Sophie Price has no shortage of role models. But the person that she looks to for courage “on a daily basis” is her daughter, Poppy.
During this year’s B&T Women in Media Awards, presented by Are 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.
One of these brilliant professionals is M&C Saatchi Group’s head of integrated strategy, Sophie Price—who also happens to be a two-time Women in Media Awards winner, and perhaps the only person we know as fond of the humble em dash as we are.
Recently, B&T sat down with Price to chat about what motivates her and found out why leaving her leadership role at Universal McCann Sydney in 2006 was the bravest thing she has ever done.
She also revealed her daughter happens to be her greatest source of bravery. (We’re not crying, you are!)
Sophie, what does your average day look like?
There is no such thing as an average day, thank goodness—and that’s the wonderful thing about our industry. We have a huge array of ambitious clients, across multiple categories, with completely different growth challenges and goals.
As a strategic consultant, I have to bend and flex to the needs of the individual business, no matter where they in their journey. The constant in all of this change is the very special people that I have in my home and working life—who also make my days far from average.
What motivates you?
Ideas. And I’m not just talking about advertising ideas. What drives me is the application of creativity to solve any type of business problem; both for our clients and in our own business.
I crave that feeling in my gut that says “we’re onto something exciting”—and when that idea is supported by data you can be pretty confident it’s going to create change.
What is your proudest professional moment?
I am fortunate enough to have had a number of career highs—winning B&T’s Women in Media for the second time in 2018 was undoubtedly one of them.
Judging the Cannes Media Lions in 2016 was also a very proud moment—to be representing Australia on a judging panel of global industry leaders was an experience I will never forget.
But without question, my proudest moments have been watching my team flourish and hit their career goals over the last five years.
What is the difference between being ‘brave’ and being ‘courageous’?
It’s an interesting question as the two words are used interchangeably. But here’s what I think the distinction is.
Bravery is a quality that comes naturally to a person—to confront something difficult without fear.
Courageousness is the ability to tackle something difficult, despite the fears you might have—because the reward is worth the risk or effort.
When in your career have you been bravest and most courageous?
I have always believed that creative and media thinking should be joined at the hip in ad-land—it’s better for the work, and better for our clients.
With that in mind, my bravest career move was leaving my leadership role at UM in 2006 (just as media agencies were enjoying their newfound independence from their creative agency sisters) to set up Channel Planning at The Campaign Palace.
In doing so we were the first to put media back in bed with the creative teams. Despite the initial cultural challenges of aligning media and creative, I was always confident that the agency would benefit. Since then I’ve been a vocal champion of integration in our industry.
There are many examples of courageous campaigns that I’ve influenced over my career: Tontine Date Stamped Pillows, Berlei Upflifting Tour of Australia, Lego Chistmas Star, Tourism Australia Matesong, etc.
These are all campaigns that broke category norms and tore up the media R&F rule book.
Why should women or men in Australia’s media, marketing and advertising industries be courageous when pushing against gender inequalities?
I hope that women will have the courage to be themselves and lead in a feminine way that reveals the enormous gifts that come from being smart, empathetic, collaborative, strong, tenacious, resilient, nurturing, protective, and creative.
Have the women and men of adland been courageous enough in our fight for gender equality?
They are now. Perhaps a little later than ideal, but we’re not shying away from the topic now. In our business, for example, equality is front and centre of both our HR and cultural programs.
The MFA recently announced that there is no gender pay gap in the media agency industry which is testament to the progress the whole industry is making. There are still roles that are clearly male dominated—but the statistics are improving every year in favour of equality which is encouraging to see.
This year’s theme for ‘Women in Media’ is courage and bravery. What would an awards focused on this theme look like, to you, and what kind of person do you visualise should be up on the (virtual) stage receiving an award? What should that person represent?
I envisage a woman who is: a thought leader and a visionary; has taken chances when opportunity knocks, even if success is not guaranteed; not afraid to appear as a black sheep or to choose the road less travelled; proactive in supporting and paving the way for others; an advocate for themselves.
Is the slowdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic an opportunity for ad-land to rethink how it approaches gender issues?
Throughout history, we have seen that shared adversity fosters a sense of community and affinity with others that can often be masked in normal times. For example, the experience of community solidarity during World War II helped fuel the UK’s desire to set up a welfare state.
Indeed, the mantra of ‘we’re in this together’ has become the slogan to represent our unified global response to COVID-19. And even in our ad-land bubble, we have experienced a heightened sense of community and camaraderie over the last three months.
So now feels like the perfect opportunity to tackle the remaining gender issues in our industry and in our advertising and create social change.
Thankfully, working from home has naturally levelled the playing field between both men and women (particularly mums)—in terms of improving accessibility to teams, efficiency of work and work life balance.
And finally, who is the bravest or most courageous person you know and why?
There are lots of people who I admire for their courage both professionally and professionally. But quite honestly, the person who inspires me to more courageous on a daily basis is my 12-year-old daughter, Poppy.
The teenage world is hard to navigate, with insane pressures from every direction to conform, excel at everything, look a certain way, behave a certain way, etc.
Poppy has the courage to throw herself into the things that daunt her, to shrug off the things that are designed to hurt her, to say no to things that feel inappropriate, and to not worry about what everyone thinks of her.
She does it better than I’ve ever managed to do it. So, when I’m confronted with a hurdle at work, I always ask myself, “what would Poppy do?”
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