Project Description

WACL Talent Awards

April 2021

The World of B2B

Clare Russell
Clare RussellCreative Director

If at first you fail…

“If you wanna be somebody.

If you wanna go somewhere,

you better wake up and pay attention.”

Over the course of the last year I have sung this to my poor pets – louder than is fair to their heightened sense of hearing – several times as I wander to my kitchen in search of snacks.

Anyway, why am I telling you this? It kinda became my way of lifting my spirits between Zooms and motivated me. And maybe it rubbed off. Because whilst I couldn’t physically go anywhere, I decided I would do something to focus on myself in this weird year. So, I entered the WACL talent awards. And I only went and bloody won!

This award recognises me as a future leader, grants me with a bursary for a training course to better myself and connects me with hundreds of phenomenal females looking to do great things now and in the future.

So how did I win this award?

By Failing.

I entered the award the previous year and did not even make the cut for interview. I was doing well at the time, I had not long been promoted to Associate Creative Director, was making waves in the agency for various pieces of work and felt confident my application was a solid one. But it wasn’t and so I failed.

It’s not nice to fail. But it is important. It’s how we as a human race work, right? You fall – you cut your knee – you learn to be more careful next time or wear knee-pads. On reflection my first application was nowhere near as strong as my second, I achieved much more and grew as a person in the year between, and I wanted it more – so I tried harder.

Second time round my application did the trick and I got invited to be interviewed by some incredible women; Judith Salinson, Lyndy Payne, Natasha Murray, Nicki Hare and Nishma Robb. I had twenty minutes with them, 10 to do a presentation about myself on why I was a worthy winner and 10 to answer questions.

For my presentation I shared the values I uphold, which I believe have helped me succeed and I hope will make me be a great future leader. One of these values was simply ‘don’t be scary’. Whenever I see successful women I am amazed by them, but I never see their failures just their brilliance and intimidating success. Whereas in myself I spend too much time focusing on my so-called ‘failures’ (it’s even in this blog title!). I do this as I want other women to realise that being a leader is an option, you don’t have to be perfect, superwoman or terrifying. You can cry, mess-up, not understand and even be nice!!

I am a 38 year old woman from social housing who is the creative director in the B2B specialism at Ogilvy. That is quite an achievement. If you told me that 20, 5 or even one year ago I would have laughed in your face and ran a mile at the thought.

But now I am here, albeit a little shakily sometimes, I can see what value I bring. I have bundles of empathy – helping me understand clients, colleagues and feeling out great work. I am determined and ambitious which helps me lead people and push for better. I am passionate about what I do which filters up and down. I try to be brave by speaking out, connecting with people and doing things outside of my comfort zone. I am realistic but optimistic which builds credible creative solutions. I am a mother proving you can have children and a career. I am emotional, showing I am a human and not a machine. I can be an idiot who doesn’t always get it right – but I am cool with that (well eventually). I am approachable to everyone, anytime – or as close to it as I can be.

My point is I am trying to be the things I have always wanted to see in leaders. And I will continue to build on that as I learn. Winning aside, all the things I have learnt about myself through this process have been genuinely helpful – never before would I have been able to conceive the previous paragraph of attributes so easily, I have WACL to thank for that.

I also have a long list of people to thank that helped me apply, listened to me rehearse and rooted for me – Thanks you lot!

If you want to see my presentation to help with your future applications (or simply for a laugh), here is a link to a recording I took of myself rehearsing. And if I can encourage, support or help anyone (male or female) in their careers in any way – it would be my absolute pleasure.


Read another article by Clare on her top tips to track down award-winning ideas

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