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Role Call | Doak Sergent, Head of Brand Development

Doak Sergent, head of brand development at Details, says "You should demonstrate your interest. If you’re into photography, don’t just tell me, show me on Instagram or Tumblr."
Doak Sergent | Photo: Justin Chung
By
  • Kati Chitrakorn

There are few sectors of the economy that offer as wide and interesting a range of career opportunities as fashion. Role Call highlights some of the industry’s most interesting jobs and the talented people who do them. For more information about fashion industry roles like this and others, visit BoF Careers.

NEW YORK, United States — Doak Sergent is head of brand development and an associate publisher at Condé Nast's monthly men's title Details. A graduate of Washington and Lee University, Sergent first worked as an investment bank analyst in corporate finance at First Union Capital Markets. After two years, he joined Wenner Media as an assistant to the head of marketing. In 2006, Sergent joined the Condé Nast Media Group to work on business development and social media strategies at Vogue, Lucky and Epicurious. In July 2010, Sergent joined the monthly men's title Details.

BoF: Please describe your current role.

As head of brand development, I’m in charge of developing the strategy, talent and resources needed to promote and grow the Details brand, which can mean very different things on different days. Much of the time, this involves giving our advertising partner better and bespoke access to the Details audience, through traditional means such as events or, increasingly, by creating custom branded content campaigns and social activations for them. I also spend a lot of time working on projects that grow our audience, such as partnerships with other like-minded brands and work with influencers and other complementary media outlets.

BoF: What attracted you to the role?

When I graduated I had no idea that this kind of job existed, but I was interested in business so I took a job at an investment bank. After two years, I learned that while I was interested in the mechanics of business, I preferred the more creative work, like researching and creating the spin to market businesses to investors. So, when it came to finding a new career, I focused on the things that I loved: media and fashion.

At first it was hard because everyone I met in media or fashion wanted to stick me in a finance or accounting department, which wasn't the change I was looking for. I stumbled upon a job as an assistant to the head of marketing for Wenner Media, which publishes Rolling Stone, US Weekly, and Men's Journal magazines. Like most entry-level assistants, I had no idea what I was getting into, but I was really lucky because I ended up finding the balance between business and creativity that I craved.

BoF: What is the most exciting project or initiative you have worked on?

I've worked with our web director to build the Details Style Syndicate, a content platform on Details.com with over 250 leading men’s influencers and bloggers. This was two years ago, just as the men’s market was making its big leap forward. It represented a big leap forward for Details too, because it gave us access to a lot of great content, while helping to foster and support the bloggers by promoting their content to our audience, and also partnering with them to create branded content for our clients across print, digital, social and video.

Also, last summer, we created an advertising network of sites in the Details Style Syndicate. Today, the Details advertising sales team is selling the largely unmonetized inventory of  participating sites, giving us access to millions of additional impressions a month. Everyone benefits because we’re sharing the revenue with the sites while contributing to the scale that Details Media can offer our advertising partners.

The way we're working with advertisers has changed. We're spending far more time developing custom digital and video content for brands, and far less time on traditional executions like events.

BoF: How is your role changing? What are the forces driving this change?

It’s such an intriguing time to be working in both men’s fashion and media. Men’s fashion used to be this relative backwater. Now, it’s the engine that’s driving growth in the retail and luxury sectors and is quickly catching up to women’s in terms of apparel sales. Details has benefited from that growth, both in our audience and in our business, but the way we’re working with advertisers has changed. We’re spending far more time developing custom digital and video content for brands, and far less time on traditional executions like events.

At Details, we’re constantly seeking out and evaluating new products and approaches to our business, whether it’s a stunt on a new social platform or GroomShop, the new e-commerce platform that we're launching on the site this week. On a more macro level, the fundamentals are the same: hire great people, foster their talents, create a positive and collaborative culture, question everything.

BoF: Tell us about a time you failed and how you learned from it.

I have a friend who travels the world extensively for business and, as a rule, he never accepts the first hotel room he’s offered. This might sound a little obnoxious at first, but having had one too many unsatisfactory travel experiences, I soon came around to his point of view, which is: you can always do better. I’ve learned that same lesson in my career, especially when due to a rushed deadline or other circumstances that required expedience, I’ve gone against my instincts and let something slip through that wasn’t quite up to our standards. Giving direct, specific and constructive feedback early on will save time and effort in the long run.

BoF: What advice do you have for people who are interested in doing what you do?

Work for the job you want, not the one that you have — it’s a little cliché but true. Content and social are everything in this business, so if this is the career you’re pursuing, you should demonstrate your interest. If you don’t have real, tangible experience to bring to the table (or even if you do), distinguish yourself by experimenting in any of the multitude of platforms available. If you’re into photography, don’t just tell me, show me on Instagram or Tumblr. If you like to write, start a blog, be active on Twitter. Pick one, any one. For me, especially at the entry level, it’s not about the followers or the size of the effort, it’s the effort itself.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

For more information about fashion industry roles like this and others, visit BoF Careers.

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