Be Real with Amanda Fève

“How can creativity unlock value for our clients? What is the end game that we’re playing at?”

Amanda Fève is Media Arts Lab’s Global CSO. She has traveled all across the world throughout her career, holding positions in London with Wieden+Kennedy and BBH as well as working in Amsterdam with Anomaly. In this interview, Amanda discusses what it is like to be a woman in the world of marketing and the importance of always speaking the truth.

 Not many people understand what goes into being a Chief Strategic Officer. What is the strategic planning and process that you do as a global CSO?

The role of planning is not just to figure out ‘What is the commercial that we’re going to make? How can we position something? How can we make it interesting to this specific target audience?’ But I think that’s where I really started to learn to ask, ‘How can creativity unlock value for our clients? What is the end game that we’re playing at?’ And so I think we have to think beyond just, ‘What are the outputs that we want to create on behalf of our clients?’ I’m not interested in just making advertising. I think that you’re asking yourself long-term, ‘How can we unlock value for these people? Are there audiences that we’re not thinking about? Are there places that we’re not currently operating that we could be?’ The role of creative strategy isn’t just to make great creative work, it’s to create real value in the real world.

I assume that being a woman in business can sometimes be really challenging. Were there any barriers on your path to the position you’re in now?

I don’t know that I would say that there were ever any specific barriers. But I think that there were definitely different points in my career where I was forced to really be conscious about my gender identity. So I’ll give you an example. When I was about 23 years old, I was at a meeting with a bunch of global clients and I was looking around the room thinking to myself,  “I’d really like a cup of tea.” So I got up to make myself a cup of tea, and my first instinct, just at a human level, was to say to everybody in the room, ‘Oh, would you like some tea?’ But as I was doing that, I thought, ‘Oh yeah, if I do that, I’m almost reinforcing my point of difference.” And so it’s learning to be conscious of it, and not letting people default into patterns.

The other thing that I would say is, when I have seen and heard behavior that didn’t feel appropriate, I think that you have different ways that you can react to that. You can ignore it, or you can confront it. And I guess one of my sort of chosen modalities over the years was to call attention to things that are inappropriate to me, but without making it into a big incident or something heavy, just to try and encourage people to be a bit more conscious about some of their behaviors.

You’ve had a long career that has seen you travel all across the world. Throughout all of your experiences, what is one accomplishment in your career that you’re really proud of?

I think the one thing that didn’t come naturally to me was just really embracing the commitment to speak the truth. When I talk about speaking the truth, I mean really learning to trust my instinct and to say what I think without trying to please people or put it through the filter of whether or not something is going to upset somebody. For me, one of the best things about spending 11 years in Amsterdam is that the Dutch as a society are notoriously blunt. There’s something really refreshing about being super honest. The important thing with honesty is it has to be framed and delivered in a constructive way and in service of getting to a better outcome. Maybe earlier in my career, there were lots of times where I might bite my tongue or think, ‘The client is saying that this is their problem, but it’s so patently clear to me that actually the problem is something else.’ As I got more experienced, and as I got more confident, I learned that the value that I bring to the table is actually being clear on what I see as being objective, being able to marshal the facts to support that, and just trying to help other people find different ways of looking at a familiar problem.

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