Abi Ellis is Executive Creative Director at Wunderman UK, a global digital agency that combines creativity with data.
She has more than 20 years’ experience as a creative director, and talks about her role with passion and vim. Econsultancy caught up with her to find out about a day in her life.
(Don’t forget to swing by the Econsultancy jobs board if you’re looking for a change of pace).
Econsultancy: Please describe your job: What do you do?
Abi Ellis: I search for diamonds in the rough, take risks, imagine the future, herd cats, deliver pep talks, encourage people to walk their talk, and problem solve until the cows come home.
E: Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
AE: I work closely with the force of nature that is Pip Hulbert, our CEO in the UK. And I turn to my mentor and creative talisman Ian Haworth, EMEA Chief Creative Officer, to smash ideas around or receive much-needed wisdom.
Ultimately though, I answer to the entire agency, as I measure myself by how creative I can help everyone become.
E: What kinds of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
It’s attitudinal. Passion, compassion, imagination, curiosity, tenacity, belief and courage.
E: Tell us about a typical working day…
AE: Every single day is different. That’s what I adore. But here goes…
4:13 am: I’m awake. Blaaaaarp! There’s nothing more pointless than trying to tackle tomorrow’s challenges in this grim hour of the night. I podcast myself back to sleep.
6:30 am: One glance at me and you’ll know I’m no exercise fanatic. But I see my trainer twice a week as the sun rises. If only I’d known twenty years ago that a pair of boxing gloves could help me lead the troops.
8 am: Eat that frog: send pressing emails (though my team know WhatsApp is my comms channel of choice).
9:15 am: Rock up to my desk and go through the day with my assistant. We appraise each other’s outfits, then map out the day.
9:30am – 6:15pm: I sit next to the cleverest, funniest and most life-affirming human beings you could hope to spend the day with. There’s no hierarchical seating plan in my department.
I creative direct ad hoc, listen, talk for England, laugh, encourage, critique the millennial-heavy choice of music blaring, and get involved with client work at every level. That said, I also give my team room to breathe, as micro-managing is just the pits.
Oh, and I go to meetings. Lots of them. But my passion is, and will always be, the work.
6:15pm onwards: Who knows? And that’s what’s ace! I ensure that I have a life, as it’s the outside world which helps nourish creativity. And Wunderman truly encourages us to leave our desks and go live.
I try not to be a slave to email. I’d rather let thoughts settle and creative solutions take form.
E: What do you love about your job? What sucks?
AE: I have the best job in the world. And I mean that. It’s meant to be challenging. My heart should ache when the idea could be better. Losing sleep over a seemingly paltry detail is exactly what makes me get out of bed in the morning 😉 That tension is the magic.
E: What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
AE: I want to establish the most curious, collaborative and courageous creative department in the world. Here at Wunderman, in London.
Happy and fulfilled creative people make great work. The metric will always be the stunning work and the echo of laughter while we make it.
E: What are your favourite tools to help you get the job done?
AE: The brains, hearts and souls of the talent I work alongside.
E: What advice would you give to people wanting to become creative directors?
AE: Listen. Listen some more. Collaborate. Know that here are many ways to skin a cat, and your way might not be the best.
Finally… don’t be a dick.