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Q&A with Sarah Watson, BBH Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer

BBH Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer, Sarah Watson, is the latest advertising industry leader who took the time to host a Q&A on Fishbowl.

Sarah first joined BBH, originally at BBH London, fourteen years ago as a planner. In between, she was the Head of Planning at DDB London and returned to BBH in 2011. Among her accomplishments, Sarah has served on juries for awards including the Effies and ADC and was named the first Ambassador for Cannes Lions’ ‘See It Be It’ program, an initiative that aims to develop high-potential creative women and bring them to the attention of the industry.

The Fishbowl community was thrilled to have the opportunity to converse and seek advice from Sarah Watson. We’ve highlighted some of the conversations that took place:

Why do you work in advertising? Genuinely love to hear you talk about why you’ve chosen to give so much of your life to this industry.

“I never found my voice until I worked in advertising. It’s a terrible thing not to feel you have a voice. Now I work in advertising to help other people find their voices and to help brands do the same. It’s all the same thing.”

I’m a junior planner at a big agency, and it feels easy to get lost in the shuffle. Do you have any advice on how to go above and beyond as a junior, or how to better stand out?

It’s actually easier than you think to make yourself indispensable. Being the one who knows the consumer better than anyone else, being the one who knows all the business numbers, attending every single focus group, knowing the product – lots of your team won’t have time to do this in the depth required but if you can do it you’ll stand out.”

In what ways do you think agency experience prepares us for a job with tech companies like Google?

“Talking to planners over at those tech platforms, it seems that the big skill we bring is synthesis – ie the ability to digest lots of different inputs and distill them to be simple, inspiring, actionable. The world is drowning in data points, what is required are people who can digest and show the way forward.”

I read in an interview of yours that it took you some years to gain confidence & find your voice. How did you go from insecurity to leading w/ confidence?

First of all – it takes a while, and it takes everyone a different amount of time. So be gentle with yourself and don’t compare yourself to others. You have to find your voice in your way. And you can’t rush that.

When you’re junior you don’t know if the thoughts you’re having in your head are different from what people are saying in the room because your thoughts are wrong or because you’re the only one who is right! There comes a moment when you’ve had enough experience to know that actually the best thing for this team and this business is for you to step forward with your point of view.

When you’re ready, you feel it in your heart and you just don’t care what people think – you know that you need to make your contribution for the good of the project/team/agency. What really helps along the way are others who say ‘you were right – you should speak up’ and help you get there faster.”

Would love to hear any secret, magical pro-tips you’ve used to stay on top of (and leading) your career while also being a mom to two little ones?

Firstly I live near to the agency and have low maintenance hair haha (but v important). It’s hard work with very young kids but always remember this phase will be gone in a flash and to make peace with the fact you aren’t going to be able to everything else you want *right now* You’ll be back to some of that other stuff later.”

Best advice you’ve ever received?

Never make anyone wrong. It doesn’t matter how we got into this situation / whose ‘fault’ it is – the most important thing is that we move forward powerfully and positively.”

 

We want to thank Sarah Watson for taking the time to talk about her experiences with the Fishbowl community. See what else she had to say about her time in the advertising industry by checking out the rest of the Q&A here.

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