in digital? Do they fulfil marketplace requests?

“I left university a few years ago but I say at that moment there was no interest in digital. I was very curious indeed so I approached digital on my own by trying AdSense functionality. Today is different, there are many university courses and business school courses especially that offer programs overviewing the main aspects of digital marketing. This is a big step in preparing new digital professionals.


Anyway, there is still a gap between business needs and candidates’ preparation. Companies look for candidates who are already being routed to the requested roles. Junior candidates often have no idea about major functionalities or have never seen a professional platform before. 


It is fundamental for Schools and Universities to understand the value of introducing some practice tools for their courses early on, shaping the future professionals. Schools and Universities have to be conscious that digital marketing, like many other subjects, needs to be practised through hands-on platform laboratories.”

You told us about your experience as a “Super Campaign Manager”. Would you explain what a Campaign Manager does and the must-haves of this figure?

A Campaign Manager is a role in great demand especially by agencies and can be covered by a very attentive and meticulous person, able to carry out multiple routine activities keeping a strategic mindset, always ready to create different paths. In some way, the campaign manager looks like a routine role but indeed is a role that needs to be executed with a strong focus to be able to create new strategies.


Those who are campaign managers must know how to use Excel at an advanced level and must have a minimum of knowledge of Tag Management because this helps to understand how to track online activities. It doesn’t just mean implementing a pixel of any technology, but understanding how to do it and why, what insight is gained, and how small changes in the script can record even more significant results. Small precautions and small actions can help create a more profiled audience.


Not a trivial role, but rather a strategic position on which the advertising foundations are based, as I can say about this role on laying the foundations to work in Programmatic. The Campaign Manager is a role that lays the groundwork for progressing in the sector, perhaps becoming a programmatic manager or at least managing data, which is fundamental today. 


The Campaign Manager is definitely a precise, meticulous, accurate, analytical person who keeps themselves constantly updated on market news since it is a very fast-paced environment to work in.”


Would you recommend a student to pursue a career as a Campaign Manager? What would you suggest those who want to approach this career do?

“The campaign manager role offers great career perspectives that could give an extra boost over the mass, so I would definitely recommend it. I think there is no defined path for everybody, for example, I personally started my career by being a campaign manager in direct email marketing (DEM), but I’m sure that the most important thing is to be curious and to study any platforms to start practising. It can be just Google Ads or Facebook Ads but that is already a start.


What I suggest to those who want to approach this career, is to be always up to date, to become proficient with tools like Excel, and learn to be very accurate and focused on details. Anyhow, I can say it is a world of data and insight, and those who know how to read data have the opportunity to emerge more than others.”

Coming back to you, is there something you are curious about at this moment? What are the topics you are googling more right now?

“Right now I am following the third party cookies question for advertising, a very hot topic that will release its effects in a couple of years. Everyone offers their vision or their approach. There are several currents, alleys, and solutions different from each other. From my point of view, we should go to a single market solution, but we know how complex this sector is and how many technologies are involved.


I am also attracted to connected tv and programmatic news. I suppose we will get to a unique platform able to manage all data in a holistic way, also aiming for more transparency in the marketplace. Talking about transparency, that is another interesting topic nowadays  with all the discussion about new online regulations.”

In your opinion, what should a professional do to keep learning even at an advanced stage of their career? How can one keep up with a role in such a fast-paced environment?

 “That’s a good question. I think that is related to people’s nature and their inclination towards curiosity. Personally, I always try to keep up to date with what is going on in the marketplace, using the main information sources such as some American news websites focused on advertising as a reference, spending at least half an hour reading that type of news every day.


So far, despite my career stage, I consider myself an expert in some stuff, I know I can still learn so much. I have never felt “arrived”, and I actually think nobody should feel like that. Every day we should strive towards new learning opportunities and grow while venturing on new paths. We should give ourselves the opportunity to learn and grow. So, reading books and articles, starting new courses, facing new challenges, everything can open our minds.


Would you like to leave us with a message to share with everybody?

“Always be curious! That’s my motto. Always start with “why”, as Simon Sinek also taught us. We learn by asking questions and, by sharing what we have learned, we learn even more. Never lose your spirit of discovery, you will not regret that.”