This week, Senior Talent Partner Sophie Tiarks sat down with CCO & President of Grey Agency, Laura Bambach to talk about the highlights of the career she has shaped so far and the who’s and what’s that kept her pushing forward in the creative world.
As one of the world’s few female Chief Creative Officers and former president of D&AD, Laura Bambach has had a seismic impact on UK’s creative scene for the best part of 20 years. Named one of Britain’s most influential people within the Debrett’s 500 annual list for the second year running as well as scooping up Individual of the Year at the Dadi Awards, Laura now turns her attention to WPP’s Grey Agency, as CCO and President.
You've led some of the world's most influential agencies in the creative space, can you share a bit about how you got started and who may have inspired you along the way?
I went to art school in the 90s and majored in Photomedia. That’s photography, digital and interactive art. I started working in the industry while I was there when I realised that I could make money out of the craft skills I’d learned for my art by making stuff commercially for the web which was just being born in the way we know it now.
So, I started my own company, Joystick Digital Media, and worked with agencies to cut and code their work and get it all working – at the time it was all done by hand, and it was a skill not many people had.
In my spare time between working and creating I also honed my skills on geekgirl – the world’s only cyberfeminism hyperzine (print and web). Rosie Cross, who was the founder, gave me a huge amount of scope to set the direction of the issues and lead all the interactive elements.
I scored my first agency job at Deepend – it was the coolest and most interesting global digital agency of the time, but I had to work really hard for my place there. It took the best part of a year to meet with the founder Simon Waterfall whenever he was in Australia for portfolio reviews and updates until he finally gave me a role. Not as a designer because I wasn’t trained, and they had the best designers in Sydney in the office there. But as a producer. I took the role just to be amongst such inspiring people and went from there. Eventually there was a junior design role at the head office in London, so I moved over.
You’ve talked about the influence of your Geekgirl co-founder Rosie Cross on your career path, can you share more about that first experience and what it meant to you creatively?
Rosie gave me the confidence and the canvas to keep learning and honing my skills with an outlet I was passionate about. She saw something in me and encouraged me to go for it and learn new things to make geekgirl better. Without her, Simon and other amazing people who have been my mentors and made things happen for me because of my passion, I never would have gotten to where I am today.
Pulling us back into the now, what does a typical day look like for you as CCO & President of Grey?
I juggle two hats here – as CCO it’s all about the work and the people hands-on making the work like creatives, designers and makers (and I still get hands-on involved in projects where I’m needed) and as President it is the culture, wellbeing, financial success and operations of the whole agency.
What do you love most about your job?
What I love about my job so much is that there’s no such thing as a typical day. It could be anything from being on a shoot or overseeing postproduction to making ideas even better and making creative decisions. Presenting, pitching, researching everything about a client or audience, looking at the business or kicking off a new wellbeing initiative with the amazing team here. We talk a lot here about it being a bit of a pirate ship – everyone working together to head out with excitement into the creative unknown. It’s an agency full of talented, brave, wonderful, warm people and they make my days great.
How would someone entering the industry go about becoming a CD?
I never had a goal to be a Creative Director, I had a goal to do the best possible work always for my clients and the agency. To do it with passion, joy and curiosity. And to always lean into issues and get comfortable being uncomfortable – in our business something unsaid or swept under the carpet often is the iceberg that wrecks the boat in the end.
For creatives embarking on the world of advertising and marketing, could you share one piece of advice that kept you pushing forward in momentum?
Love what you do, and make sure you get under the skin of the agencies and the client’s business – you can’t make the best ideas in a vacuum and the more you understand about the drivers in a business the better your work is – don’t leave it to the strategists or account teams.
Second to that, I’d say LISTEN. It’s the most powerful creative tool you have!