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#GettingToKnow and elevating client expectations with creative director Jo Webb

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Jo Webb, Creative Director at Merkle B2B, joined the agency last year and has 20 years of experience in the advertising industry.

Former Campaign magazine ‘Face to Watch’ and an award-winning copywriter, Jo has had a successful freelance career including stints at agencies including Fallon, Havas and McCann Health as well as her early career spanning creative agencies such as BBH, Howell Henry and DLKW Lowe. She also worked on the long-standing ‘It’s Got Our Name On It’ brand campaign for Wickes and award-winning projects for Lynx and Birds Eye.

This week, we’re getting to know Jo through her commitment to elevating client expectations of what B2B creative can inspire and deliver, as well as her career to date and future ambitions.

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Tell us a bit about your role! Is there a “typical” day?

There is no such thing as a typical day. Like most other people, I am currently hybrid working and in the office for a few days each week. Depending on which projects I’m working on, I might be writing copy, coming up with creative ideas or overseeing work done by other members of the creative department. 

I’m currently working on posters for a B2B marketing conference, names for a digital platform, a global brand campaign and a film for social media. I’m also constantly working on proactive ideas for our existing clients.

What was the biggest challenge in getting to your current position?

Staying the course! I come from a B2C background and have been fortunate enough to consistently work at varied, interesting agencies. It’s not been easy navigating a career over the past couple of decades. There have been many ups and downs, but I’ve never stopped loving what I do.

What is your personal background and what role did it play in your career?

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I come from Manchester, went to art college and studied graphic design. Concurrently, I was writing funny little jingles and sketches for my local radio station. I have always been drawn to anything creative. As I could draw a decent layout, I started off as an art director, but I found that I preferred writing, so I made the switch to copywriter. I made the right decision.

What is your biggest career-related win? What is your biggest loss?

It’s always lovely to win a pitch and I’ve been involved in quite a few. It’s also lovely to get work made and ‘out the door’. But it’s particularly lovely to feel like you’re making a difference with what you do. 

With Merkle B2B’s recent Irwin Mitchell campaign, we employed a production crew with the main roles primarily made up of people with disabilities. That felt really special. Loss-wise, we always remember the ones that got away – the work that would have made us famous. But there’s no point wallowing, it’s best to just move on.

Which individuals and/or agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?

Traditionally it’s always been BBH, where I was lucky enough to work for a few years. When I was starting out, their creative work was incomparable. More recently, I like what Uncommon are doing. There’s always a strong creative idea at the core of everything they do and great attention paid to craft.

If you could go back to your teenage years, would you have done things differently? Do you have any regrets?

Maybe I should have bought shares in Apple? But seriously, I don’t believe in having regrets. Life’s too short.

If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

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I can’t imagine not doing something creative. I really do believe that I’ve ended up in the right career but if the marketing industry didn’t exist, then I’d like to think that I’d be doing some other form of writing. I love stories: reading them, writing them, getting lost in them. So, I’d like to think that I’d be writing stories in some form.

What’s your one big dream for the future of the industry?

I’d like to see more acknowledgement of creativity in B2B marketing. Exceptional creative work is already out there – look at Fearless Girl or Doconomy’s 2030 calculator. But I’d like to see more of it and an end to this misapprehension that B2B is not as creative as B2C. I’ve worked in both and, ultimately, ideas are ideas.

What are your top tips for aspiring creative professionals?

Before going into this profession, be absolutely sure that this is what you want to do. Because it’s not going to be easy. But once you’re in it, it’s the best job in the world. So, take the time to enjoy the wins and try not to worry too much about the losses because things move quickly.

What are your top tips for other creative leaders?

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Spend time getting to know the people who work for you. What are their interests? What is their background? Really get to know where their strengths lie. They might surprise you.

When you think about your team, what is the thing that matters to you the most?

I think the most important thing is that the team is happy in their work and in their environment. This is a fun job. It should feel like fun. As they say, if you find a job you enjoy doing, you never work a day in your life. Cliches are cliches for a reason.

Do you have any websites, books or resources you would recommend?

My advice would be to read everything you can. If you love producing creative work, you should love reading about other creative work. Stay informed on what’s out there and not just in your area of specialism. I like to keep an eye on Campaign, Ad Forum and blogs by creatives, like Ben Kay’s If This is a Blog Then What’s Christmas and Dave Dye’s Stuff from the Loft.

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