Page 50 - Adnews Magazine May-June 2021
P. 50

  “Despite my mother’s warnings that advertising was full of posers and I wouldn’t have a job after 40, I persevered.”
Imogen Hewitt, CEO, Spark Foundry
“We were going through the back end of a merger, between Blue 449 and Spark. How are we going to bring these elements together, create something that's really motivating for our staff, create something that resonates for clients.
“That work really was about bringing together the legacy of those two agencies. So if you think about Blue 449 (formerly Match Media), a strong legacy in data and digital, and efficiency, and analytics. If you think about Spark, it’s strong in big, bold, creative, interesting, inte- grated campaigns.
“And it sounds obvious now but we did a lot of work on how to bring those two things together. The fact that there were so many talented people doing great work already was a gift. It wasn't like we needed to think about how to strip out and rebuild the agency. All the ingredients already existed — they just needed some packaging.”
And the move out of the office was helped by a program for remote working already being in place.
An office move — consolidating three locations — was due March 20 and the move home happened March 25. “I think we managed that relatively seamlessly,” she says. “The Publicis Groupe Liberte program was already established, which is pretty forward thinking in terms of the flexibility, and there was already a code of conduct around how you make that work. So it wasn't a ground-up exercise in a week. It was: ‘We've got a framework, and now it's going to get a mighty test.’ And it stood its ground in that test. I think we really did have an advantage because a lot of that thinking had been done. A lot of those protocols had been established.
“But even then that doesn't really get you ready for the shock of having 120 different offices. That's what it's like when you've got 120-odd people working from home — they're all working in their own office.”
Office dilemmas disappear such as we've run out of toilet paper, or can somebody change the light bulb? Or does anybody know who our electricity supplier is?
“But you do have to deal with kids walking into frame and different people having a really different experience,” she says.
“A share house with five people in it is different to someone who, like in my case, has children who don't really care whether you're trying to work or not. They make their appearances when they feel they need to.
“And it really put the onus on us to try and work out how to create an environment where it's OK to just keep going? Yes, there are distractions. Yes, I can see you're sitting on your bed, and I can see your dirty laundry, and your husband just walked past in his undies, but just keep going.
“I tried really hard to make sure I was modelling that because I had a husband and children and work from home, and at times dodgy internet, and all of the rest of it that everybody else had. I just tried to make it really clear that the business is intruding on your home, and on the home of your children and your partners. Just do your best, and it'll be OK.”
On a personal level, lockdown had challenges. “I've got the enormous privilege of having a husband who takes on by far the vast majority of keeping the home boat afloat,” she says.
“It's a challenge when you've got kids trying to do schoolwork and me trying to not just manage the sudden working from home but still having people I've not yet met and clients I have not yet met.”
There was a perverse advantage in coming into a CEO role that year. She arrived thinking, "I know I've got the experience, but I've not yet done it."
The pandemic was something that no-one had ever dealt with. That levelled the playing field because Hewitt, as probably the least expe- rienced CEO in the group, was in the same boat as everyone else.
“Nobody’s done that before,” she says. “It created an incredible sense of camaraderie across all of the leaders in the group. We had to create a way to keep our people safe and secure and motivated. We banded together to get the best of everybody's experience, and try and work out how you do that. It kind of made me worry a little bit less about facing things I'd never done before because everybody was facing things they'd never done before.”
Imogen Hewitt with her children. | May/June 2021 50

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