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Balancing creativity, strategic marketing: just another day at work

By Averi Melcher 
University of Nebraska- Lincoln

“I love (my) red pen!  Editing is my passion,” said Jennifer Estep, trader and event marketing specialist with TD Ameritrade.

It was that passion that helped win her second marketing MVP award this year.  She was recognized for writing the most inspirational creative brief of the quarter in November. Had she given a thank you speech, she would have owed it all to her editing skills acquired at the University of Nebraska Omaha.

Estep started as an intern with TD Ameritrade in 2009 and worked her way up.  Now, her job as a head marketing specialist requires many skill sets, the most important being writing and editing.

“I have written my job description,” Estep said.  “I was never pigeon-holed into something.  I never really gave them an option.  I said, ‘I am dedicated to TD, are you dedicated to me?’”

Estep writes creative briefs that are the foundations for all of TD Ameritrade’s investor marketing campaigns.  Each brief involves at least three edits and hours of looking at marketing materials before key decision-makers even see them.  Campaigns must be directed effectively at the consumer while maintaining the company brand.

“I find balance between the legal matters and the message for consumers,” Estep said.  “We can’t imply in our campaigns that TD’s trade option will always make them safe money.”

Estep is one of six marketing specialists at TD Ameritrade who works with the creative department, and she takes the responsibility seriously.

Estep must provide feedback to the creative department while respecting their work. To be constructive, she provides them with explanations throughout the process, with results after the campaign and with follow-ups about whether she thought it was successful or not.  She said it is this open dialogue that builds her relationship with the creative department and ultimately produces better work.

Estep adds her own touch in the form of editing, making sure the whole campaign comes together like she envisioned.  She said she often refers to TD Ameritrade’s style guide, which she printed out and keeps on her desk.  This helps keep a cohesive company voice in all marketing materials.

She also stressed how important it is to self-edit at all times, including during presentations and in emails and texts.

“I can’t turn my editing brain off,” said Estep.

When asked if she had any memorable editing experiences, she laughed.

“We tried cussing once (in a campaign).  We encouraged creative to push boundaries.  We got a tagline back that talked about three-ways.  It was really good,”  Estep said.  “But we could never use it.”

Editing for mistakes is about more than just changing grammar and style errors.  It’s about what the end product looks like to prospective investors.

“Editing is much deeper than just writing.  I do visual editing with events and I make sure it looks like there are no issues, even when there are,” Estep said.

She offered the following tips for  what makes an efficient editor for marketing campaigns:

1. Cut the stuff you don’t need; hone in on your message.

2. Paint one picture at a time.

3. Don’t be afraid to walk away from the work emotionally.

4.  Look over your proofs first thing in the morning, after a good night’s rest.

5.  When getting feedback, don’t lose the integrity of what you are doing just because someone doesn’t understand the creative process and/or marketing.

“That’s the most important one,” Estep said.  “Take into consideration what they say, but own your project.”

Estep said each brief and message should get shorter with each edit.  This applies to work, but in personal communication as well.  She keeps her favorite Mark Twain quote hanging above her computer to remind her of this at all times:

“If I had more time, this would have been a shorter letter.”

Jennifer Estep, Trader and Event Marketing Specialist with TD Ameritrade writes briefs to inspire the company's creative department.  Her work is the foundation for marketing campaigns at TD Ameritrade.

Jennifer Estep, trader and event marketing specialist with TD Ameritrade writes briefs to inspire the company’s creative department. Her work is the foundation for marketing campaigns at TD Ameritrade.

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