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Agency Life

Fighting to Win

Fighting to Win

Sulaiman Beg

Sulaiman Beg

April 15, 2019

“I’m horribly competitive,” says Havas Creative’s newly named Global CMO Tracey Barber.

"I realized that agencies are all very similar...to stand out you need to stop the bullsh*t and create craft and brilliant experiences."

New business superstar Tracey Barber shares how “the supreme arrogance of youth” helped her land her first agency gig, why agencies of the future must be diverse, her most memorable pitch, and her succinct goals for her new role.

 

How did you get your start in advertising, and what attracted you to it?

I started at Lowe Howard-Spink by being incredibly lucky—I went off traveling after university, spent a year doing what I liked, landed back in London, and with the supreme arrogance of youth, sent letters off to Lowe, Grey, and JWT. Each offered me a job, and I chose Lowe because they had amazing offices—and I decided I suited the glamour.

Tell us about what drives you.

Winning. Being better than anyone else. I’m horribly competitive.

You worked briefly as a consultant/intermediary. How do you think that’s influenced your current role?

I realized that agencies are all very similar. Many talk jargon and complexity, but to stand out you need to stop the bullsh*t and create craft and brilliant experiences.

You’ve been a CMO at Havas for nearly five years. Knowing the tenure for CMOs is usually two years or less, what about Havas has kept you here for so long?

It has just kept changing. New challenges, new agencies, new disciplines. It’s honestly never stood still— so it’s always exciting.

What excites you about your new role?

The opportunity to get more agencies winning more and more often.

In one sentence, what is your approach to new business?

It’s the aggregation of marginal gains—making every stage of the new business process slightly better.

New business is the lifeblood of any agency. How do you make sure it’s not only one of the top priorities at an agency/network, but at the same time you are able to remove the pain points as you scale up?

By being relentless. And focused. And having a brilliant team who know how to replicate success.

"I would love to get to a place where our competitors are scared when they see the name Havas on a pitch list."

What’s been your biggest accomplishments so far?

Probably Havas London and Havas Media in the UK: winning more (volume of) pitches than any other creative or media agency in 2018.

Speaking of big accomplishments, congrats on being named Campaign’s New-Business Development Team of the Year—that’s quite the honor. How does that feel?

Incredibly proud of my team—they rock.

Knowing you’ve built such a brilliant team in the UK, can you speak a bit about how you’ve mentored and grown the team?

Oh crikey—I hope I have given them air cover to avoid the nonsense and focus on the important, encouraged them to make decisions and just try “stuff,” and helped them realize they can make mistakes and that’s okay. They are just fantastic.

What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in pursuing a career in new business?

Ensure you have a huge amount of energy and be a radiator. And it’s not about sales. We are storytellers and craftsman.

What inspires you?

Great work and winning.

What’s the hardest part of your job? The best part?

Hardest: Juggling

Best: The people—love, love the people I work with

New business is often associated with stressful and hectic situations/deadlines. How do you handle the pressure?

Eat a lot of Marks and Spencer Sour Wibbly Wobbly Worms. Seriously. And box. A lot.

When people outside of the industry ask about your role, how do you describe your position?

I tell them I spend my life going on and on and on to get people to do stuff, and running up and down a lot of stairs.

You’ve been involved in numerous pitches over the years. Is there one that sticks out in your mind?

Huawei. The first pitch I did with [newly named Global Creative CEO] Chris Hirst when we had just arrived at Havas London based in Cupola House. Begging to get on the pitch, ridiculous briefings, working through the night, doing everything ourselves, and pitching in a room with mice running under the table. But we won.

What are you really good at? What do you hope to get better at?

I think I am very good at never stopping. And ironically, I need to be better at switching off. I have ideas at silly times and then overshare.

Tell us the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

Best: Choose your battles (sometimes I fail at this one).

What do you wish that you could change about the industry?  What do you hope stays the same?

More equal opportunity, please—diversity makes for better agencies. And we must never forget that creativity is what we do.

What do you want to achieve in 2019?

