30 Under 30 A Decade On: Gual Barwell

30 Under 30 A Decade On: Gual Barwell
B&T Magazine
Edited by B&T Magazine

Have you heard the good news? B&T’s 30 Under 30 Awards are back for its 11th year, and we’re officially open for entry.

For those who don’t know, B&T‘s 30 Under 30 Awards are widely regarded as the leading showcase for the best and brightest young talent working across marketing communications.

In honour of our upcoming awards, we’re taking a look back (10 years to be exact), to see where our 2011 winners are now.

Today, we’re chatting with Gual Barwell.

Back then, Gual was the APAC director for Contagious Communications. Today, he’s between roles. Gual takes a year off every five years to “explore the world and engage in interests that require an intensity which would be prohibitively time-consuming when employed full time”. This year, he’s slowly meandered around the world, making his way back to Australia after living and working in the U.S. for five years.

“I’ve read a book a week, learnt to surf and can ham fistedly knock out some of my favourite Jimi Hendrix tracks on guitar.”

His last role before his year off was SVP – group planning director at DDB in Chicago. Read more from Gual below on what his life’s been like since winning a B&T 30 Under 30 gong.

gual barwell

How did you feel winning a B&T 30 Under 30?

I felt privileged to be recognised by industry leaders, alongside peers I respected, as someone that was seen as excelling in our field.

5. Do you think you winning has affected your career at all?

I think the wonderful thing about awards like this, is they’re generally given to people that are already on to their next challenge by the time they receive recognition. So they act more like retrospective validation than influencing a trajectory. That was certainly at least the case for me.

6. What’s your favourite part about the industry?

My favourite thing about this industry is the funny, smart, talented, driven and passionate people that it attracts. Often with a verve and tenacity that, when allowed to flourish, they inject energy into their workplaces, the brands they work on and more broadly the culture that the communications they create go on to be a part of.

7. What do you think needs changing?

I have never met anyone that works in advertising that couldn’t be doing something more mundane, yet fiscally rewarding (i.e. Investment Management, Corporate Finance, Law and so on). The reward to come to the creative industries has always been be to be a part of provocative, interesting and creatively challenging work. Unfortunately of late there has been:

– An over financialisation of the industry as power has shifted toward holding companies, finance departments and profits (a Sorrell effect if you will).

– A devaluation of creative people, their outputs and an appreciation of the impact they can have on tangible business objectives.

– A focus on short term outcomes at the expense of brand building.

– An over emphasis on MarTech (data, digital, automation etc.) as a panacea.

– Reverting to conservatism in favour of informed, calculated risk that inevitably creates differentiated, distinctive and resilient brands

All of these factors have been contributing to an industry that’s losing its personality, attractiveness to talent and inherent value. On the plus side, I think it’s the perfect environment for a reinvigoration by independents who are willing to go against the grain and rebuild the foundations of why many of us entered the profession in the first place, and rediscover the value many businesses saw us bringing to the table.

8. What’s been your biggest achievement?

I don’t think I’ve achieved anything. It’s no secret that many strategists and planners suffer from imposter syndrome as well as a general disposition toward self deprecation. It’s actually what pushes strategists to to strive for better and shrug off complacency. Unfortunately the darker side of this is a perennial inquisitiveness and restlessness, fuelled by fear of inadequacy.

9. If you weren’t in adland, what would you be doing?

I’d probably be a primary school teacher. It’s actually still a goal of mine to become one someday. Maybe when they’re remunerated more fairly.

10. Ultimate travel destination?

I’ve been all over. The one place that I’d really love to spend more time exploring would be Australia. I’ve never left the East Coast other than a 4 hour workshop I conducted in Adelaide.

11. What’s a hidden talent you have?

I’d say navigation, as boring as that sounds. For some reason when it comes to directions I have a photographic memory. Once I’ve been somewhere, I can always navigate back without guidance.

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