Anathea Ruys is not only one of the most important people in agency land, but also one of the nicest. Ruys has been the CEO of UM Australia for almost three years, following stints at agencies across Asia and the US. She also recently featured on, talking about her prior life as a journalist. With Christmas break fast approaching, Greg ‘Sparrow’ Graham caught up with Ruys to ask her 10 further, but just as interesting, questions.
1. You were on stage at MFA EX earlier this year discussing the Unstereotype Alliance, why are you so passionate about the issue?
As I said on stage, I have spent my whole life seeing myself – or a version of myself – in media, advertising and content. Embarrassingly it was well into my life and career that I realised many people don’t see themselves and that can be isolating and damaging. Living and working in diverse markets has really helped me to see beyond my own experience and I would like to support others to learn much faster than me!
2. UM has a brilliant Agency culture, particularly around family-friendly benefits. How has this evolved?
Every single person is part of a family. Those families all look and feel different and we felt it was important to recognise this. We’ve backed our beliefs up with action and we were the first agency to be certified Family Friendly, and we’ve since introduced Family Flex 8 which gives people eight hours a month to invest in what family means for them. I love hearing all the amazing ways people use those hours.
3. How would you describe your leadership style and people approach?
I enjoy working with people. I find them interesting, nuanced and provocative. I hope my leadership style demonstrates that while I am proud of our processes, tools and technology, I know that our people will always be the MVPs and I will advocate for them, support them and appreciate them every day in every way!
4. What’s the big client issue at the moment?
Right now just about every client I am talking to is lamenting how fast the end of the year is coming and how much we all have to do by then!
5. With current economic headwinds, how are you feeling about next year?
I am not sure we can ever predict what the year is going to look like too far in advance. The world’s just not like that anymore. Different clients ebb and flow in different ways at different times – that’s why we are so lucky to work in agency land. There is always something different happening!
6. UM has a diverse blue-chip client list. However, if you had to select the work you are most proud of what would it be?
Choosing my favourite child? Never going to happen!
7. You have worked in both Asia and the US. Does Australia punch above its weight with media innovation?
Australia absolutely punches above its weight in many ways. Our talent is exceptional – in part because of how agile they are. Most of us can stretch into multiple disciplines because we’ve had to learn across our industry. Our problem-solving skills and ability to pivot are second to none. But we must never let this stop us from looking outwards and learning from what other markets are doing that’s incredible. China, India, the US – there is so much for us to continue to learn.
8. If you could change one thing about our industry, what would it be?
Someone recently told me that clients will say “I need to make sure I am not paying my media agency too much.” I would like to suggest that the question should be “I need to make sure I am paying my media agency appropriately.”
Media has changed exponentially. The channels that used to be seen as “easy” to buy now are fragmented and can be optimised like never before. Consumer attention is harder than ever to get and keep. Media now means more than ever before. And getting the best minds to help you navigate that has never been more critical so I would love to have more conversations about that than price.
9. What are you hoping Santa brings you or your family?
I will be more than delighted if Santa finishes the laundry renovation by Christmas. I’ve already told the family this summer vacation will be spent looking at the laundry and admiring how neat it is. The kids are thrilled!
10. Any New Year’s resolutions for next year?
NYE is a big night for many but for me, it’s just the day after my birthday so I’ve never been much of a resolution person
Check out the other instalments in the Fast 10 series here:
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- Fast 10: Ogilvy’s Sally Kissane On Winning Gongs & Zinger Burgers!
- B&T Grabs Fast 10 Questions With Mike Rebelo!!
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- “Awards Won’t Win You A Pitch!” 10 Quick Ones With Initiative’s Award-Winning CEO Melissa Fein
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- It’s 10 Quick Questions With CHEP CEO Lee Leggett
- “Adland Has Defied The Doomsayers!” It’s 10 Questions With Omnicom Supremo Peter Horgan
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