I would love to get to a place where our competitors are scared when they see the name Havas on a pitch list.

"I realized that agencies are all very similar...to stand out you need to stop the bullsh*t and create craft and brilliant experiences."

New business superstar Tracey Barber shares how “the supreme arrogance of youth” helped her land her first agency gig, why agencies of the future must be diverse, her most memorable pitch, and her succinct goals for her new role.

 

How did you get your start in advertising, and what attracted you to it?

I started at Lowe Howard-Spink by being incredibly lucky—I went off traveling after university, spent a year doing what I liked, landed back in London, and with the supreme arrogance of youth, sent letters off to Lowe, Grey, and JWT. Each offered me a job, and I chose Lowe because they had amazing offices—and I decided I suited the glamour.

Tell us about what drives you.

Winning. Being better than anyone else. I’m horribly competitive.

You worked briefly as a consultant/intermediary. How do you think that’s influenced your current role?

I realized that agencies are all very similar. Many talk jargon and complexity, but to stand out you need to stop the bullsh*t and create craft and brilliant experiences.

You’ve been a CMO at Havas for nearly five years. Knowing the tenure for CMOs is usually two years or less, what about Havas has kept you here for so long?

It has just kept changing. New challenges, new agencies, new disciplines. It’s honestly never stood still— so it’s always exciting.

What excites you about your new role?

The opportunity to get more agencies winning more and more often.

In one sentence, what is your approach to new business?

It’s the aggregation of marginal gains—making every stage of the new business process slightly better.

New business is the lifeblood of any agency. How do you make sure it’s not only one of the top priorities at an agency/network, but at the same time you are able to remove the pain points as you scale up?

By being relentless. And focused. And having a brilliant team who know how to replicate success.

"I would love to get to a place where our competitors are scared when they see the name Havas on a pitch list."

What’s been your biggest accomplishments so far?

Probably Havas London and Havas Media in the UK: winning more (volume of) pitches than any other creative or media agency in 2018.

Speaking of big accomplishments, congrats on being named Campaign’s New-Business Development Team of the Year—that’s quite the honor. How does that feel?

Incredibly proud of my team—they rock.

Knowing you’ve built such a brilliant team in the UK, can you speak a bit about how you’ve mentored and grown the team?

Oh crikey—I hope I have given them air cover to avoid the nonsense and focus on the important, encouraged them to make decisions and just try “stuff,” and helped them realize they can make mistakes and that’s okay. They are just fantastic.

What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in pursuing a career in new business?

Ensure you have a huge amount of energy and be a radiator. And it’s not about sales. We are storytellers and craftsman.

What inspires you?

Great work and winning.

What’s the hardest part of your job? The best part?

Hardest: Juggling

Best: The people—love, love the people I work with

New business is often associated with stressful and hectic situations/deadlines. How do you handle the pressure?

Eat a lot of Marks and Spencer Sour Wibbly Wobbly Worms. Seriously. And box. A lot.

When people outside of the industry ask about your role, how do you describe your position?

I tell them I spend my life going on and on and on to get people to do stuff, and running up and down a lot of stairs.

You’ve been involved in numerous pitches over the years. Is there one that sticks out in your mind?

Huawei. The first pitch I did with [newly named Global Creative CEO] Chris Hirst when we had just arrived at Havas London based in Cupola House. Begging to get on the pitch, ridiculous briefings, working through the night, doing everything ourselves, and pitching in a room with mice running under the table. But we won.

What are you really good at? What do you hope to get better at?

I think I am very good at never stopping. And ironically, I need to be better at switching off. I have ideas at silly times and then overshare.

Tell us the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

Best: Choose your battles (sometimes I fail at this one).

What do you wish that you could change about the industry?  What do you hope stays the same?

More equal opportunity, please—diversity makes for better agencies. And we must never forget that creativity is what we do.

What do you want to achieve in 2019?

I would love to get to a place where our competitors are scared when they see the name Havas on a pitch list.

Sulaiman Beg is Havas' Director of Global Internal Communications. He has never eaten canned tuna fish.

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