Pip Hulbert is CEO of Wunderman Thompson UK, a creative, data, and technology agency of some renown.
Recent work from the agency includes campaigns such as HSBC’s We Are Not an Island and BT Sport’s #Unscripted.
We caught up with Hulbert to ask her the usual questions and get an insight into her day-to-day.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
Pip Hulbert: As UK CEO of Wunderman Thompson, I’m leading an agency with incredible pedigree and heritage.
We have the largest creative department in the UK and alongside 110 creatives, we bring together data, commerce, consulting, customer experience experts, technology services and more, to reframe clients’ business challenges and deliver a truly end-to-end offering.
It’s my role to bring teams and disciplines together to deliver work that has the potential to transform our clients’ businesses.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Pip Hulbert: The ability to build and support high-performance teams is central to what I do. As a leader I continually aim to get the best out of people with different skill sets, working together to solve a brief and doing the best work of their career.
While structure and processes are important you also need an environment that allows ideas and inspiration to come from anywhere in the business; that means baking in openness and flexibility. It’s also reflected in our physical environment which is open-plan with plenty of break-out spaces that allow for collaboration.
You need to simplify the complex so that you can make and communicate decisions quickly. That way you can ensure everyone is aligned and knows what they and the agency are trying to achieve.
An ability to keep a number of different plates spinning at any given time is essential. But I always have an eye to the future and my nature is fundamentally a restless one, so I’m always looking at ways to keep evolving the agency.
Tell us about a typical working day…
Pip Hulbert: Unsurprisingly I spend a lot of my day in meetings. I’ve learnt to be very disciplined in ensuring there’s a clear purpose to them and they lead to actionable decisions that have a positive impact on the business.
Clarity and focus are what characterise how I approach my role. At the end of every day, I reflect back on what I have achieved and what I need to focus on that week and that month to deliver on the broader plan.
Yet you also have to adapt to constantly changing priorities and external factors that require a shift in focus. So my role demands that I’m good at juggling and reacting to any new environment. I make it my business to be very hands-on and present in the agency and that means I know instantly when there needs to be a small change of course. It becomes very instinctive.
There’s been a lot of debate recently about larks and owls in the workplace. I’m definitely the latter. I’m usually up and out first thing, so I start my day in the office with my regular cappuccino and porridge. I get my best ideas in the evening when things quieten down and there is a time to reflect and just be.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
Pip Hulbert: Our industry attracts incredible talent and I love the energy that comes from working with such inspirational people. We’re really lucky to encounter true variety in what we do and I can think of few sectors that come close.
I’ve worked hard to create a strong, supportive culture at the agency and I really enjoy the virtuous circle that comes when you make a point of celebrating success and saying thank you. That, in turn, drives people to do their best work and people tell me they feel this positivity when they come into the agency.
I also enjoy the responsibility of building a brand and making a difference. There’s a real kick and privilege in being able to put a campaign out there that makes you truly proud.
People might not believe me, but there’s very little to complain about.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
Pip Hulbert: My mantra of clarity and focus means having monthly, quarterly and annual goals to deliver on the agency’s ambition are central to how I do things. Everything needs to ladder up to this, hence my insistence on every meeting having to deliver actionable impact.
I love data so I need to know and track progress. We have a range of dashboards built around internal and external factors to measure client satisfaction, employee progression and sentiment, reputation in the media and other KPIs that show you the pulse of the business. But none of this is any use unless you build or adapt your strategies against the insights these dashboards provide.
Quite simply I want everyone to have clarity and to understand how what they do delivers into the overall ambition for the agency.
When you have that clarity and a strong culture you have great energy, a common sense of purpose and a place where people are happy to come to work and have a smile on their face. These softer metrics can be hard to measure but it’s vital that you get them right.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
Pip Hulbert: I’m afraid I’m a bit of a cliché in that I do everything using my phone and would be lost without it.
I use the notes function all the time; having my lists in one place means that nothing gets forgotten. I also take a lot of photos of things that inspire me, articles I want to read later, brainstorm ideas captured on a whiteboard, even notes from my daybook etc.
Whenever I had some downtime, in the back of a taxi, or waiting in a client reception I’ll scroll through what is essentially my catalogue of thoughts and ideas, to remind myself of priorities and things that inspire me.
How did you end up at Wunderman Thompson, and where might you go from here?
Pip Hulbert: I worked with Mel Edwards our global CEO for a number of years when we were both at LIDA. When she moved to Wunderman in 2012 it wasn’t long before we were in touch again and I decided to join the agency as part of Mel’s senior team.
At Wunderman Thompson UK we’ve already delivered so much that I’m proud of this year; Duracell, Kaspersky, BT Sport ATL, Centrica and Toyota have all joined the client roster in 2019.
I’m so proud of the culture we are building which has resulted in an all-time-low staff turnover, dropping from 22% to an amazing 13% YOY (industry average is 31%) and there has been a 40% rise in job applications.
I’m really excited by the journey ahead and the agency’s incredible potential.
What marketing or advertising has impressed you lately?
Pip Hulbert: A couple of weeks ago I was driving down Kensington High Street when I had a goosebumps moment. Pretty much every single bus shelter, digital screen and poster showed the BT Sport #Unscripted campaign. I really don’t want to blow our own trumpet, but with this one campaign, we’ve delivered on the promise that was part of building Wunderman Thompson, bringing creative, data and tech together. It marks a truly seminal moment for the agency and shows what we are capable of.
Do you have any advice for those people starting their career at an agency?
Pip Hulbert: Whenever people ask me this, I personalise it by asking myself what advice I would give to my daughter when she’s older. Regardless of sector and role, it’s important to work hard and deliver, to be respectful and to treat people the way you’d want to be treated. An authentic attitude, together with a smile will get you far.
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