The Marketing Institute: What does a CEO at TBWA\Dublin do?
Deirdre Waldron: At TBWA\Dublin, my primary responsibility is to ensure that as a company we perform to the best of our collective ability. It’s something I strive for by ensuring we have the right blend of talent, for the right type of work, and most importantly, the right culture we all want to be part of. All of which keeps me focused on the vision for our company.
At our core, TBWA\Dublin is a full service advertising and creative agency. We also have TBWA\MAKE, our in-house production studio, and TBWA\DAN, home to our data services for local clients and the TBWA global network and Disruption ® Consultancy, our consultancy arm.
My role is to ensure all these elements of the company are working optimally, though I also hold different roles within each. For example, I’m the relationship manager for some of our key clients within the main agency and also responsible for our new business program. For TBWA\DAN, I’m in a business development role, while with Disruption ® Consultancy I act as a business transformation advisor.
MII: What were your key career moves to get to your current role?
D.W: I began my career as a software engineer before progressing into management roles in project management and product marketing departments in financial services and multimedia companies in both the US and here. I moved to the agency side of things 8 years ago, firstly as a digital practitioner, but ultimately my management background opened up different opportunities for me in agency land.
MII: What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?
D.W: As an agency head I think there are both internal and external challenges to consider. Internally, the biggest challenge in my role is keeping true to the vision and strategic direction we have chosen for our company. The daily treadmill can often lead to you losing a little bit of that focus. Having said that, I still enjoy jumping on a client problem or issue and bringing some creative thinking to the situation.
Externally, I believe the biggest challenge our industry faces is the lack of value we place on the services we offer. In many ways we’ve been allowing the devaluation of agency services over the past number of years. This needs to change, and agencies need to lead the change.
MII: What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?
D.W: It’s an oldie, but you need to be ready and adaptable to change. Our industry, our staff, our clients look for innovative thinking on a continual basis. We’re in the business of communications, so it should go without saying that you need to be very good communicator. Other key skills may sound clichéd, but there’s usually truth in a cliché - act with integrity and openness - the best relationships are always built on mutual trust. I could keep going about strategic thinking (bigger picture stuff), good coordination and organisational skills – but they’re true of many roles. What’s different about what I do, and it’s something I genuinely believe, you have to have a love for what you do – passion will always win out in the end and especially helps in those tougher days.
MII: Describe a typical working day.
D.W: I think people who work in agencies do so because no day is typical. What I certainly love is the sheer variety of challenges. From creating a domestic abuse campaign for the Department of Justice and Equality to communicating a new disruptive residential pricing strategy for Electric Ireland, every day is vastly different. However there are some recurring themes – generally we’ll have internal meetings regarding operational needs but also on the strategic priorities we’ve set for the year.
I try to split up my week across each of our varying services from the main advertising agency, to our data services, focusing on potential growth opportunities. I also try to have at least one client meeting/phone call a day so I’m always in touch with the client needs.
On top of that, I still love attending workshops with clients to help drive their businesses forward, often facilitated in our offices. Then there’s industry events, mentoring program, global agency leadership meetings, new business pitches, HR issues, P&L monitoring, shareholder management, board meetings, the list goes on…
MII: What do you love most about your role?
D.W: There are two main reasons why I love my role. Firstly, the variety of client challenges that I mentioned; and secondly, and the opportunity we have as an agency to make a positive impact on Irish society and culture through our communications on behalf of our clients.
MII: Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next?
D.W: I would like to demonstrate that we can be a world-class creative agency that just happens to be in Dublin. I’d like to bring more international accounts to Dublin, or even bring some Irish brands currently with agencies outside of Ireland back home. Growing TBWA\Dublin as an international brand is my next focus, while continuing to expand our local footprint too.
MII: To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?
D.W: My colleagues, both in the Dublin office and our worldwide network. We’ve got an amazing team in the Dublin agency. It’s constantly growing and we’re adding new and diverse skills all the time. I still get inspired when we have internal team meetings on a client brief or working on our own agency projects. The people I work with have the incredible habit of inspiring me on a regular basis. That’s what you call a great place to work.