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Agency Life

The Time Is Now

The Time Is Now

Sulaiman Beg

Sulaiman Beg

July 16, 2019

Havas Health & You’s Laura Florence wants to change the ad industry in Brazil today, and the rest of the world tomorrow.

"I always wanted to work in advertising, I always wanted to be a copywriter. It was never a doubt."

Laura Florence always knew she wanted to work in advertising, she just had no idea how lonely it would be. Florence, an Executive Creative Director at Havas Health & You Brazil, was tired of seeing males dominate the creative departments there, so she started MORE GRLS, a platform she co-founded that focuses on increasing the number, value, and visibility of creative women in the industry by providing them tools, resources, and support.

 

How did you get your start?

In 1993 I got my start at Wunderman—I was 17 years old. I got an internship with a gigantic portfolio, full of poems, novels, and invented ads. A friend of my father introduced me to the creative director who gave me the internship. I don’t know why, maybe she was curious about my confident naivety. I always wanted to work in advertising, I always wanted to be a copywriter. It was never a doubt. Since then, I’ve worked at a lot of agencies, such as Publicis, Ogilvy, R/GA, mcgarrybowen, Isobar, and now I’m at Havas Health & You. 

What attracted you to advertising and your current role at Havas Health & You? 

Every time I change jobs I look for something new to learn or a new skill to add to my professional profile. I also try to aim my path in the direction of innovation. So seven years ago, after more than 15 years at well-established traditional agencies (I had been at Ogilvy for nine years at the time), I decided to go to a digital agency because I understood that this was the most innovative place to be. Now I believe that the health and wellness path is the future of our industry. Brands like Apple and Amazon are already going after the healthcare industry. That’s why I came to this side. 

Tell us about what drives you. 

Purpose, challenge, and freedom. The principles of a good idea. 

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

To transform Havas Heath & You Brazil into the most creative and innovative health and wellness consulting center. I do not even say agency, because we’re going beyond that. We will also help brands and products that have never thought about health before. We don’t want to be a pharma agency. Our purpose is to help brands help people be healthier. It goes far beyond drugs and diseases.

What have been your biggest career challenges? Your biggest accomplishments, so far?

Transforming an agency culture that wants to innovate, but does not want to change old habits. People who are too attached to the old comfortable way of work are the hardest ones to work with.

My biggest achievement was getting here. Being a creative leader in an industry where only 2 percent of those in positions like mine are women is a super achievement, isn’t it? I’m just tired of being alone. I want there to be more of us. Exclusivity, in this case, is not something to celebrate. That’s why I created MORE GRLS.

"Today in Brazil only 26 percent of creative positions are occupied by women. In general leadership (CD to CCO) it’s 15 percent, and in executive leadership it’s only 2 percent."

Tell us about MORE GRLS. 

Today in Brazil only 26 percent of creative positions are occupied by women. In general leadership (CD to CCO) it’s 15 percent, and in executive leadership it’s only 2 percent. If we’re considering black women, this ratio does not even reach 1 percent. 

Ever since I became a manager, I’ve always wanted to do something for creative women. I did small things like reviewing portfolios for some junior creatives. But I felt that I needed to reach more people. One day, as a representative for the diversity group of my former network, I made a presentation to the CEOs and spoke about the difficulties experienced by women in the creative realm. Everyone was really impressed, but nothing was done. So I figured I needed to do something on my own. And then I found my partner Camila Moletta, who decided to embark on this madness with me. We put together a talent mapping platform in six months with more than 3,000 members, and now we have four new services beyond the website. Speaking of the platform, version 2.0 is coming—with better usability, more filters, and versions for the rest of LATAM and USA.

How does MORE GRLS help to change the gender imbalance in the creative industry, and in particular leadership roles?

By first providing a tool to the industry: such as a talent-seeking platform, headhunting for creative women in leadership, and creative leadership mentoring. We have goals for agencies, clients, and press. In agencies, for example, the goal is to achieve a representation of 50 percent women in the creative department by 2020. Whoever upholds this commitment receives a seal from our organization. Then we have a strong awareness effort. We believe that the great achievement of 2019 was to recognize that the lack of women in the creative department was a real problem. No one was talking about it before. We’re tired of hearing, “But there are so many women here in the office,” and yet when you look at the creative department separately, there are none at all.

Why is it imperative that we continue to speak about gender equality in the creative industry?

Eighty-five percent of purchasing power is in the hands of women, and 65 percent of them do not feel represented by advertising today. Need more? Who are the ones who create these messages?

You were a judge at Cannes Lions this year and also participated in a roundtable discussion with Sheryl Sandberg on diversity and inclusion. Tell us a little about your experience this year.

It was amazing to be in the midst of so many wonderful women who are leaders of organizations around the world. We shared our achievements, but mainly our difficulties, such as the impact of activism on mental health and the constant difficulty of raising funds to continue the fight. Everyone wants to be around us and talk to us, but it’s hard to find financial support from agencies and clients. And no initiative lives on just love and courage.

What are you really good at?

Being resilient, leading people, building collaborative cultures, encouraging proactive ideas, and creating, of course.

What do you hope to get better at?

Organizing my time better, tolerating lazy people, and learning to say “no” so I don’t overextend myself.

Tell us the best advice you’ve ever gotten? The worst?

Best: “If you do not fit the system, do not try to fit, break the system.”

Worst: “You should be more demanding, being nice to your team will not help you at all.”

