Create A Culture Where “Gutsy” Can Thrive, And Never Give Up: Wavemaker’s Rebecca Drummond  

Create A Culture Where “Gutsy” Can Thrive, And Never Give Up: Wavemaker’s Rebecca Drummond  
B&T Magazine
Edited by B&T Magazine

The time of uncertainty is the time to lean in to change, and assist in the creation of a better future for our industry, according to Wavemaker ANZ strategy director Rebecca Drummond.

During this year’s B&T Women in Media Awards, presented by Are Media (formerly Bauer Media), we’ll be recognising exceptional people who have achieved success in their professional arenas, celebrating their invaluable contribution to their industry through leadership, innovation and courage.

But alongside such qualities comes the ability to ‘inspire’, which we’re sure you’ll no doubt come to acquaint with the likes of Rebecca Drummond, strategy director at Wavemaker ANZ.

Recently, B&T had the chance to pick-the-brains of the 30 Under 30 winner, who revealed why its time to pull back the veil on what it takes to be a ‘maverick’ in ad-land, and how she, along with friends, raised tens of thousands of dollars for the RFS during the Black Summer bushfires.

She also explained how celebrating the journey is as important as celebrating the achievements, the fearlessness, of ad-land professionals sticking their necks out.

In Drummond’s own words: “Moments of knockdown and failure are as important to share because they show how much grit it takes to build and re-build self-belief, to grow courage to drive change, and to be open to learn and improve”.

Rebecca, what does ‘fearlessness’ mean to you?

Contrary to its formal definition, I do not believe fearlessness means to live without fear.

I, for one, am yet to meet someone who isn’t scared of something. And those who say they aren’t scared, are perhaps a little bit scared to admit what they are really scared of.

Here’s my starter for 10. Alongside the regular work-related fears of presenting in front of an audience, having my thinking and ideas rejected, and not being good enough… Watching my favourite crime series (Midsomer Murders) at night-time, makes me scared of sleeping in the dark.

Oh boy, it feels good to write that down.

Fear brings humility and empathy, and I think it’s an important feeling to recognise, because I believe being fearless is not the absence of fear—it is using fear as an energy to move forward. It’s standing in front of what you don’t know, ready to stand back up if you fall… and then getting up one more time than you fall.

Perhaps a slightly irrelevant quote, but I just love it anyway because it captures what most moments before ‘fearlessness’ feels like:

” You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just, literally twenty seconds of embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come out of it.”

—Benjamin Mee, We Bought A Zoo.

What is one of the most ‘fearless’ moments of your career?

In December last year, smoke haze covered Sydney. Every news station, site, channel was reporting constantly on the “unprecedented bushfires” that were burning across the country… and we had barely even started Summer yet.

I was scared for those living in nearby areas, for those fighting tirelessly to protect houses and towns, and on a more personal level for my hometown Mudgee and beloved Blue Mountain surrounds.

With my industry friends Marco Del Castillo, Jack Burton, and Lucas Fowler, we used those feelings of fear and helplessness to find a way to help. We created ‘Smoggys’, a brand of brightly coloured face masks designed to raise money for the RFS.

None of us had any experience with launching or running a business, and within a month from talking about the concept, we were knee deep in new experiences as we started to ship out Smoggys to our customers.

Despite feeling consistently out of our depth and, at times, completely overwhelmed, we embraced each challenge and raised just over $19,000 for the RFS.

What does fearlessness in advertising, marketing, or the media look like?

Fearlessness starts from asking that question you’ve put off on asking because you’re scared it’s a “stupid question”.

It starts by saying ‘yes’ to presenting for the first time in front of a client, from taking ownership of new tasks, and putting up a hand to work on things that feel new and uncomfortable.

It grows to recognising there isn’t such a thing as a “dumb question” and asking as many as you can to learn from the people around you. It grows to sharing your hypotheses and opinions in meetings, presenting in front of larger crowds, and taking ownership of projects you once thought were unachievable.

It grows again to answering a question confidently… or admitting you don’t know the answer. Your voice becomes louder in meetings, ideas become bolder, and your drive to change convention becomes stronger.

And then, suddenly, you start defining the questions to be answered. You are challenging previously defined convention with purpose and are bringing bold solutions to the table, even knowing they may be rejected by some.

