This article was originally published on B&T.
During this year’s B&T Women in Media Awards, presented by Bauer Media, we’ve been recognising exceptional people who have achieved success in their professional arenas, celebrating their invaluable contribution to their industry through leadership, innovation and courage.
And, none of that would be possible without some incredible adlanders who continue to show their support for B&T‘s plights. OMD is one of our biggest supports, consistently championing our WIM Awards. And, they don’t just talk the talk, they walk it too.
So, we decided to get three of OMD’s best and brightest to talk to B&T about what bravery means to them, what it looks like in media, marketing and advertising, how they’d solve adland’s biggest three issues, and more.
Here’s what MD of OMD Sydney Laura Nice, national head of planning & OMD Melbourne’s head of product Penny Shell, and OMD Sydney’s head of strategy Peita Pacey, had to say.
What does brave mean to you?
Laura: Bravery to me is about stepping into the unknown or something that scares you and embracing what may be unfamiliar with purpose and positivity. My real-life example of this is moving from the UK to Australia for the first time. My biggest fear? Spiders!
I confronted this head on and booked myself into the ‘Friendly Spider Programme’ at the London Zoo, where they help you overcome your fears. By the end, I was holding a bird eating tarantula and had a one-way ticket to Sydney booked.
Penny: After watching my family members who are healthcare workers in the last six months, brave has taken on new meaning for me: when duty to others is prioritised over fear for self.
Peita: Bravery is facing up to what makes you scared. It’s looking in the mirror, being honest about what’s holding you back and seeing what you’re capable of, even when your internal critic is shouting loudly at you that you can’t do it. Tell that inner critic to shut up!
What does bravery in advertising, marketing, or the media look like?
Laura: Making bold choices while assessing the risks to ensure it’s the right thing to do and being willing to fail and learn from the experience.
Penny: Making a bold decision that is in equal parts potential risk and potential reward.
Peita: It’s about looking at the constraints you’re facing and being creative in how to deliver despite them. We so often look for excuses as to why we “can’t”, usually in the form of timelines, budget, and someone else’s mindset. Bravery allows you to be creative in these circumstances and use them to your advantage.
What is an issue in the industry that keeps you up at night?
Laura: Keeping our people safe – both from COVID-19 but also caring for their mental health – whilst everyone is grappling with a new way of working and varying degrees of lockdown.
Penny: Personally – ageism and keeping a job! We lose a lot of talent, especially female talent, in the industry after the age of 50 – just when we should be at our most fearless and doing our best work.
Peita: Diversity in our industry. We’ve come so far with representation of women, but there is still work to be done in the diversity and inclusion space. For instance, ageism. The industry is generally quite young. As older, more experienced people decide to leave we lose the benefit of those people influencing the work we deliver. We need to find new ways to retain great talent, regardless of age.
Do you believe the advertising, marketing and media industry has been ‘brave’ in 2020?
Laura: A crisis forces you to try new things, to adapt, to take more risks and make decisions faster. During 2020, we have delivered great work, at pace. We have worked closely with clients to educate them on the changing consumer sentiment so we’re really clear on what consumers want when we’re trying new ideas in market.
Penny: COVID-19 has bought us together. We have fought harder, we’ve accelerated new behaviours and made changes faster than ever before. Ecommerce, creativity, proactivity, pivoting campaigns and workflow – there are many positives that we can take with us moving forward.
Peita: When I look at the people in our industry, I see only bravery. People are having to confront big personal issues and truly dig deep into their empathetic abilities. Conversations have been delivered with real care and concern as the industry collectively focuses on people’s mental health and wellbeing.
How can professionals in advertising, marketing – and the media more broadly – be brave in times of change?
Laura: Firstly, trusting instincts and insights – if we fill our desire to learn and understand consumers, brands and our market, then instinctively we’ll make the right choices. Secondly, backing yourself and importantly each other – we are stronger together.
