Industry Profile: Block CEO Natalie Jenkins

28 July 2020

Our Industry Profile takes a look at some of the professionals working across the advertising, adtech, 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 Block CEO Natalie Jenkins.

Time at the company:
Five months. I started at Block just as the coronavirus started to come to light internationally, so my time in the role has been across the whole of the COVID-19 period.

How would you describe what the company does?
Business not as usual (which is relevant in more ways than one at the moment!) – we also help businesses build great brands.

What do you do day-to-day?
I once heard someone say that CEOs are a jack of all trades, master of none and it’s true. CEOs are leaders – they hold the vision, oversee the delivery of strategy and nurture the team to produce their best work. We’re not employed to be technical specialists – you employ good people to do that. So, my day is very broad – anything from analysing what the numbers are telling us, networking with other business leaders and potential clients, taking the temperature of the external environment and keeping a close eye on everything that can affect our business, meeting with clients and team members and monitoring the delivery and achievement of our growth strategy. My job is to look out and over the business and plan for the future.

Define your job in one word:

I got into advertising because:
I really liked the people that asked me to! I’d worked with Block’s co-founders Mark Braddock and Tanya Sim in a variety of capacities and liked their values – that’s really important to me. I’d commissioned work from Block (as a client) and I loved the way they think – so clever and so strategic. Why wouldn’t I want to be a part of that?

What’s the biggest challenge you face in your role?
Right now, it’s COVID-19 of course – steering the ship through murky waters, with little visibility in front of you. Looking after the team is the most important thing at this time and that remains the case COVID or not. We’re currently seeing a lot of businesses struggle with their expectations of revenue vs the reality right now and so we devised our new brand screening service ‘Mind the Gap’. It aims to help clients understand what they need to do to move forward and ensure their brand tone and messaging doesn’t fall in the ‘gap’.

What’s the biggest industry-wide challenge you’d like to see tackled?
Inclusion. Not just lip service, but real representation of a diverse range of people and perspectives. How do you shift an industry that is behind many others, yet has the greatest power to influence the broader community? We’re currently watching the rising power of the ‘Black Lives Matters’ movement in the US and at the same time, we need to look closer to home and understand the systemic racism in our own structures in Australia. Advertising has a huge role to play here and we need to tackle it with authenticity and commitment.

Previous industry related companies you have worked at:
My background is in the arts and cultural sector. I’ve worked, client side, with agencies big and small my entire career, as well as at a national level, advocating for the value of the creative industries.

Notable campaigns you have worked on:
Block recently worked with Otherside Brewing Co. to launch a new craft beer, PLAN: C. We only had a few days to pull everything together but the launch was a big success: the first two releases sold out while it was still brewing.

Who has been a great mentor to you and why?
I’ve had a number across my career from generous philanthropists, to savvy investment bankers, to great artists and entrepreneurs. I believe that you need different mentors at different points, depending on your journey. I’ve been fortunate to have been surrounded by a breadth of talented and generous people, who have given me their time and words of wisdom when I needed it the most.

Words of advice for someone wanting a job like yours?
Think globally, act locally – you always need to be aware of the bigger picture when leading an organisation, but never lose sight of the people surrounding you on a daily basis. They are your greatest asset.

If I wasn't doing this for a living, I'd be:
Doing everything that’s still on my ‘to do’ list.

My mantra is:
“Start a conversation” – everything begins there.

My favourite advert is:
The fantastic ‘Life Be In It’ community service advertising of the ’70s and ’80s. Who could forget Norm and his beer belly and that catchy jingle? Channel 9 Perth had their own version of these across the same years – Vitamins and Minerals, brushing your teeth, not being a ‘dingaling’, keeping safe and keeping clean. How on earth would our families have parented us without them…?!

Music and TV streaming habits. What do you subscribe to?
Netflix, Apple TV and SBS On Demand have been on rotation in our household these past few months. I’m desperately missing live performance, so I’ll be glad to break the streaming habit as soon as we can!

Tell us one thing people at work don’t know about you?
I’ve only been here five months, so I suspect there’s a lot they don’t know… I was once Hungry Jacks’ Golden Girl of the Month. True story.

In five years' time I'll be:
Looking back and feeling very pleased with where things are at in life and business.

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