What does it feel like to be a pioneer among women leaders and professionals in the industry? Nicky Bullard, Chairwoman and CCO at MRM, might know a thing or two about that.
Good leadership comes from the ability to deliver results with just the right team, but it is only in times of crisis that true leaders are tested for their worth. The truth is that leadership requires a whole lot of empathy too, as 2020 has broadly demonstrated to all of us. And Nicky certainly has plenty of that – being a caring leader, an ambitious professional and always on the lookout for the next big challenge. A spirit and drive which eventually led her to be offered the first top level hybrid business/creative leadership role ever held by a woman in the UK.
Get ready for one of the most inspiring interviews on Creativepool. Today we are Getting to Know Nicky and her work ethic, her dreams, her ambitions – but most importantly, we are learning about what makes her such a special and desirable leader for any creative team out there.
Tell us about your current role!
So this role came to me when I was very happy in my last one. Which is always a good time to move. What was different about the invitation to come to MRM? The agency was a bit of a dark horse at the time, which was terribly exciting. And it was a position never held by a creative woman in the UK before – that of Chairwoman AND Chief Creative Officer. So a hybrid business and creative leadership role! As Chair, I am ultimately responsible for everything. And I have to say being on the business side, but also running the agency’s creative output, is exhilarating.
How did you get to your current position? What was the biggest challenge?
I worked very, very hard (and still do obvs!). The hours were off the scale. Not just around pitches but all the time. I would push and push until the work was right and only then go home. I’m not suggesting anyone else should do that, but that was my choice. And it was a challenge. I have a husband and two kids, and he was parenting most of the time. I would say it was a work/life imbalance! But when you are working hard doing something you absolutely love, and you see the results, it’s incredibly rewarding. Not just happy clients and awards. But when your kids and husband say they are proud of you.
What is your biggest career-related win? What is your biggest loss?
Biggest win, gosh that’s a tough one. I’ve won bigger accounts money-wise, but the Boots win changed the fortunes of the agency I was working for at the time, and people’s careers along with it, and I’m proud I played a major part in that. The biggest loss isn’t an account but it’s having to let people go through no fault of their own. I’ve thankfully only had to do that a couple of times. I’ve also been lucky enough to able to rehire them elsewhere.
What is your personal background and what role did it play in your career?
That work ethic is 100% from my mum and dad. Dad was in the Met Police and worked so hard. Mum worked all the spare hours she had, around us kids. And they never moaned about it. They just cracked on. My dad is a stickler for punctuality and that has certainly rubbed off on me. If they commit to something, they see it through. And they are super kind, which I think is so important in work as well as in life.
Which individuals and/or agencies do you gain inspiration from?
The memory of the irreverence of HHCL lingers and inspires. I think we are missing that a bit as an industry. There are so many, too many, heroes to name. I do however want to recognise those creatives who have worked on the same brand for years, who love it and cherish it, who may not win Pencils and Lions but who are the backbone of our industry and our agencies.
If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?
I would be in a novelty pop group. Pizazz ‘retired’ some years ago.
What’s your secret to keeping the team inspired and motivated?
Energy. It’s infectious. And it comes from many different places – seeing great work, meeting a deadline, fighting for a pitch. And positivity – don’t linger on the stuff that isn’t right, make the stuff that’s right even better.
How has COVID-19 affected you as a leader?
In so many ways. Just how much I miss everyone. I love my agency and am so proud of everyone in it. We’re a vibrant bunch and as much as we can still get that vibrancy over a screen, it still doesn’t beat being together. I’ve been so inspired by how we’re adapted and some of the work we’ve produced, despite everything. How much everyone genuinely cares for each other. That kindness I talked about is everywhere.
What is your biggest hope for 2021?
That we are all vacc’d and back.
What is your one advice to aspiring creatives looking to be successful?
Understand what’s good. Check out what’s winning in the big shows. You may not always agree, and if you don’t, argue with someone who loves the work and vice versa. Picking it apart or selling it is a great way to learn what you need to do. Try and connect directly with senior creative leaders to share your work. And don’t pretend you know it all! None of us do! This career is one long, wonderful lesson.
How do you recharge away from the office?
Hanging out with my family and the dog. Buying glasses and cushions. Late night purchases of way too expensive clothes. And cooking.
What’s your one big dream for the future of the industry?
That every young and talented person has heard about it. And gets their invitation to join.
Do you have any websites, books or resources that you would recommend?
I don’t actively seek inspiration as that feels counter-intuitive to me. I like human interaction – so I listen to phone-in shows on the radio, talk to shop assistants, I’m super nosey and am a massive people watcher, I listen to my kids and am interested in what they are interested in. I love fashion so the Liberty and Selfridges websites get checked out often (as does the cart). I watch trashy TV too. I like solving problems, so murder mysteries are a winner whether on my kindle or on the box.