Anything that you’d like to add?

Meditate every day, always smile at yourself in the mirror, and sleep until you wake up well-rested at least once a week.

"I always wanted to work in advertising, I always wanted to be a copywriter. It was never a doubt."

Laura Florence always knew she wanted to work in advertising, she just had no idea how lonely it would be. Florence, an Executive Creative Director at Havas Health & You Brazil, was tired of seeing males dominate the creative departments there, so she started MORE GRLS, a platform she co-founded that focuses on increasing the number, value, and visibility of creative women in the industry by providing them tools, resources, and support.

 

How did you get your start?

In 1993 I got my start at Wunderman—I was 17 years old. I got an internship with a gigantic portfolio, full of poems, novels, and invented ads. A friend of my father introduced me to the creative director who gave me the internship. I don’t know why, maybe she was curious about my confident naivety. I always wanted to work in advertising, I always wanted to be a copywriter. It was never a doubt. Since then, I’ve worked at a lot of agencies, such as Publicis, Ogilvy, R/GA, mcgarrybowen, Isobar, and now I’m at Havas Health & You. 

What attracted you to advertising and your current role at Havas Health & You? 

Every time I change jobs I look for something new to learn or a new skill to add to my professional profile. I also try to aim my path in the direction of innovation. So seven years ago, after more than 15 years at well-established traditional agencies (I had been at Ogilvy for nine years at the time), I decided to go to a digital agency because I understood that this was the most innovative place to be. Now I believe that the health and wellness path is the future of our industry. Brands like Apple and Amazon are already going after the healthcare industry. That’s why I came to this side. 

Tell us about what drives you. 

Purpose, challenge, and freedom. The principles of a good idea. 

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

To transform Havas Heath & You Brazil into the most creative and innovative health and wellness consulting center. I do not even say agency, because we’re going beyond that. We will also help brands and products that have never thought about health before. We don’t want to be a pharma agency. Our purpose is to help brands help people be healthier. It goes far beyond drugs and diseases.

What have been your biggest career challenges? Your biggest accomplishments, so far?

Transforming an agency culture that wants to innovate, but does not want to change old habits. People who are too attached to the old comfortable way of work are the hardest ones to work with.

My biggest achievement was getting here. Being a creative leader in an industry where only 2 percent of those in positions like mine are women is a super achievement, isn’t it? I’m just tired of being alone. I want there to be more of us. Exclusivity, in this case, is not something to celebrate. That’s why I created MORE GRLS.

"Today in Brazil only 26 percent of creative positions are occupied by women. In general leadership (CD to CCO) it’s 15 percent, and in executive leadership it’s only 2 percent."

Tell us about MORE GRLS. 

Today in Brazil only 26 percent of creative positions are occupied by women. In general leadership (CD to CCO) it’s 15 percent, and in executive leadership it’s only 2 percent. If we’re considering black women, this ratio does not even reach 1 percent. 

Ever since I became a manager, I’ve always wanted to do something for creative women. I did small things like reviewing portfolios for some junior creatives. But I felt that I needed to reach more people. One day, as a representative for the diversity group of my former network, I made a presentation to the CEOs and spoke about the difficulties experienced by women in the creative realm. Everyone was really impressed, but nothing was done. So I figured I needed to do something on my own. And then I found my partner Camila Moletta, who decided to embark on this madness with me. We put together a talent mapping platform in six months with more than 3,000 members, and now we have four new services beyond the website. Speaking of the platform, version 2.0 is coming—with better usability, more filters, and versions for the rest of LATAM and USA.

How does MORE GRLS help to change the gender imbalance in the creative industry, and in particular leadership roles?

By first providing a tool to the industry: such as a talent-seeking platform, headhunting for creative women in leadership, and creative leadership mentoring. We have goals for agencies, clients, and press. In agencies, for example, the goal is to achieve a representation of 50 percent women in the creative department by 2020. Whoever upholds this commitment receives a seal from our organization. Then we have a strong awareness effort. We believe that the great achievement of 2019 was to recognize that the lack of women in the creative department was a real problem. No one was talking about it before. We’re tired of hearing, “But there are so many women here in the office,” and yet when you look at the creative department separately, there are none at all.

Why is it imperative that we continue to speak about gender equality in the creative industry?

Eighty-five percent of purchasing power is in the hands of women, and 65 percent of them do not feel represented by advertising today. Need more? Who are the ones who create these messages?

You were a judge at Cannes Lions this year and also participated in a roundtable discussion with Sheryl Sandberg on diversity and inclusion. Tell us a little about your experience this year.

It was amazing to be in the midst of so many wonderful women who are leaders of organizations around the world. We shared our achievements, but mainly our difficulties, such as the impact of activism on mental health and the constant difficulty of raising funds to continue the fight. Everyone wants to be around us and talk to us, but it’s hard to find financial support from agencies and clients. And no initiative lives on just love and courage.

What are you really good at?

Being resilient, leading people, building collaborative cultures, encouraging proactive ideas, and creating, of course.

What do you hope to get better at?

Organizing my time better, tolerating lazy people, and learning to say “no” so I don’t overextend myself.

Tell us the best advice you’ve ever gotten? The worst?

Best: “If you do not fit the system, do not try to fit, break the system.”

Worst: “You should be more demanding, being nice to your team will not help you at all.”

Anything that you’d like to add?

Meditate every day, always smile at yourself in the mirror, and sleep until you wake up well-rested at least once a week.

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

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