Meet The Team - Think HQ's focus on positive social impact

Jason Pollock
By Jason Pollock | 17 October 2023
The Think HQ team.

Social change agency Think HQ has a collective north star as an organisation that’s all about delivering positive outcomes for people, places and planet.

While such a mission may seem like something easier said than done in an advertising industry that still works with the likes of fossil fuel clients and gambling companies, the market has responded receptively to the positive positioning.

Over the last six months, new clients such as Infinitev have come on board at the same time as the team has expanded, hiring a head of creative strategy and head of art back in May and an executive creative director and senior copywriter a month ago after expanding to Sydney in August.

Jen Sharpe, founder and MD of Think HQ, said that while there are some positive movements and changes within the industry, overall she thinks it's lagging in shifting towards positive social impact and a genuine move towards inclusion and diversity. 

“Particularly with the holding companies, the pressure to bring in a certain profit margin every quarter is just a dominating force, so these issues tend to fall by the wayside,” she said. 

“I also think the commercial opportunities for working in this space is not understood, but unless the commercial case is there and is comprehended and is embraced, then I can't see a great deal of change in the short to medium term.”


Fiona Nixon (pictured right), Think HQ’s head of strategy and research, said that she thinks there is generally good intent and there are lots of people trying to embrace ideas of diversity, inclusion and sustainability, but what there isn't is the recognition that it takes a lot of time and investment to really understand how to do that well and how to do it genuinely. 

“That just ‘trying to deliver profit every quarter’ may also be a bit of a break on some of that time and effort that it takes to change and do things differently,” she told AdNews.

“I think it'll be interesting to see once some of the corporate world and clients have sorted their own internal work out and start looking beyond their borders to their supply chains and their main suppliers and start asking questions of them. 

“I don't think that's too far off, so that'll be another interesting motivator for agencies to also start thinking about these things more seriously." 

Prior to starting Think HQ back in 2010, Sharpe was managing a social marketing team within a bigger agency. 

Sharpe said that something that always bothered her was that while her team would be working on campaigns like addressing binge drinking, the consumer team within the same business would be working with clients that were directly conflicting with what her team were trying to achieve. 

“There’s an example I use that has infuriated me forever and that is the big agencies working with an alcohol client, a gambling client and a big not-for-profit service provider that seeks to address the challenges from problem gambling and alcohol abuse, all at the same time” she said.

“Our industry will need to become more accountable about who it works with and why and actually make a choice. If you want to stick with the gambling and the alcohol, then potentially, that not-for-profit client is not going to want to work with you anymore.

“We’re recruiting more and more people from big agencies now and that's the feedback that we get - that there's a relief that they don't have to work on those accounts anymore." 

Sharpe said that she thought there would be room in the market to create an agency that was really clear on its values - and that is to only work on projects that lead to positive social impact. 

“It's the absolute core of who we are and what we do and we will always do this,” she told AdNews

“I think other agencies tend to gravitate or look to rebrand or reposition themselves in this area, but that's quite different from just living and breathing that commitment from the beginning.”


Internally at Think HQSharpe (pictured right) said it was a very intentional play a number of years ago to start recruiting for more diversity. 

“I'm not just talking about cultural diversity, although we do have extraordinary cultural diversity here too, with staff who speak over 21 languages” she said.

“It’s also about diversity in terms of sexuality, age, gender and also people not traditionally just from the creative sector as well. We've got people who've come from film, design, research, academia, politics, journalism and more, so we’re very diverse in that sense, as well as different socio-economic backgrounds as well.

“I think our sector traditionally doesn't have that and that can show in the work that gets produced. We have also developed policies and practices to incorporate and ensure that inclusivity is safe for everybody and there's been lots of learnings along the way. It hasn't been a utopic, dream-like process; there's inevitably been lots of hiccups and learnings, but we're pretty proud of culture that we've got.”

It isn’t just inwardly-facing where Think HQ is prioritising inclusivity though; the agency also places importance for its comms and creative to be inclusive, something that Andy Lima, Think HQ’s group head of creative, said is the natural evolution of the positive change focus and working for social impact.

“Being inclusive was a necessity because you can’t enact real change if you're not including everyone in what you’re doing,” he told AdNews.

“In 2019, Think HQ acquired CultureVerse, which was our first step into the multicultural communications sector, and then we pretty much embedded that knowledge into the full agency.

“It's not having a separate department working on multicultural columns, but it's actually bringing that knowledge to strategy, to research, to the creative development and thinking holistically about what is the brief, what is the challenge, what is the shape of the audience, and then how we address that from a creative standpoint.”

With multicultural communications being the first step, First Nations engagement came next. 

“In 2020, we added a new department with the First Nations engagement communications and engagement team, who provides expertise and strategic insights to how we respond to briefs, but also engage with the community in terms of testing and implementing campaigns,” Lima said.

“Our intent is not to compete with First Nations owned agencies or businesses, but addressing and reaching that audience from an integrated perspective.”


Lima (pictured right) said those two elements led Think HQ to develop more and more co-designed and co-creative campaigns with those communities, especially due to working with very complex briefs.

“We’re dealing with domestic violence, we're dealing with child protection, or other complex behavioural change campaigns, so bringing the candidate communities on board and co-creating campaigns became really paramount to what we do,” he said.

“That naturally expanded to include people with disability, LGBTQ+ communities; last year for example, we developed a campaign for the eSafety Commissioner for young people and we were working with actual teenagers here at the agency, so more and more, we are employing this human-centric design and core design principles into creative and what we do.”

