Women In Media: It’s The Guardian’s Margy Vary!

Women In Media: It’s The Guardian’s Margy Vary!

It’s another Women in Media profile, and today we’re picking the brains of the wonderfully fascinating Margy Vary, head of marketing at The Guardian. Through this profile, we discovered that she listens to Wu-tang, hates the word ‘disruption’ and once got busted swigging wine from a bottle in a Google Hangout, making her our new favourite person.

Describe your average day?

3am I check emails from NY and London, and try not to email anyone in Australia so they don’t find out about my embarrassing post-natal body clock. Back to sleep till 7am, when it’s all on with the kids and the double school/day care drop-off, and riding my bike to work.

Check media alerts, update on editorial news agenda, check-in with my team about any urgent actions or opportunities that day, plus some random chat to start the day with a laugh.

Then it’s a mix of internal meetings, brainstorms, external partnership catch-ups, hasty speech writing, strategic planning, buying a cheap velvet couch for the office, and finding out how I can support what the commercial, editorial and events teams are up to. Bike home to pick up kids, dinner, bath, bed, then either some Youtube / Iview indulgence or conference call with London.

Read the same paragraph of a novel from the night before. Try not to check emails again before going to sleep. Completely fail to share any of that on social media.

What drives you?

The butterfly effect – start an idea, nudge it along, share it, involve people who can develop it into a campaign that ultimately changes lives.

What has been your favourite job in media and why?

My current job, which covers about 20 different disciplines, and involves daily encounters with brilliant people. I die with routine. I love working with women who are smarter than me. Luckily at The Guardian we have plenty!

What would be your ultimate role?

I’d like to work for a philanthropic organisation helping fair trade businesses get off the ground.

What’s your quirkiest attribute?

According to my colleagues, I am ‘the definition of quirk’. I look like Olive Oyl, drive an imported red Cube (which looks like a Postman Pat van), listen to Wu-tang, eat bugs and am fluent in Olde English.

One thing no one knows about you?

I made a profit out of going to private school (by winning a grant and scholarship worth more than the fees). And then became the only Head Girl ever to be expelled.

What are advertising/marketing’s biggest challenges or threats? 

I think in the mad rush to use personal data we’re going to risk getting the door slammed in our faces.

We also have not just an ethical responsibility but an economic imperative now to re-think the neo-liberal capitalist system, and envision a more holistic idea of success within our businesses and broader communities. Professional women can play a vital role in this transformation.

What do you think are the most exciting things in the marketing and creative world at the moment?

Impact and cause-related marketing, the shift towards making acts rather than ads, and the consumer call-out for proof of triple-bottom line activities from corporate bodies.

In terms of tech, I’m excited to see how VR can be used to develop empathy. The Guardian’s first foray into VR is called 6X9, a project which tests your ability to survive in solitary confinement, and so questions its use in a corrective system.

There’s huge potential for this kind of technology to be used by brands to deliver uniquely personal, mind-changing experiences.

If you were CEO what would you do differently?

Run the office from a forest. Add a crèche. Add sleep pods. Tax the use of meaningless PR jargon like ‘moving forward’ and ‘thought leadership’ and use the money to run an indigenous journalist internship programme.

Hardest lesson you’ve had to learn (in or out of workforce)?

That I’m not always the best at my job. That people don’t always like me.

Tea or coffee?

I can’t live without tea. I can’t work without coffee. So I guess tea.

Cats or dogs?

Neither in Australia. When I married a scientist I took on an endless stream of native co-habitants, from scorpions to lizards to giant stick-insects.

Guilty pleasure?

Op-shopping and ethical smugness.

What’s your favourite TV programme?

This month it’s the Katering Show. The laughing is so good for my abs.

What turns you on, emotionally, creatively, spirituality?

I’m a human sponge, I absolutely thrive on everyone else’s energy, ideas, warmth and creativity.

What turns you off?

TLA’s (three letter acronyms). Confusing multi-person conference calls. My colleague recently accidentally invited our UK analyst team to a threesome. And I’ve been busted drinking from a wine bottle on a Google Hangout.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I’d love to be a builder. I got my ‘owner builder’ certificate when my husband and I renovated our house. Some of my happiest moments have involved noggins and studs.

What profession would you not like to do?

War correspondent.

Have you ever felt like giving up?

Only when I had post-natal depression.

What are the pearls of wisdom you know now, that you wish you knew when they were younger?

When I had PND I learnt the dark side isn’t anger or frustration, it’s an absence of feeling because life deplores a vacuum. Anger is fuel, with intelligence you can use it to make good shit happen.

What is your favourite word?


What is your least favourite word?

Right now, it’s Disruption. What’s suddenly so uncool about incremental improvement?


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