Industry Profile: MercerBell CEO Julie Dormand

15 October 2019

Our Industry Profile takes a look at some of the professionals working across the advertising, ad tech, marketing and media sector in Australia. It aims to shed light on the varying roles and companies across the buzzing industry.

This week we speak to MercerBell CEO Julie Dormand.

Duration in current role/time at the company:
Coming up to a year in the CEO role, and 18 years with MercerBell.

How would you describe what the company does?
MercerBell strives to be Australia’s leading customer experience agency - meaning we combine our in-house strategy, data, behavioural science, creative and tech skills to deliver outstanding customer communications for our clients.

What do you do day-to-day?
My role is all about people, solutions and direction. As CEO it’s my job to ensure that we have a clear vision for the agency and that we deliver on our ambitions. I do this through high-level decision making, that ensures every person in the business is equipped to deliver on our goals.

MercerBell is a people first agency. To me it’s critical that we have the right people, who believe in what we do, who we are and the way we work. It’s what we call The MercerBellian Spirit, and it has become a differentiator for our clients and staff. I make sure we deliver on our targets whilst maintaining this unique agency culture.

Define your job in one word:
Builder (of business; people; skills; plans).

I got into marketing because:
Of my love of communication. How people communicate and the way they interact has always fascinated me. This led me to choose communication studies at university, from which I then progressed in to marketing. It was a natural shift for me towards direct marketing, as I loved the behavioural science approach of getting people to take action.

What’s the biggest challenge you face in your role?
The role agencies play for clients is shifting. Clients are working through what they can in-house and what they still need their agency partners for. They’re also looking deeply at what type of agency partner is the best one to add value to their internal competency. Responding to this, making sure we have the highest calibre of people to deliver best-in-class CX work, is the biggest pressure on our agency and my role.

On a personal level, the continual balance of maintaining my career whilst also raising a family is an ongoing challenge, but something I am incredibly proud of.

What’s the biggest industry-wide challenge you’d like to see tackled?
Our industry has to focus on shifting its approach to diversity. We have seen corporates change much quicker than the ad industry has in terms of flexibility and a diverse workforce. There is so much still to do to get to gender equality in our industry, yet at the same time not enough focus has been given to other areas of diversity, such as ageism.

Initiatives such as the Agency Circle give light to our current status, but to see change I believe agencies need to tackle these diversity biases, shifting from outdated points of view to embrace a modern workplace.

Previous industry related companies you have worked at:
I started in client-side marketing in the UK, before moving on to agency Lowe Lintas, working across Commonwealth Bank and Woolworths Rewards.

Who has been a great mentor to you and why?
I have been lucky to have Nick Mercer as my boss, mentor and sponsor for nearly 18 years of my career. Nick championed my development at every stage, believed in my ability, giving me the additional nudge when needed and always telling me to back myself.

It’s important to have a cheerleader behind you; someone you know is there with an ear in good times and bad. Knowing I have a person I can turn to gives me a sense of clarity as it prompts me to come up with solutions that they might suggest.

Words of advice for someone wanting a job like yours?
Focus on ambition and ability in equal measure. I have always believed in excelling at the job you are in before setting your sights on the next job. Often through looking too far up the tree, you can miss learning in the day to day and building out a strong competency. However, you do need to show your desire to progress, let people know that you are striving and ambitious to do more. Don’t be scared to put your hand up for the next thing.

The other main advice I can give is to take control of your own self development. Most of my development as a leader hasn’t come from training courses, but learning from others. From attending seminars; meeting people and asking for tips to reading everything I can.

If I wasn't doing this for a living, I'd be:
A bloody good party organiser.

My mantra is:
“Seek to understand before you seek to be understood” – Steve Covey.

My favourite advert is:
Actually a film! The Lego Movie. It is the ultimate in success for a brand when your audience have become so emotionally engaged with your product that they can watch a movie about it. The movie brings out the magic of creating stories, which is the heart of what Lego enables with children.

What’s more, it drove sales. The year after its release LEGO sales jumped a reported 25%!

Music and TV streaming habits. What do you subscribe to?
Everything! I love finding new shows recommended by friends, I love a good crime drama like Happy Valley. We use Stan, Netflix, Apple TV and SBS. Spotify is my go to for music and I am a new podcast lover, converted by The Teachers Pet, and now looking for new content to listen to on my long commute home.

Tell us one thing people at work don’t know about you?
It is very easy to hypnotise me. After 33 years as a ‘thumb sucker’ I went to one hypnosis session and was 100 per cent cured.

In five years' time I'll be:
Entering my 50’s, a danger zone for women in advertising. I hear many older females talk about hiding their age, deleting their career from their CV to make them appear younger. I want to be a role model for women and show them that our industry doesn’t need to have a sell-by-date on female talent and to help this industry see that there is a value in experience.

In a world where our population is ageing, where consumers are ageing, it makes no sense to have an industry that does not represent the diverse age of consumers.

I survived the early parenting years and showed that young mums can stay and achieve career ambitions in agencies. So, I’ll be flying the banner for the older women segment.

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