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Agency Life

Leading with Empathy

Leading with Empathy

Danielle Smith

Danielle Smith

July 3, 2019

João Nunes, Chief Innovation Officer of Havas Group Portugal, shares his plan to integrate media and creative to make a meaningful difference from Lisbon

"advertising today is still all about having a great idea and a powerful message, but it’s so much more about strategy and how brands make sure that an idea is delivered perfectly to their consumers."

João Nunes remembers ads that made an impact on him at a young age. As he developed his career, that passion for great advertising and quality storytelling stuck with him. He navigated through sales, to computer science, to business development, to Google, and finally to Havas Group Portugal where he now serves as Chief Innovation Officer and was recently named President of IAB Portugal.

 

How did you start your career?

My career didn’t start in advertising. My first job was when I was still attending University and back then, I started working at call centers, doing sales over the phone. A couple of years later, I was managing a small team that handled new contracts provisioning at a Telco company.

Looking back, I now believe this was a crucial period that shaped me as a professional. It influenced my speech, helped me to be able to actively listen to customers and build solutions for them, to sell services and products according to needs, and later, helped me build my leadership skills as a team manager.

Later, I moved to a business development role with a different company and ended up managing sales and marketing. That job was when I had my first experience with online advertising. In 2011 I moved to Dublin, Ireland to join Google EU’s headquarters selling Google Media to large advertisers. Then in 2013 I moved back to Lisbon, Portugal to manage the relationship between Google and the media agencies in the Portuguese market. I did my MBA from 2015 to 2017 and then joined Havas Group in May of 2018.

 

What attracted you to a career in advertising?

I have always had a fascination with advertising since I can recall. I still remember those great ads that I used to see when I was a kid, and still today remember some brands that probably don’t exist anymore. And that always fascinated me. How brands were built around a powerful message and a great idea—and more than that, how memories were created.

When I learned about the Four Ps of marketing and how advertising fits within a broader marketing strategy, I thought that maybe I could apply the marketing management framework to design how brands should speak to their consumers and shape what message brands send.

It was actually when I started working in online advertising and digital marketing that this thought became ingrained. Online and Digital opened so many doors, so many possibilities, both creatively and on the media side. It always seemed obvious to me that there is a need to adapt the message to the content and context, to become more meaningful to the user. As attention became scarce and media touchpoints became so plentiful, only those pieces of content that are meaningful to me capture my attention.

So for me, advertising today is still all about having a great idea and a powerful message, but it’s so much more about strategy and how brands make sure that an idea is delivered perfectly to their consumers. In a nutshell, I love that.

 

How did your time working at Google prepare you for this role innovating at Havas?

Besides my current experience, my time at Google was my best work experience so far. I think that everything about that company is set up in a way that leads you to do something great, and that is a very hard thing to replicate. The biggest highlight I can speak to is Google’s culture. It is not an ordinary company; it has a very strong sense of purpose that is reflected in every part of the company’s strategy. I think that some of the most important skills I learned were the ability to adapt, change, and work with virtual teams from across the world and get things done. I learned to ask difficult questions, question the status quo, and act like an owner. Now, I believe that is what I bring to the table here at Havas every day. 

 

How do you plan to increase the holistic approach to the world of media and communication?

I joined the group in May 2018, working across Media and Creative. My task is to create and develop an integrated strategy and approach between these teams so we can answer to market and client needs and trends, according to the vision of the company. Together with the different agency leaders, I work to define collaborative processes that allow the entire organization to contribute and actively participate in the discussion for a more integrated agency.

As of today, between 60% and 70% of our group’s billings in the market come from shared clients between Media and Creative, but that doesn’t mean they are fully integrated. Looking at our current state, I believe that as a group we have done more than any other in the market, but we still have work ahead. We need people who understand communication in a holistic manner—not just media or creativity, but the power of that combination. 

"I’m of the opinion that the single most important characteristic that separates great leaders from good managers is empathy."

You were recently selected to serve as the President of the Board of Directors at IAB Portugal. What did this appointment mean to you?

I was elected as President of The Board of Directors at IAB Portugal in April of this year, representing Havas Group Portugal, which is an IAB associate. As such, first I want to thank Havas Group Portugal and in particular CEO Fernanda Marantes for choosing me as the representative.

It’s a very political and complex role. I’m one of nine board members, working alongside individuals from other agencies, tech companies, and more traditional publishers. This role is important to me in two ways: as an individual and as part of Havas Group. Individually, it is an enormous challenge and an amazing opportunity to continue to develop my negotiation, conflict management, and mostly, my strategy skills. As a representative of Havas Group, it’s a major opportunity to stand out in the market, showing our leadership in the digital front and our commitment to the growth of the digital ecosystem.

I’m committed to take IAB Portugal to a new stage in its existence and transform it into the most representative and well-known association in the Online Advertising market, and with that, to help Havas Group lead this evolution.

 

What has been the biggest challenge in your career? What about the biggest accomplishment?

In all honesty, I think challenges and accomplishments go hand in hand. For me, it’s been learning when it’s necessary to make a pivot and change the course of my career path.

