Industry Profile: Host/Havas head of innovation Bohdi Lewis

By AdNews | 29 March 2018
Bohdi Lewis

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.

Today, we head to Sydney to meet Host/Havas head of innovation Bohdi Lewis.

Duration in current role/time at the company:

Three years.

How would you describe what the company does?

It’s quite difficult to succinctly describe what we do at Host/Havas, simply because of the sheer diversity of capability we have and outputs we deliver. But I suppose at our core, we are a creative business with a passion for ideas that maximise client profitability while keeping people at the centre of ideas. It’s about shared value.

What do you do day-to-day?

Put simply, I spend my days switching back and forth between two opposing modes, inputand output. I spend a large portion of my day learning and digesting information. From the minute I wake up, I’m listening to podcasts and audiobooks and reading non-stop about what’s happening in the world, and how people, brands and technologies are advancing each day (inputs). And then on the flipside, my role is to identify patterns between all of these advancements to make them relevant for the brands we work with to find meaningful applications that create shared value (outputs). The more you download and input, the more instinctively you’re able to make these connections. So I’d say about 70% of an average day is spent inputting, 20% distilling these inputs and only 10% outputting ideas.

Define your job in one word:

I’m going to go with ‘Chameleon’ because you’re constantly jumping between industries, audiences and ideas all day long.

I got into the creative agency life because:

I get to wear sneakers and a t-shirt to work and get to hang around really passionate people.

What’s the biggest challenge you face in your role?

Getting people to venture into the unknown. This sounds kind of weird, but I spend endless amounts of time convincing people to change the way they work and to break free from what they’ve been hard-wired to do. Seems simple enough, but it’s hard trying to shift entire organisational cultures to embrace experimentation. It takes time and persistence.

What’s the biggest industry-wide challenge you’d like to see tackled?

The talent shortage. The skills gap is getting bigger and bigger. Shifting just 1% of the workforce into science and technology roles would add $57 billion to gross domestic product over 20 years in Australia. But it’s more than just this. Agencies in general need more diversity of talent from outside the industry from startups and tech companies and we need more cultural diversity in order to understand and speak to a wider range of audiences.

Previous industry related companies you have worked at:

One of my first jobs was working for a local radio station in their ‘street team’ where I would drive around showing up to local events to do live on-air crosses. As a 19-year-old uni student, this was a pretty daunting prospect. We would often show up for a cross five minutes before it was scheduled and have to meet the organiser of the event, work out what you were going to say and quickly dial in to go live. The first time I did this, I didn’t realise I was actually live (I thought it was pre-recorded) and started asking a bunch of questions. On air. I got better at this over time, but looking back I reckon it definitely helped me develop the ability to ideate rapidly and under pressure which is one of the most important skills you need in the innovation space.

Who is/has been a great mentor to you and why?

I’ve never really had an ‘official’ mentor. But I’ve been lucky to have a number of people over my career who have given me advice. Shared amongst all of them is their willingness to share their recipe for success as well as provide honest feedback when my work sucks. I’m always grateful to people who are honest about my ideas. Makes me push it further.

Words of advice for someone wanting a job like yours?

Be the most curious and passionate person you know. Go beyond just reading headlines and articles and really try to understand why things are happening and how things work. Get hands on with tech. Create side projects. Volunteer for industry-related things. Teach.

If I wasn't doing this for a living, I'd be:

No idea to be honest. Doing something completely opposite, away from the boardroom would be fun for a while. Open to ideas.

My mantra / philosophy is:

You’ll get everything you want in life if you simply help enough people get what they want.

My favourite advert is (and why):

I love ads that use the context to bring them to life. One that has always stood out in my mind is an outdoor campaign the a European recruitment company called Jobs In Town did back around 2010. They stuck a bunch of posters on petrol pumps and cigarette machines and all sorts of ambient items that created the illusion of someone physically sitting inside the machine rolling cigarettes or pumping petrol or whatever else. All of them had the line ‘Life’s too short for the wrong job’. Just thought this was really smart but simple use of media.

Music and TV streaming habits. What do you subscribe to?

By far my favourite form of content is the humble audiobook. Anything that helps me stare less at a screen is a tick in my book.

Tell us one thing people at work don’t know about you?

Nothing really. I’m pretty open with my opinions.

In five years' time I'll be:

Hopefully looking back, with a beer in hand, proud of having made a long list of products and services that have made people’s lives better.

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