With a firm coffee in her hand for serious business meetings and a tea and a biscuit for leisure time, Mango Sydney’s managing director Fern Canning is one to watch in the industry. Here, she gives us the low down to her life for our industry profiles.
What would you change about the industry?
Negativity and ego, which are the death knells of creativity. I’d love to see more respect for other agencies’ work, more camaraderie between agencies and less land grabbing over who ‘owns’ what. Our job is to deliver on our clients’ objectives, and the only way we can do that is to leave ego at the door and play nice.
What’s your backstory? (The non-LinkedIn one)
I ditched all thoughts of becoming a lawyer after reading a magazine article at the tender age of 14 about a PR girl who was dating the England rugby captain. I soon found out that PR wasn’t all parties and freebies but a career with real substance. I haven’t looked back since.
I hounded a large PR agency for an internship and got a gig with them before I started Uni. Their CEO called me ‘spunky’, but I call it tenacity, and my parents say I’ve had it in droves from a very young age. I pitched and won Audi, and when I moved to run a small PR agency, they were my first clients. It was a thrilling ride from car launches to motorsports, sponsorship, events, celebrity and even CSR.
A certain media trip to Monaco is now a story of legend among the men’s mags.
I moved on to the serious world of global communications for Peroni Nastro Azzuro, which somehow lead to a role leading global communications for Proctor & Gamble brands and Diageo at Ketchum.
The years on P&G turned me into a marketer, with an appreciation for the channel-agnostic big idea based on real insights, integrated working and the power of people.
I then had to choose between a role in the US or Australia, and was leading the consumer marketing division at Edelman when I was approached by DDB Group. When I met Andrew, Nic and Marty, I knew that this was a company where I would find integration and inspiration on a major scale. I was right.
Who’s your industry hero?
Marc Pritchard. He isn’t afraid to take risks, he understood the power of digital and social media way ahead of the curve and he champions agency collaboration.
If you weren’t doing this job, what would you be doing?
I’d be a world class sailor. But seriously, the only reason I wouldn’t be doing this job is a lottery win, and even then I’d find it hard to stay away.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I’m not afraid of commitment. I’d like to think I’ll be with DDB Group for many years, continuing to champion integration and grow Mango in Australia and overseas.
What’s been your most challenging career moment?
Bringing a production crew, media and university students to the favelas of Brazil. We arrived to the sound of gunfire, I screamed at everyone to “get down” and was promptly told by a gang member with a crocodile-smile that this was their idea of welcoming us. The trip included a journalist getting mugged, a photographer’s camera being smashed after taking a photo of something the gang didn’t like and a uni student almost being tricked by a prostitute.
But as they say adversity brings out the best in you and it was one of the most rewarding campaigns I ever worked on.
What’s your favourite kind of cheese?
That’s like asking someone to name their favourite child. Next question.
What’s one thing not many know about you?
I’ll be competing in a sailing race in Sweden in 2016, even though I only started sailing a year ago.
What’s your quirkiest attribute?
Bringing myself to work. I don’t believe being quirky is about growing a beard (I’d fail, clearly), wearing wacky clothes, or having an out-there ritual. I think being quirky is about fearlessly being yourself and calling ‘bullshit’ on others.
I’m also fiercely loyal to my clients, and switch to their products and services over competitors, advocating for my friends to do the same. Why should I expect people to buy-into our clients unless I’m happy to do so? I’ve been known to take this to the extreme, but I won’t go into the detail. I’ll most likely be buying a Volkswagen soon.
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