Sometimes we get too used to doing things in a particular manner, or go through the same routine every day, and we like the comfort of knowing that we’re good at what we do, that we get credit and acknowledgment for that.

For me, the sign was always when I already knew what was going to happen that day or when I thought that nothing that could come up would catch me off guard. I always do that check-up in the evening, every evening. Whenever I see myself bored because I’m going to work the next day, it’s time to leave. Then the biggest challenge is to recognize when our time in a role or organization is due and to make the call, to take the leap.

I think that some of my biggest accomplishments were when I was able to change directions in my career path and put into practice some of the skills and knowledge I had gathered from previous experience while being able to learn new things from the ground up. Developing this skill is a piece of advice that I would emphasize to anyone reading this.

 

What are you really good at?

It’s always hard to answer a question like this without sounding self-indulgent. But I guess what has been my key differentiation point is my ability to look beyond the current picture, identify opportunities beyond the obvious, and draw strategic approaches to take advantage of that. With that skill, I believe that I’ve been able to develop rich relationships with clients and partners, which means that clients often look to me for guidance and support.

Internally, then, it becomes important to be able to persuade people to support those ideas and initiate new projects, while perceiving the potential within others and helping them realize that potential and stay happy and motivated while collaborating on those new ventures. This is something else I think I’m good at.

 

What do you hope to be better at?

Time management!

 

How do you inspire others?

I’m of the opinion that the single most important characteristic that separates great leaders from good managers is empathy. Empathy allows leaders or potential leaders to motivate, persuade, and inspire others.

 I believe I am a particularly good communicator, so I use that to my benefit when working with others. I try to engage them with a shared vision and a strong sense of purpose. Empathy is particularly important when selecting peers to work with or people to build a team. I think that in the end, transparency, openness, willingness to learn from others and to admit weaknesses or mistakes really matter. People follow people, and you need to be authentic to inspire.

 

Anything else you’d like to share?

I have to say that I’m particularly motivated around our next stage as an agency and as a company. I think we have a very powerful message and mission statement, and we actually need to be more vocal about it.

“Making a meaningful difference” is such a broad and powerful message, that it may even open doors in areas and disciplines where we do not have yet a string show a strong presence, such as more high-level and strategic areas. Looking at our business, I believe that our new MX methodology is going to play a key role in the near future, as soon as it is consolidated across the group. It is a true competitive advantage. Nonetheless, I believe this is the area where we still need to invest more, introduce more innovation and technology- driven process to support the MX promise.

 I look forward to my next years at Havas Group!

"advertising today is still all about having a great idea and a powerful message, but it’s so much more about strategy and how brands make sure that an idea is delivered perfectly to their consumers."

João Nunes remembers ads that made an impact on him at a young age. As he developed his career, that passion for great advertising and quality storytelling stuck with him. He navigated through sales, to computer science, to business development, to Google, and finally to Havas Group Portugal where he now serves as Chief Innovation Officer and was recently named President of IAB Portugal.

 

How did you start your career?

My career didn’t start in advertising. My first job was when I was still attending University and back then, I started working at call centers, doing sales over the phone. A couple of years later, I was managing a small team that handled new contracts provisioning at a Telco company.

Looking back, I now believe this was a crucial period that shaped me as a professional. It influenced my speech, helped me to be able to actively listen to customers and build solutions for them, to sell services and products according to needs, and later, helped me build my leadership skills as a team manager.

Later, I moved to a business development role with a different company and ended up managing sales and marketing. That job was when I had my first experience with online advertising. In 2011 I moved to Dublin, Ireland to join Google EU’s headquarters selling Google Media to large advertisers. Then in 2013 I moved back to Lisbon, Portugal to manage the relationship between Google and the media agencies in the Portuguese market. I did my MBA from 2015 to 2017 and then joined Havas Group in May of 2018.

 

What attracted you to a career in advertising?

I have always had a fascination with advertising since I can recall. I still remember those great ads that I used to see when I was a kid, and still today remember some brands that probably don’t exist anymore. And that always fascinated me. How brands were built around a powerful message and a great idea—and more than that, how memories were created.

When I learned about the Four Ps of marketing and how advertising fits within a broader marketing strategy, I thought that maybe I could apply the marketing management framework to design how brands should speak to their consumers and shape what message brands send.

It was actually when I started working in online advertising and digital marketing that this thought became ingrained. Online and Digital opened so many doors, so many possibilities, both creatively and on the media side. It always seemed obvious to me that there is a need to adapt the message to the content and context, to become more meaningful to the user. As attention became scarce and media touchpoints became so plentiful, only those pieces of content that are meaningful to me capture my attention.

So for me, advertising today is still all about having a great idea and a powerful message, but it’s so much more about strategy and how brands make sure that an idea is delivered perfectly to their consumers. In a nutshell, I love that.

 

How did your time working at Google prepare you for this role innovating at Havas?

