Young Gun: DDB Sydney senior strategist James Davis

29 August 2019

Our Young Gun profile takes a look at some of the young talent across the advertising, ad tech, marketing and media sector in Australia. It aims to shed light on the varying roles, people and companies across the buzzing industry.

Today we speak to DDB Sydney senior strategist James Davis.

Time at current company:
10 months.

How long have you been in the industry?
Seven years. 

How did you get here?
I’ve spent the majority of my career at digital agencies like Lavender, Wunderman and Isobar. I had the opportunity to broaden my skill set by working at a brand agency so I jumped at it.

Who guides you day to day?
Dom Hickey, DDB’s head of planning is my direct manager. She taught me how to plan during my early days at Wunderman so it’s great to be back working together on Westpac.

Beyond Dom, it’s usually smart people like Carl Ratcliff (our CSO) or Leif Stromnes (MD strategy & innovation) who always have sage advice for me when I need it.

What’s the best thing about the industry you work in?
I love the diversity of thought in advertising. It’s easy to get trapped in an echo chamber where your own biases are regularly reinforced by social media and close friends. This industry is full of people from different backgrounds who are ready to challenge your thinking and engage in healthy debates. It keeps you on your toes and open to different perspectives.

And the biggest challenge?
Fighting short termism – getting clients to invest in brand ahead of short term sales activations. When I started in advertising there was a lot of talk about consultancies, the power of digital and the death of TV. It feels like it has taken until now for the pendulum to swing back the other way and for clients to realise that sustained brand growth comes from driving emotion at scale.

Whose job have you set your sights on in the future?
Any head of planning gig will do just fine.

Where do you turn for inspiration?
As a tennis tragic, you’ll often find me watching highlights of Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal. I find the physical and mental fortitude they can display under immense pressure quite staggering. There’s plenty of things to learn from sport when it comes to navigating a career.

My favourite ad is:
It’s a Tide ad. Not only is the clarity of the idea bang on, but it takes the micky out of the advertising industry in a really refreshing way. Usually the best ideas are the simplest, this is a perfect example of why.

Tell us one thing people at work don’t know about you?
I once ate 36 oysters in 58 seconds as part of an oyster eating competition. Delicious!

In five years' time I'll be:
Quoting Les Binet and Peter Field to my own team of planners.

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