Fascinated by brands, culture, people and ideas, Amelia (former Campaign magazine “Planner of the Year” and Power Part Time List Winner 2013 and 2015) is Chief Strategy Officer for iconic advertising agency TBWALondon and one of the most senior women in advertising.
Amelia has worked extensively for some of the world’s most famous brands in London and New York and enjoys being at the forefront of technological innovation.
Between writing for the FT, Spectator and Mail on Sunday, as well as her own successful blog, she found time to talk to The Fold about the digital revolution, dream brands and juggling family life…
Tell us a bit about your current role as Chief Strategy Officer at TBWALondon advertising agency, what does it entail and how did you come to this role?
TBWA\ London is a top 15 advertising agency based behind the Tate Modern in London. Our clients include Airbnb, Lidl, Sotheby’s and Nissan. In the past it was famous for work such as FCUK, Wonderbra “Hello Boys” and PlayStation. I’m part of the executive team running the agency and I run the Planning and Strategy department. I’ve been in the world of brands, advertising and digital since 1997 when I left university.
You caught on to the digital trend fairly early on in 1997. What about digital excited you and have things progressed at a rate you expected?
It was so obvious even back then that digital was going to disrupt every facet of our world. I taught myself the Internet as no one else at the agency I was in seemed remotely interested. The speed of change which really caught me a bit by surprise was the move to mobile and the growth in photography/image capture and sharing.
How do you see digital changing the relationship between people, brands and organisations?
Digital flattens everything and speeds up everything. I tweet a brand, or a politician or a company and if I haven’t had a response in a day I’m furious. Our expectations have changed so much now. Tradition command and control lines of organisational structures have broken down, new models of popular democracy and businesses are being continually created.
If you were going to list one (upcoming) digital trend we should all be aware of what would it be?
I’m fascinated by the arrival of computation engines. We all know about search engines like Google, those engines “search” out the answer – literally they search everything that has ever been written in answer to your question to give you the answer. A computation engine computes the answer for you. The implication for areas like law, medicine and accounting are enormous. Why need entry-level workers when a machine can compute the answer?
Could give an example of a brand campaign that you felt was well rounded and used the digital aspect well?
I’m really proud of our work for Lidl. I think TBWA used digital in a very smart way. Firstly harnessing the amazing often unheard advocacy that existed online around the brand and moving that out of social channels into mainstream advertising with the #LidlSurprises campaign. The latest work takes online detractors, people who are actively negative about the brand and takes them to meet the mussel fishermen and the beef farmers. It’s integrating online and offline beautifully to great commercial advantage.
What has been the best piece of advice you’ve been given in your career?
I was once told “no-one cares as much about your career as you do”. It sounded pretty tough at the time but it’s absolutely right.
You were the winner of the Power Part Time List in 2013 and 2015 can you tell us a little about this and what the award means to you?
I remember when I first won this award at my last agency someone tweeted me to say “this award means you win at life” – I’m not sure if I feel like that everyday but I’m so proud of being on this power list. I love my job, I love working but I love my children more and don’t want to outsource their childhood. I do a 4 day week and the days that I do work I try to be home by 6pm. The reality is I work in a client service business and there are always pitches or meetings that I have to attend which are on Fridays but I always make up the time with more holiday or other days off. I’m only paid for 4 days, I’d be foolish to work more unpaid.
Nominations for this year’s Power Part Time List close next Friday 16th September. If you are someone who is working in a similar position in less than full time hours and would like to be recognised for your achievements, please do nominate here.
How do you juggle being a mother to 2 boys, a wife and a 3x marathon runner
I’ve learnt not to sweat the small stuff and focus on what really matters. Our house isn’t the tidiest, I don’t really iron but I really work hard to use all the hours in the day to do the things that matter to me. That’s time with my boys who are 5 and 6 and my mum who is having chemotherapy at the moment. It’s definitely a juggle. Weeks are often out of balance but taking the view of the month somehow things manage to balance out a bit better.
How do you unwind outside of work?
Running unwinds me, regular dinners at Brunswick House with my best girl mates unwind me, gin often unwinds me!
Tell us about your 9 to 5 wardrobe, do you have go-to styles?
Advertising is an industry where it’s very acceptable to wear jeans and trainers to the office. I’m trying to find a style that works for me that blends together professionalism with a bit of edge. The Fold works for me.
Which are your picks from the fold AW16 collection and why?
I love the new Carnaby Dress – it’s really simple but stylish. I also think that the Camelot Dress is a style that works for a huge number of occasions.
Hair: Easton Regal
Photography: Kylie Eyra
Accessories: Amelia’s own