Besides my current experience, my time at Google was my best work experience so far. I think that everything about that company is set up in a way that leads you to do something great, and that is a very hard thing to replicate. The biggest highlight I can speak to is Google’s culture. It is not an ordinary company; it has a very strong sense of purpose that is reflected in every part of the company’s strategy. I think that some of the most important skills I learned were the ability to adapt, change, and work with virtual teams from across the world and get things done. I learned to ask difficult questions, question the status quo, and act like an owner. Now, I believe that is what I bring to the table here at Havas every day. 

 

How do you plan to increase the holistic approach to the world of media and communication?

I joined the group in May 2018, working across Media and Creative. My task is to create and develop an integrated strategy and approach between these teams so we can answer to market and client needs and trends, according to the vision of the company. Together with the different agency leaders, I work to define collaborative processes that allow the entire organization to contribute and actively participate in the discussion for a more integrated agency.

As of today, between 60% and 70% of our group’s billings in the market come from shared clients between Media and Creative, but that doesn’t mean they are fully integrated. Looking at our current state, I believe that as a group we have done more than any other in the market, but we still have work ahead. We need people who understand communication in a holistic manner—not just media or creativity, but the power of that combination. 

"I’m of the opinion that the single most important characteristic that separates great leaders from good managers is empathy."

You were recently selected to serve as the President of the Board of Directors at IAB Portugal. What did this appointment mean to you?

I was elected as President of The Board of Directors at IAB Portugal in April of this year, representing Havas Group Portugal, which is an IAB associate. As such, first I want to thank Havas Group Portugal and in particular CEO Fernanda Marantes for choosing me as the representative.

It’s a very political and complex role. I’m one of nine board members, working alongside individuals from other agencies, tech companies, and more traditional publishers. This role is important to me in two ways: as an individual and as part of Havas Group. Individually, it is an enormous challenge and an amazing opportunity to continue to develop my negotiation, conflict management, and mostly, my strategy skills. As a representative of Havas Group, it’s a major opportunity to stand out in the market, showing our leadership in the digital front and our commitment to the growth of the digital ecosystem.

I’m committed to take IAB Portugal to a new stage in its existence and transform it into the most representative and well-known association in the Online Advertising market, and with that, to help Havas Group lead this evolution.

 

What has been the biggest challenge in your career? What about the biggest accomplishment?

In all honesty, I think challenges and accomplishments go hand in hand. For me, it’s been learning when it’s necessary to make a pivot and change the course of my career path.

Sometimes we get too used to doing things in a particular manner, or go through the same routine every day, and we like the comfort of knowing that we’re good at what we do, that we get credit and acknowledgment for that.

For me, the sign was always when I already knew what was going to happen that day or when I thought that nothing that could come up would catch me off guard. I always do that check-up in the evening, every evening. Whenever I see myself bored because I’m going to work the next day, it’s time to leave. Then the biggest challenge is to recognize when our time in a role or organization is due and to make the call, to take the leap.

I think that some of my biggest accomplishments were when I was able to change directions in my career path and put into practice some of the skills and knowledge I had gathered from previous experience while being able to learn new things from the ground up. Developing this skill is a piece of advice that I would emphasize to anyone reading this.

 

What are you really good at?

It’s always hard to answer a question like this without sounding self-indulgent. But I guess what has been my key differentiation point is my ability to look beyond the current picture, identify opportunities beyond the obvious, and draw strategic approaches to take advantage of that. With that skill, I believe that I’ve been able to develop rich relationships with clients and partners, which means that clients often look to me for guidance and support.

Internally, then, it becomes important to be able to persuade people to support those ideas and initiate new projects, while perceiving the potential within others and helping them realize that potential and stay happy and motivated while collaborating on those new ventures. This is something else I think I’m good at.

 

What do you hope to be better at?

Time management!

 

How do you inspire others?

I’m of the opinion that the single most important characteristic that separates great leaders from good managers is empathy. Empathy allows leaders or potential leaders to motivate, persuade, and inspire others.

 I believe I am a particularly good communicator, so I use that to my benefit when working with others. I try to engage them with a shared vision and a strong sense of purpose. Empathy is particularly important when selecting peers to work with or people to build a team. I think that in the end, transparency, openness, willingness to learn from others and to admit weaknesses or mistakes really matter. People follow people, and you need to be authentic to inspire.

 

Anything else you’d like to share?

I have to say that I’m particularly motivated around our next stage as an agency and as a company. I think we have a very powerful message and mission statement, and we actually need to be more vocal about it.

“Making a meaningful difference” is such a broad and powerful message, that it may even open doors in areas and disciplines where we do not have yet a string show a strong presence, such as more high-level and strategic areas. Looking at our business, I believe that our new MX methodology is going to play a key role in the near future, as soon as it is consolidated across the group. It is a true competitive advantage. Nonetheless, I believe this is the area where we still need to invest more, introduce more innovation and technology- driven process to support the MX promise.

 I look forward to my next years at Havas Group!

Danielle Smith is the Communications Manager of Havas Group. She’s believes every meal can be tacos if you have tortillas and the heart to try.

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