Penny: Stand for something. Don’t be so concerned with pleasing everyone, and instead really back your values. Complaints can be good! Standing up for what you believe in can be good! Being talked about can be good! They can all be markers of real change.
Peita: I think we’re all pretty used to constantly moving ground. What gets in our way in uncertain circumstances is questioning ourselves. As soon as we start to feel unsure of what we can create, it has an immediate impact on our product. A commitment to accountability and collaboration is critical here – making sure your teams are honest about what’s working, what’s not and why, allows everyone to surface issues and blockages much faster which in turn allows you to be more nimble. This is the perfect conduit for creativity!
What is ad-land’s three biggest strengths?
- Great talent – our teams always have a willingness to learn and collaborate to produce great work.
- An industry that constantly drives change – it’s exciting and challenges our thinking, our capability and our work.
- We work in a creative industry with brave clients who are not afraid to try new things.
- Creative passion.
- Human understanding.
- Our peers and industry camaraderie.
- We’re tough – we’re determined to always find the new and the better, it’s very rare to have an idea that perseverance can’t make happen!
- We’re lateral thinkers – we don’t just look at linear ways of solving problems. We don’t want to do the same thing repeatedly just because it’s been done before. We evolve our thinking for each and every project.
- We’re resilient – bubbles may burst, clients might leave and ideas might fail, but when we get knocked down, we get back up again, face the music and find a new way. That doesn’t mean we don’t cry in our porridge every now and then, but it’s not for very long.
What is ad-land’s three biggest challenges?
- Diversity of workforce – at OMD we have a diverse workforce from a gender perspective, but we’re always looking to expand diversity and inclusion to go beyond just gender.
- Keeping people motivated and mentally healthy in our new way of working. How do we connect those working at home with those in the office and ensure teams remain collaborative and motivated?
- Simplifying the complex, especially in this ever-changing world of data and technology. We need real world application and everyday language.
- Continuing to create impactful work.
- Waiting for permission to play.
- Overcoming legacy and what has been done before.
- Right now, the economy (which we can’t control).
- Navigating the new “abnormal” of work and culture (which is really interesting).
- Diversity (which we’re really busy trying to solve).
How would you solve these challenges?
- Diversity and inclusion requires leadership and a commitment from the top down to ensure it not only remains a priority, but importantly creates real change.
- Keeping people mentally healthy requires consistent communication. Asking ‘R U OK?’ and trying to understand what motivates people to ensure we give them work that challenges and grows them. At OMD we’re always coming up with new initiatives to connect with our people; whether through inspirational speakers (Think Fresh), health and wellbeing initiatives or supporting our OMDers and their family’s small businesses.
- Simplifying the complex – this is part education but also culture. We need an environment where people are not afraid to ask questions and to challenge thinking. As an agency, we look to set a baseline level of capability to ensure everyone has the same opportunity. We leverage agency talent to share learnings and best practice that will benefit everyone.
- Identify what people really care about and adapt a brand solution, rather than always starting with the brand agenda and pushing that to people.
- Proactivity! Lead, don’t just service. Define an opportunity for brands based on what is happening in culture, rather than waiting for a brief.
- Go back to the brand “why” rather than the brand “what” to retain heritage, but create new behaviour.
- The economy? Create more effective campaigns that help generate consumer spending – we may not be saving lives directly, but we are contributing to helping businesses succeed and that does have an enormous impact on our society more generally.
- The new “abnormal” – this isn’t a challenge to solve, it’s a challenge to embrace! What an exciting time we’re in where thoughts and attitudes to fundamental lifestyles are being questioned. It’s incredible to be allowed to watch evolution of thought in action.
- Diversity – I sincerely believe workplace flexibility will help retain more experienced people in our industry. Being able to have a fuller life, being connected to your families and within your communities during the working week can have an enormous impact on whether people stay in this industry. More than that though, we need to embrace, encourage and celebrate a diverse range of cultures into our workplaces and our thinking.