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Laura Jordan Bambach has recently taken over one of the most high-profile roles in UK advertising. The CCO of Grey London makes the case for the power of creativity.
“Even though I travel a lot and I’m never here, I like nothing better than just sitting in my garden,” says Laura Jordan Bambach, as she chats from her sunny garden table. Two months into lockdown and Jordan Bambach, who was ill for three weeks at the start, has quickly found her new rhythm. She explains, “I think I had COVID-19”, but because of that “I’m kind of coming into lockdown now feeling almost new about it, like I’ve got energy.”
Energy, drive and passion for the work are the three things Jordan Bambach has never been short of. As the Co-Founder of Mr President, an agency she helped to establish seven years ago, she has established herself as a creative force. Her work with SheSays and her creative approach to issues such as the gender pay gap underline the fact that she is committed to creating a better, more inclusive industry for all.
She has just started at Grey London as CCO, so she has spent most of lockdown either conducting various handovers or getting ready to begin a new role, all while home-schooling at the same time. She admits with a wry smile, that “it has been quite exhausting.”
She has been carving out time for herself though, revealing that she is teaching herself tai chi from YouTube having spent many years doing another martial art, Wing Chung. Jordan Bambach has also been enjoying a slower way of life at home, although she concedes, “I usually operate quite quickly.” From gardening to painting, working on her side hustles and spending time with her family, Jordan Bambach beams optimism throughout the video call, demonstrating the strength of maintaining a positive outlook in challenging times.
There’s really been a break in the way that communications work in a way that we might not ever see again in our lifetimes.Laura Jordan Bambach
“It’s a really difficult time and it’s going to be a difficult time for many people,” says Jordan Bambach as she acknowledges the good fortune of moving directly from one role to the next. She wasn’t looking to move, she says, but she does see the change as a great opportunity, particularly in the current situation. As uncertainty rages across every industry, old rules no longer apply, and new ones are being created every day.
Jordan Bambach is excited about the change, as she explains, “We’re going to be able to do some really interesting things I think with the agency and almost because everything’s so weird, some of the normal rules don’t apply so much. So, I think actually we’re going to be able to make some really positive movements.”
Another facet of the new job she’s looking forward to is sitting down with new clients, like Marks and Spencer, and having conversations about what happens next. Those are the conversations, she says, that are interesting. “I think I’m going weirdly into a time where there’s quite a lot of positivity about the work and the people,” she adds.
She has been talking continually with her new colleagues, including Javier Campopiano, Grey London’s new Creative Chairman who has shared “that the creative department’s never felt more together.” The opportunity to work at an agency run by women who are all, says Jordan Bambach relatively new to the job as well, is a prospect that excites her, as “it feels like a really positive place [with] positive energy.”
Certainly, Grey London’s CEO Anna Panczyk has succeeded where so many industry leaders have floundered before, in bringing together a plethora of the best talent in the industry, which also just happens to be female. Grey London’s Chief Strategy Officer Raquel Chicourel is widely regarded in the industry as one of the best strategists in London and beyond.
Jordan Bambach adds: “I’m looking forward to actually getting into some really great work and working with some really exciting people who might be completely worn out through home-schooling and stress but also might have reconnected with some creativity inside themselves during lockdown.”
While Jordan Bambach may not yet have sat side by side with her new colleagues, she is optimistic about the changes this current period of lockdown has so far enforced on the industry. “It’s certainly changed things overnight,” she says. “There’s really been a break in the way that communications work in a way that we might not ever see again in our lifetimes.” She points to the dismantling of the idea of what it means to be a celebrity as well as ensuring that, as a brand, “[you] make sure that you say the right things.”
The speed at which work is having to be completed has also been something both brands and agencies are having to adapt to. Jordan Bambach hopes, and indeed feels we are starting to see already, that this will result in more brand bravery. “Be a bit stronger and be a bit braver in your brand,” she advises.
There is also the ongoing struggle of brand tone; take yourself too seriously and you risk losing your identity. But similarly, too much light-heartedness and the brand could be viewed to be making light of a serious situation. But, believes Jordan Bambach, entertaining people is what this industry is meant to do: “People are going to really want entertainment. There is nothing wrong with a brilliant ad for something that just puts a smile on your face or makes you feel part of a community.”
As an industry, we need to make a stand for how powerful [creativity] is in helping people to both cope with the crisis and getting us out of the economic crisis that we’re in.Laura Jordan Bambach
What this ongoing crisis is demonstrating is that there are seemingly no constraints to brilliant creativity, as campaigns are turned around in under a week and powerful communications messages shared across social platforms. “It might just be me being a total optimist,” says Jordan Bambach, “but I really feel like there could be the beginnings of a really great creative renaissance.”
For her, “creativity’s never been more important.” She is quick to credit those key workers on the front lines as the ones who are really saving lives while not disparaging the role of the industry she so loves. “Our job, it’s kind of a magical job, [is] to boost people’s spirits and make them feel better and also restart the economy,” she says, noting that that last point is where advertising is going to be vital.
Over the last five to ten years, believes Jordan Bambach, “The industry has lost a lot of what it does best.” That best, for her, is stripping right back to the notion of creativity. She adds, “I do feel like, as an industry, we need to make a stand for how powerful [creativity] is in helping people to both cope with the crisis and getting us out of the economic crisis that we’re in.” This comes, she believes, from brands and their agency partners being “a little bit more playful, a little bit freer, and maybe a bit faster and more nimble. Removing some of the process and trusting in what it is we do a bit more.”
She points out that over the last five years, employability skills have shifted, moving from the more traditional ‘hard’ ones to softer skills, like, Jordan Bambach says, creativity. She explains that when you examine what qualities leaders in FTSE500 companies are hiring for, five years ago creativity wasn’t even considered; “it’s now number one,” says Jordan Bambach.
She is quick to point out that she is not trying to make a case for less money or less time, accepting that not enough value is placed on either. But for her, creativity should lead, “not just money or numbers.” Because it is that, alongside diversity and collaboration, that Jordan Bambach feels will drive the industry forward.
That last point around the power of collaboration is one that Jordan Bambach has been championing for years, “often being the only person in the room to really fight for how powerful it is.” It is something that the industry has demonstrated considerably as the crisis continues; how working together can lead to bigger and better campaigns and ultimately success. Jordan Bambach adds, “the fastest way that the economy recovers is if we’re all in it together, helping each other to succeed.”
“I hope businesses don’t go back to how they were,” she says, as she points out that while much of the industry works remotely and as a result more flexibly, “people are still winning pitches and work is still being made.” People are also being given more responsibility for their own time, something Jordan Bambach feels we should always have had. The freedom that grants people is something she hopes will continue once the creative world migrates back to offices.
She talks again about the power of optimism that advertising has a role in bringing to the fore, particularly in times of crisis such as the one we’re living through. She elaborates: “our superpower is to take those complex issues and make them simple. Give people a vision of where the future might go. Give people optimism and positivity where maybe they don’t have any. Giving people a different view of the world. That’s a super awesome place to be.”
Jordan Bambach fundamentally believes that there needs to be more responsible advertising, but that also, the industry needs to remember it can be there to entertain; to make people smile and to foster a sense of unity. She explains, “Advertising gets a really bad rep a lot, from everyone. And actually, we’ve got a really important role, both making brilliant advertising, selling things and like I said rebuilding the economy but also being able to tell these stories and putting a smile on people’s faces and giving people joy.”
On that, Jordan Bambach is off, on a note of hopeful optimism that perhaps the behavioural change that has been forced onto the industry during the ongoing crisis will migrate to one of attitudinal change when we inevitably emerge out the other side.
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