If the advertising, marketing, and media industries are not motivated by “purely doing the right thing”, OMD Australia CEO Aimee Buchanan hopes they will be by the commercial benefits of diversity.
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.
Aimee Buchanan—who topped B&T’s Women in Media Powerlist in 2018—is the Australian chief executive of OMD, and a board director at the Media Federation of Australia.
Recently, we quizzed Buchanan on whether her industry is doing enough to reduce gender inequality, while she explained why it is time for ad-land to move away from addressing C-suite financial inequities and onto the issue in leadership.
Aimee, what does your average day look like?
My mornings are a little crazy. We are juggling trying to get back into some sort of exercise routine (post bub), plus feeding the two kids, ourselves and getting everyone ready for the day. There is often something work wise that has arisen overnight, especially in the current climate, that needs urgent attention.
So, it is a lot of juggling. I try and focus on the family during this time and at bedtime. It’s not always possible, but a definite intention.
There is a lot of dividing and conquering between me and my husband. By the time I walk out the door (or back upstairs in recent times), I often feel like I have done a day’s work before the day starts.
What motivates you?
I like to build things. I am driven by making OMD a better place to work and a place that does the best work. I’m passionate about growing our clients’ businesses and getting under the hood of what makes them tick and move forward.
I feel privileged that we are invited into Australia’s most complex businesses and that we have role to play in their future.
What is the proudest moment of your professional life?
I had the opportunity quite early on in my career to work on Optus, and I ended up spending nine years on the business. I worked across every department and progressed up through the team to eventually run the account.
The senior clients took me under their wing and taught me so much about business and marketing. It was a fantastic learning experience and I am proud that I was able to continue to deliver and grow throughout this time.
It taught me a lot from a skill-set point of view, but also personally about loyalty, really investing in people, deep relationships and what it truly means to know a client’s business. This was a rich training ground for me that I was able to take and expand on as I progressed my media career.
More recently, I’m really proud of the continued success that we have had at OMD. The last 12 weeks has put our values and team to the test, and I could not be more proud of how the team have delivered.
I’m proud of how the team is navigating what’s just a really challenging time personally, but also how they’re helping our clients navigate this strategically. They’re stepping up to that every single day.
What is the difference between being ‘brave’ and being ‘courageous’?
Bravery is about confronting something difficult without fear, whereas courage is confronting something despite fear. The common thread is acting, regardless of fear.
When in your career have you been most courageous? When in your career have you been bravest? Or, what is the scariest thing you’ve ever overcome?
I think I have pushed for change in our business. I have had to have courage to raise issues that my peers don’t necessarily see as issues (as they don’t experience them).
Change in our formal structures that we have, but also in the informal structures that create role models for our people in the business.
Why should women or men in the media, marketing and advertising industries be courageous when pushing against gender inequalities?
We should strive for diversity and inclusion in ad-land because, not only is it the right thing to do, but it also makes our businesses better.
There is the moral social angle that is a key driver to why general equality cannot be overlooked, but there are also the creative and commercial benefits that are proven when a more diverse workforce is employed.
If you are not motivated by purely doing the right thing, hopefully ad-land is motivated by the commercial benefits.
Have the women and men of ad-land been courageous enough in our fight for gender equality?
It’s hard to answer the question if enough is ever enough. We can always do more. On the surface ad-land (particularly media) is more gender diverse and we are seeing greater representation of that at a C-level.
This is reflected in the CMOs that we work with, many of whom are women. I would encourage us now to look beyond this to board levels across the industry.
Is the slowdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic an opportunity for ad-land to rethink how it approaches gender issues?
I think this moment in time has made us examine our lives in context of our values and what is important. It has seen us be more human and open, which sets a great preface for us to examine how we approach a lot of things.
It has forced families to get back to basics and understand the complexity of children’s education, the real struggles on work life balance, with ‘normal’ physical barriers removed and the two blurring.
There are huge positives to this, where workforces have been forced to accept and recognise that flexible working can work at scale. I am hoping that this widespread acceptance means the industry will embrace a future of work that looks quite different to our past.
This year’s theme for B&T’s ‘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 stage receiving an award? What should that person represent?
Someone who has changed their business or the industry for the better, overcoming their own fear and barriers to do so. Institutional and structural change that becomes established for the future vs change for the moment or purely them as individuals.
Who is the bravest or most courageous person you know and why?
My mum, who fought cancer for years telling nobody she had it, whilst raising my brother and me. She would get a blood transfusion each Thursday so she could be well for the weekend to spend with us and create memories with us.
She passed away when I was ten, but she was both brave and courageous in how she handled what must have been such a challenging time for her.
Becoming a mother has made me understand and respect that so much more.
Don’t be shy, be proud of your achievements and enter B&T’s Women In Media! Submit your entry here.
You can also buy tickets to the event here, which will be held on Wednesday 28 October 2020, at Doltone House (Jones Bay Wharf).
And, if you’d like more information, head to this website.
Other key information
On-time deadline: Friday 21 August 2020 (5pm AEST)
Late entries deadline: Friday 28 August 2020 (5pm AEST)
Shortlist announced: Wednesday 23 September 2020.
Thank you to all of our incredible sponsors for making the event possible!