Industry Profile: Leo Burnett Sydney head of strategy Graham Alvarez-Jarratt

26 November 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 Leo Burnett Sydney head of strategy Graham Alvarez-Jarratt.

Duration in current role/time at the company:
Four years at Leos, one year in the role.

How would you describe what the company does?
Solving business problems through creativity.

What do you do day-to-day?
Have oodles of chats. With my team. With clients. With people. Occasionally with my wife and cat too.

Define your job in one word:
Invigorating.

I got into advertising because:
My favourite subjects going through school were business and art. In typical planner fashion, advertising existed at the centre of this venn diagram.

What’s the biggest challenge you face in your role?
I’m increasingly fond of the idea that strategy is the art and discipline of thoughtful sacrifice. Of killing off options. Of embracing limitations. Of what is not done as much as what is.

Unfortunately, while I find this instructive and edifying, I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Call it loss aversion, or even pure ambitiousness, but so many of us agency folk and clients try to bite off more than we can chew. I therefore find myself trying to persuade others that, in a time of increasing complexity, the ultimate virtue is simplicity.

What’s the biggest industry-wide challenge you’d like to see tackled?
Short-termism. It’s unhelpful, unproductive, and, ultimately, to our detriment.

This is a broader marketing issue, not just a communications one, though I feel agencies are collateral damage here. Taking on a role of executers, not leaders; of tacticians, not grand strategists.

Thinking more broadly, I’d say diversity. We need people of more varied backgrounds, experiences, ages, skillsets, and mindsets in agencies. I’m seeing more recognition of this, certainly here at Leo’s, and would love to see it continue.

Previous industry related companies you have worked at:
BBDO (both sides of the Ditch) and JWT.

Who has been a great mentor to you and why?
I guess earlier in my career I looked up to, and learned an immeasurable amount from, the great planners I worked for. From Andrew McCowan, I learned the rigour and discipline of classic, UK planning; from James Hurman, the idea that planners must be dogged about being creative; from Al Crawford, the art of constructing an argument.

More recently, I think I’ve become more appreciative of the values I got from my parents. Dad taught me the value of being kind and considerate, and Mum has convinced me that there’s always time for a song, a dance, and a giggle.

Words of advice for someone wanting a job like yours?
Be deeply empathic towards others. Strategists should be skilled in putting themselves in other people’s shoes. Being able to understand why one’s words don’t always align with their actions. Being able to understand someone else’s behaviours, even those they disagree with or find grotesque.

This is partly why I moved to Leo’s in the first place – its philosophy of HumanKind, and the value of empathy, is now as important as ever.

Just lastly, empathy, I’d argue, is the skill that is foundational to just about all others. It’ll make you a better strategist. A better team member. A better leader. A better human.

If I wasn't doing this for a living, I'd be:
A chef. It’s still creative problem solving, but tastier.

My mantra is:
Care about what you do.

My favourite advert is:
WWF’s Earth Hour. This represents everything I love and cherish about our industry: A modern issue, approached through the lens of creativity. An act that galvanises. Something that has endured, rather than being a flash in the pan.

Music and TV streaming habits. What do you subscribe to?
Spotify, Netflix, Stan. Also, Gourmet Traveller. A different kind of subscription, but one I get just as lost in, and entertained by.

Tell us one thing people at work don’t know about you?
I’m a black belt. So, you know. Best to just agree with me.

In five years’ time I'll be:
With any luck, still a happy and healthy human.

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