How I made it: featuring Jeremy Lucas, Managing Partner at Ogilvy
For our latest inspiring stories series, 'How I made it', we're interviewing the cream of the crop across all facets of communications and marketing. This is where you'll learn about how the best in the industry got to where they are today and hopefully pick up some tips along the way to help your own career progress.
We sat down with Jeremy Lucas, a London-based Managing Partner at Ogilvy and Head of the agency’s Corporate Affairs practice.
Having started his career as a journalist at the BBC and Sky News before breaking into the PR world at Blue Rubicon, Jeremy has helped to manage the reputations of some of the world’s biggest brands including Coca Cola, McDonalds, Beko and even the United Nations.
Read on to find out how he manages to find time to let his ‘creative sensibilities breathe’, why good communications will never originate from the top of an ivory tower and why it’s all about working smarter, not harder.
How did you get into communications?
I came in via journalism. I was fortunate enough to get a jobbing reporter role with the BBC straight out of university, which then led me to Sky News, where I spent a good few years as a producer. It struck me that I was more interested in the creation of news than I was in its delivery, so once the romance of journalism started to fade I began to look into other opportunities that would help me scratch my ‘news’ itch.
I first went into public affairs with a small Middle East-focused think tank that covered issues in the region. I then started exploring the market more generally and heard about what was then a small agency called Blue Rubicon which was creating a bit of the stir in the industry. I joined when there was just 30 or 40 people, found my ‘home’ and spent the next seven years there. It was exciting to join an agency at the start of its journey doing genuinely breakthrough work, powered through an inspiring strategic vision. It all stemmed from there.
What keeps you sane on those crazy days?
I am very fortunate in that I only live around 45 mins from our offices at Sea Containers, so I walk in every day. It would of course be easier to jump on the tube, but the walk to and from work bookends the day perfectly. It gives you that time to really invest in yourself, as trite and cheesy as that may sound.
I spend that time listening to an audiobook, a podcast or just thinking about clients’ challenges and the day ahead. Having that sort of ‘white noise’ period is really important. People across our sector so often feel we need to be accessible at all times and fill every each and every moment of the day but we have to remember that ultimately we’re in a creative industry and we need to allow time for our creative sensibilities to breathe.
Do you or did you have a mentor?
I don’t know if I would call them ‘mentors’ necessarily but I joined Blue Rubicon at a really exciting time, when they were thinking about reputation and campaigning in a completely revolutionary way. I was working with people like Fraser Hardie and Chris Jones, who were founding partners of Blue Rubicon, and they really set my direction of travel in terms of how I approach client challenges, reputation management and reputation campaigning.
They really honed my approach to corporate communications; the critical importance of narrative, the need for creative to be indelibly linked to a central strategy and building relationships with clients as a true, trusted partner.
How are client demands shifting?
I think the broadest imperative for consultancies is to adopt much more of a holistic communications mindset and shift to a ‘solve’ rather than ‘sell’ mentality. At Ogilvy, we try and distil client briefs down into their simplest form, whether that’s a commercial or a reputational challenge, and then examine them through a discipline neutral, channel agnostic lens. So-called ‘integration’ is one of the most bastardised terms that floats around the agency world, but in truth only a small handful of agencies can fully deliver on that promise. With our transition to a multi-disciplinary model right across the marketing mix, we like to think of ourselves as 1,200 creative problem solvers under one roof, who can assemble the right team, with the right expertise quickly, with built-in efficiency for clients.
What career advice would you give your 20 year old self?
I would say that it’s not always about working harder, more often it’s about working smarter. I think when you leave university, it’s easy to come out of the traps fast and hard – working long hours so you can to show that you’re the most hardworking, dedicated person. But that will only get you so far and often will hinder your long-term development. More important is demonstrating a strategic approach to challenges, both from a client service and creative perspective. Working smarter, rather than harder, will get you a lot more sleep and help nurture you career early on.
What are the top three things that businesses should be doing to improve diversity?
We have a philosophy here at Ogilvy that reputation challenges should be managed from a business-to-human perspective; ensuring that the intrinsics of humanity and empathy are at the core of your corporate brand.
A key principle of this is making sure that business leaders don’t sit in their ivory towers in Central London trying to gauge what the rest of the UK is thinking. We run a programme called On the Road, which involved a big investment from Ogilvy to allow our consultants to get out into communities, spending time in towns and cities across the UK to experience what real life in this country is like.
Making sure you’re in tune with people outside of your immediate bubble is crucial. And once you start to do that, and have that as an inherent behaviour, diversity becomes less of a challenge.
I also think London PR agencies are facing a ticking time bomb as it becomes increasingly expensive to live in London. The impact on our talent pool, certainly at a junior level, can’t be underestimated as the prospect of working and living in the capital becomes more and more unattractive. We need to find a way to encourage and enable talent from diverse backgrounds to join our industry in a way that’s affordable and accessible.
Name one piece of technology you can’t live without.
It’s a bit obvious but I’d have to say my iPhone. It’s incredible how this relatively new piece of technology has become an intrinsic part of our everyday lives, so much so we now give a portion of our cerebral capability to a constant thought of our phone. I think like a lot of people I’m trying to adopt new behaviours where I’m forcing myself to step away from the phone and make sure I have significant downtime. There’s nothing more depressing than going to dinner and everyone having their phone on the table. Yes they’re indispensable but I think we all need to have to have a little distance so that we can concentrate on the things that really matter.