Fearlessness, much like creativity, is like a muscle. It needs a lot of work and perseverance, but the more it’s practiced the stronger it becomes. As a result, our industry becomes better every time it grows a little stronger.

Who do you know who has shown these qualities since the COVID-19 pandemic struck?

Imagine if in August 2019, someone had said to you: “12-months from today, we will be living in a global pandemic, international travel doesn’t exist, state borders are shutting… Oh and we have been working remotely since March”.

I’m not sure about you, but I would have built myself a bunker and got myself outta here.

Yet here we are, still standing in front of (arguably) the biggest unknowns of our lifetimes.

There have been so many uncomfortable learning curves in maintaining operations, encouraging collaboration, and sustaining constant interaction— all from a ‘virtual’ office.

There have been more moments of uncertainty in job-security than ever imagined. And there is building uncertainty of when (if?) this is going to end, and what ad-land will look like when (if?) it does.

Irrespective of whether knockdowns and blows were delivered via a light push, or a shove to the ground, we have stood back up, and stood up again, then once more for good measure.

Better yet, as an industry we are reaching out a hand and helping each other get back up. In my mind, in these moments there has been a consistent demonstration of fearlessness, from all of us.

What is an issue in the industry that keeps you up at night?

There is a wrongly held perception that fear is the relative of failure; a nagging doubt that you aren’t up to the challenge, or don’t have what it takes to cut through. I think this derives from a sometimes-unrealistic picture that we paint of ourselves when it comes to career milestones and achievements.

There are some bold players in the industry, who are making incredible “Maverick” moves. And we hear about these in our company meetings, in the trade press, or via LinkedIn updates. It’s easy to share those times where you were fearless, and thus we make fearlessness look easy.

What we don’t often hear about, is the persistence and personal growth that happens behind those achievements and wins. Moments of knockdown and failure are as important to share because they show how much grit it takes to build and re-build self-belief, to grow courage to drive change, and to be open to learn and improve.

I can only talk from my own experience here, but I’ve found that a sense of fearlessness comes after hearing multiple “nos” and becoming more driven to improve craft and pitch bigger, braver and smarter ideas.

It comes from recognising knowledge gaps and being motivated to learn more about industry craft and sharing that new knowledge with peers. And it comes from turning a feeling of helplessness in the wake of tragedy into an always-on purpose to use skills to give back.

I think the real “Maverick” moves of the industry lie in having the audacity to continue to behave like one during knockdowns and failures.

Failure and fear are not related to each other, they are each a relative of fearlessness.

Do you believe the advertising, marketing and media industry has been ‘fearless’ this year?

Our industry thrives on disruption, and every year we see ‘bigger and better’ in innovation. In 2020, most of us, however, have switched into survival mode, and have become comfortable with leaving the tech companies, media empires, and festivals at a global level to lead this.

We are at times following and implementing at the sacrifice of leading and creating disruption ourselves.

To break out of this, we must become better at provoking fearlessness, and building a collaborative culture where ‘gutsy’ can thrive. This comes from encouraging new perspectives, being open to backing risks, and implementing new ways of innovating day-to-day.

Collectively—as individual agencies and as an industry—these moments will allow bigger ideas, faster implementation of new technologies, and braver decisions locally.

As the Valley saying goes, to disrupt you need to “move fast and break things”.

How can we be fearless in times of change?

If there is one positive to take from 2020 (so far), it’s that the complete change up to our pre-COVID world has given us an opportunity to shape our post-COVID one.

Those ideas we speak about three wines deep at The Rag that we swear would make our industry better? You know the ones… often beginning/ending with “Let’s start our own agency”?

Well there is no time like the present to lean in and bring your ideas to the forefront of conversations.

Where other people see obstacles, fearless people see opportunity and ask: “what’s possible”.

Things are going to change, and in this instance, fearlessness means being vocal to managers and leaders about transformations that you believe will make a difference to the way we work and thrive in this industry.

Right now, no one knows what the future looks like, but it might be a great one—and one that you’ve helped to create.

The Women in Media Awards will be held on Wednesday 28 October 2020, at Doltone House (Jones Bay Wharf).

If you’d like more information about the event, head to this website.

You can also check out who made this year’s shortlist, here.

Thank you to all of our incredible sponsors for making the event possible!

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Rebecca Drummond women in media awards

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