Madame President

- Work hard, be respectful of your audience, be experimental, be entrepreneurial, have fun. - said Laura Jordan Bambach, creative partner Mr President and co-founder of SheSays.

by Tom Kavanagh
by Tom Kavanagh
"Media & Marketing Polska": In 2016, AdAge named your agency, Mr. President, the world’s second best small independent shop. But accolades aside, what’s the best thing about having your own small agency?

Laura Jordan Bambach: Being the master of your own destiny. I have great partners and together we’ve made something really unique here at Mr President. We’re having loads of fun, and doing genuinely exciting work for great clients by focussing on the work, not the money.

You are quite known for your involvement in promoting equality in business, especially in creative industries. Can you tell us how does it reflect at Mr President?

We have an incredibly diverse team here at Mr President. This goes across our whole agency, as well as in the creative department. We also make sure that we represent the widest and most human points of view in our work. For example making sure that we consciously think about equality and diversity in the casting process for the films we make.

Equally and diversely staffed agencies lead to equally and diversely casted campaigns. Do those campaigns better reflect the reality the consumers live in, or do they maybe shape better attitudes among them towards equality and diversity?  

They play both roles. It’s incredibly important to reflect the culture we live in, and give everyone both a voice and a place in what we create. But this can be seen as a political or controversial act, because many people have been historically marginalised. So by fair representation we both reflect the reality, and change attitudes.

The organisation you’ve founded, SheSays, is committed to advancing women in digital by addressing the problem rather than just talking about it. What, in practice, does SheSays do?

We provide monthly events to inspire and train women, to make them smarter and better at their jobs. Everything from presentation coaching to trends. We mentor women through our scheme Who’s Your Momma, and we have a global SheSays awards to celebrate the best work. We run different types of events and programmes in different cities too - from senior women’s mentoring dinners to a film festival in Cannes.

Are SheSays Awards similar to Cannes Glass Lions?

No they’re not. Any woman who has been responsible (on her own or as a team) for a great piece of work can enter. It celebrated great work made my women, not necessarily work ABOUT women. TO give fantastic creative women a voice.

Can you share what are you favourite campaigns submitted into the competition?

We haven't run it for this year yet, but in previous years we've had everything from amazing interactive films for a Swedish jeans brand, to new tech products and apps, to Cannes award-winning design.

Speaking of awards - you served as D&AD President for two years. A part of it is a global awards show, considered the toughest in the world, tougher than Cannes Lions even. Do SheSays Awards share the same legacy?

I was actually President for one year, but Vice President for a year too, and on the board of trustees for longer! Both awards have creative excellence at it heart, but its a very different kind of award system. we only have three awards (best work, best student work,  out inspiring entrepreneur/personality). Plus its free to enter, as most women enter their own work, rather than their agency.

I think that this kind of system - where the authors themselves enter their own work - also promotes proactivity. Shouldn't advertising, as an industry, encourage proactivity to?

Absolutely, but there are many ways of promoting proactivity. I think its an agency issue, to do with bad management. There are ways of encouraging a more entrepreneurial attitudes in how you run a business and motivate your staff. And D&AD does amazing things - as a charity all the money it collects from awards entries go towards funding programmes to help creatives progress their careers. Often young people who don’t have access to the normal channels of creative education. Without commitment from charities like D&AD we would have even less diversity in the industry.

It's always amazed me how the majority of agencies - who all praise creativity far and wide - actually stifle proactivity among employees. You mentioned "there are ways". What are those?

Wow! That’s a whole conversation in and of itself. But I would say that its all about great management and processes that support a culture of creativity. There is a saying “when you have a hammer, everything becomes a nail”. You get the results you measure for. As long as an agency truly believes that with great work comes great profit/benefits then you’re on the right track. You can’t measure from the money backwards and expect to have a creative culture, even if there are sparks of creative greatness that still happen. Also, understanding your staff’s needs in work and life help too, putting individual plans together to help them achieve goals in and out of work empowers people to be more entrepreneurial and happier!

This sort of cultivation of creative culture, if I can describe it like this, may also help construct the agency's unique character. Is this why the world's best agencies seem so much different form each other when it comes to the "feeling" in their work?

Absolutely. I can’t agree more! The uniqueness of the work comes from the culture, not just the Creative Director.

Slightly different topic, hopefully not too personal question. You've been leading agencies, organizations like SheSays and D&AD, you're one of the founding members of Creative Social from the get go. How do you juggle personal and work life? Actually, in your opinion, is there a distinction between work and personal life?

Great question! My work and life flow pretty seamlessly into each other, but I make sure to make time for focus too. Time with my family away from work and phones. Time for focussing on ideas. The benefit of technology is that I am master of my own time now - of when and where I choose to do what. And I’m terrible at sitting still and sofa surfing so I can fit a lot into my day. It can be hectic though, and there are always compromises to be made along the way.

…and one last question: what would be your advice for young people (men, women, everyone) starting out in our industry? What to do, and what NOT to do?

DO: Work hard, be respectful of your audience, be experimental, be entrepreneurial, have fun.
DONT: Think anyone or any project is not good enough for you, you can make the best work from the worst briefs with the right attitude. Don’t get stuck in a job that makes you unhappy - always work for someone inspiring and with interesting people.

Wojciech Kowalik



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