Tell us a bit about yourself and your current role?
I’m Bre. I’m the EVP of Strategy at Havas Media. I have the privilege of leading an integrated group of strategists across creative and media. I have a one-year-old son, an eight-year-old dog, a three-year-old motorcycle, five-year old skis, and a 24-year-old boat—which pretty much sums up how I spend my free time.
How did you get your start as a strategist? What led you to pursue it as a career?
I got my start in strategy by being curious. I started as a print buyer in London. Back then “digital” was a new fad and more of a hobby. I volunteered to understand the digital landscape and took over what was then “integrated solutions”—basically creating ideas and packaging digital opportunities for clients. It was no man’s land, which is often where the best strategies start.
I quickly realized that I thrived in the grey and loved the idea of making sense of the areas where people didn’t feel like they had a roadmap. I also had a lot of help along the way—great bosses and mentors who encouraged me to explore and gave me opportunities to explore new categories and clients.
What set of skills do you believe it takes for a strategist to thrive in the current advertising landscape?
Curiosity is paramount. If you are interested you will thrive.
We operate in a landscape where nothing stays the same. Change is a constant, which means that strategists have to get comfortable on uneven ground. If you are waiting for all of the answers, or for the perfect data point, you will be waiting forever. Intuition, combined with a healthy dose of rigor and diligence, can help you move forward. Storytelling and passion will help you sell great ideas. Empathy and a willingness to roll up your sleeves will help you make them happen.
What’s the most challenging aspect of the job? What helps keep the work interesting for you?
Switching off is the hardest thing. Strategists get inspiration from everywhere—culture is a huge driver of insight, so it’s impossible to divorce work from play.
The work will always be interesting! Strategists have the privilege of imagining what the future could be like. Our job is inherently rooted in imagination. And if it ever gets boring, I have my team—who always keep it interesting and who I learn from everyday.
Is there a part of the role that you feel is often misunderstood?
In some places—though not my current agencies—there is a perception that strategy lives at the front end of the process only. I am a firm believer that strategists are do-ers and their role is to shepherd ideas throughout the process. Everyone is responsible for getting ideas out the door—and a good strategy that never makes it out of the deck didn’t do it’s job.
Do you have any advice for those looking to work in a similar role?
Get your foot in the door. You can find your department later. Just get started and volunteer for new business.
How do you keep your finger on the pulse of culture? Where do you look for inspiration?
It sounds cheesy, but it comes from everywhere—well everywhere except your desk. Get out into the world and let inspiration find you. You can’t Google culture.