Make it Sound Simple

Great strategists know that in advertising things don't always need to make sense.


Justyna Pospychala
Planning Director MullenLowe Open

Tell us a bit about yourself, what do you do?

I am an experienced Planning Director currently working for MullenLowe Open, the global CX Activation Agency, headquartered in London. My role is a mixture of hands-on planning and agency leadership. I have worked across numerous sectors including FMCG, personal care, tech, alcoholic beverages, retail, and toy manufacturing. I have experience in planning integrated, shopper, eCommerce, digital and brand campaigns. I’m passionate about understanding human behaviour and thinking through customer journeys. 

I’m passionate about helping others to grow. I’m a member of the She Says mentoring network “Who’s Your Momma”.  

I’m truly multicultural. I’m from Poland, married to an Italian, living and raising a 1.5-year old daughter in London. My family and I don’t feel like foreigners here, London’s inclusivity coupled with the amount of opportunities the city creates would make it really hard for us to ever leave! 


What did you do before your current role and what led you to where you are now?

I started my first job in an advertising agency while I was still at university and haven’t left the industry since. I tend to stay in places for longer periods of time but always ensure I am progressing while endeavoring to do something interesting and new within my time there.  

I started at TBWA as an integrated planner then, after writing an article for Harvard Business Review on shopper marketing, I turned my focus to retail and eCommerce projects. Now my work focuses on thinking through customer journeys. 

I believe in getting stuck in – a big part of my success has been about showing up and asking: what's the work? How can I help do it? How can I make it better along the way? 

Being a really optimistic person helped me too. I always believe that if something good can happen, then it will happen. 


How would you define the role of a strategist in your agency?

Our job is to be clever enough to make complicated things sound simple. Our strategic department has a great reputation. We like to think of ourselves as smart thinkers who are trusted advisors for our clients and partners for creative teams.


How have you seen the role of a strategist evolve since you first began? 

I actually don’t think it has changed too much. The single most important task for every strategist always remains the same: inspire great ideas. 

If anything, it’s that today sees even more focus on the creative idea. So we now see that creative briefs are simpler and shorter than they were and strategists are expected to think in a more media neutral way without being biased towards one channel.


In your opinion, what are the greatest barriers an aspiring planner/strategist encounters when trying to start their career?

During my time mentoring aspiring planners, I have come across two main barriers :

  • Waiting for permission. We often assume that somebody else will look after our career. The reality is you have to forge your own way forward, you have to ask and make things happen for yourself. 
  •  Fear of failure. Planning is perceived as a discipline for extraordinary personalities. Often young planners think they are not smart enough or good enough. The quicker you stop comparing yourself to others, the better.  


In your time, what have you noticed are the key skills and traits that separate great strategists from the mediocre?

Great strategists are those who have the ability to learn from history and are able to transfer their experience across seemingly unrelated brands and sectors. 

Secondly, it is their ability to resist the danger of reducing everything to a logical and measured argument. Mediocre strategists tend to be very rational and strip out all the magic. Great strategists know that in advertising things don't always need to make sense.


How do you avoid getting stuck in a cultural bubble and stay informed on the needs and desires of everyday consumers?

Through my pro bono work. Every Wednesday morning, I run a parental group in South East London, a 10-minute chat with a single mum raising three kids in a council flat gives me a better insight into everyday life than the most thorough ethnographic research.