Looking ahead to next year, Sharpe said a big focus is the recently-launched Sydney office, expanding the agency’s footprint from Melbourne.

We're looking to expand our reach in Sydney; we've always worked on national campaigns, but I think Sydney is such an interesting space for us to go in and explore,” she said.

“From a company-wide perspective, we’re focused on this co-design, inclusive campaign space that we’re learning about and growing in all the time. 

“That is about working with clients from the get go as part of the strategic development process to include everybody and work with that co-design model to work with community.”



Lauren Brown - Senior Account Manager, PR

What attracted you to Think HQ?

I remember the day I found Think HQ. I was studying comms and had just finished a lecture about PR in big corporations that left me feeling deflated. In a moment of, well, spiralling, I googled "PR agencies Melbourne that do good" and Think HQ popped up. I was so enthralled by the work they were doing and the mission to use comms for good, I decided then and there that I was going to intern at Think, and hopefully one day work there. Manifesting at its finest, I suppose!

What are you focused on for 2023?

In 2023 I'm really trying to focus on crafting my copywriting skills, and intertwining these into my PR-driven work. I completed both AWARD school and copy school in 2022, and am on a mission to continue honing the skills I developed into the campaigns I'm working on. One piece of advice we were told at copy school was "there is no topic that doesn't deserve to be written evocatively" - that has really stayed with me. I enjoy the challenge of taking topics that while extremely important, might not be the most flashy, and crafting ideas  that make people care, and discuss them.

What do you love most about your role?

The opportunity to learn. Not only in terms of learning comms skills from fellow peers, but more broadly learning from all the people we get to collaborate with at Think. With co-design and authentic voices at the heart of so many of our campaigns, we are exposed to so much insight and opportunity to learn about other peoples' lives. I started out in the localisation team back in 2020, and even the amount I learnt about different community groups and languages through chatting with translators was incredibly insightful.



Jess Glass - Group Account Director          

What does a typical day look like for you?

At Think HQ,  we’re embracing a hybrid working model so we all head into the office 3 days a week, and the other 2 days it’s optional to work from home. I’m really enjoying the mix. My days in the office can be a fabulous whirlwind of briefing our creative, studio or production teams, scoping a new project with the Business Development team, attending a kick off or WIP (work in progress) meeting with clients, discussing a brief with CultureVerse (our multicultural strategic arm) or briefing translations into our Localisation team.

In between meetings, I’ll check in with my team to make sure everyone’s feeling good, and work my way through my to-do list and inbox. Before you know it, there’s always the “where did the day go” check of the clock at 5:20pm - that seems to be a constant.

Lately we’ve been running in-person strategy and audience engagement workshops with some of our clients and facilitating codesign workshops with a Resource Group (often the target audience, or those with lived experience) to develop tailored creative campaigns. It’s really great to be doing in-person sessions like this again, and you can just feel the energy and passion in the room - it’s really collaborative.

We work across a variety of clients at Think HQ, so at any one point I may be managing up to 20 different campaigns or projects. It’s safe to say there is no “typical day” - and I love that.

What attracted you to Think HQ?

I joined Think HQ on a contract role during the height of the Covid-19 crisis. We were in the middle of lockdowns, and Jen Sharpe (Founder & Managing Director) reached out to me on LinkedIn and mentioned the role that was available at the time. The role was to join the Client Service team during an incredibly busy period working on the Victorian Government Covid-19 communications for multicultural communities. To manage my expectations Jen emphasised it was a tough gig, but incredibly important work.  3.5 years later - I haven’t looked back. 

Think HQ is a social impact and purpose driven agency that champions inclusive and diverse communications. Having worked in more traditional advertising agencies over the years, the values-aligned nature of Think HQ and the opportunity to work across a variety of clients, and with a team of people who want to create good work, with purpose - was something I’d always been searching for.

What are you focused on for 2023?

With 2023 scarily close to wrapping up, I’m feeling energised and excited for what 2024 has in store. A big focus of mine is building up my team and their professional development and upskilling.  I want them to enjoy coming to work and feel a sense of satisfaction as they log off for the day.

We have to dust off the cobwebs of Covid-19, lockdowns, zoom meetings and WFH and get back to face-to-face interactions and meetings with clients being the norm, not the exception.

In 2024, I’d love for my Client Service team to each find a project or client partners that we individually feel passionate about and invested in - something that’s particularly aligned with our own personal values. This may be regarding homelessness, mental health, animal welfare or climate action.

What do you love most about your role?

I love the dynamism of my role and the feeling that no two days are the same. We work with so many fantastic client partners, who are working on such interesting, meaningful and important campaigns - so we’re all continually learning and problem-solving.

I am constantly in awe of the brilliant people around me at Think HQ. Everyone comes from such diverse backgrounds - not just culturally (we speak 21 languages at Think HQ), but professionally too. We have team members that have come from more traditional advertising and communication agencies (like myself),  as well as ex-journalists, people from media and publishing, a spoken word artist, those who have worked in corporate public relations and risk management, entrepreneurs and startup founders. Everyone at Think HQ is deeply curious, empathetic, intelligent and passionate.

As the Group Account Director of the Client Service team, I really love watching my team learn, develop and grow. We’re a tight-knit team and we really look out for each other and want each other to succeed. We also love hearing about each other’s lives outside of work and are invested in each other's passions, hobbies, and interests

Working with people you genuinely like, respect and care about definitely makes a difference and is a huge part of why I love my role at Think HQ.



Nicolas Ojeda Amador - Communications and Engagement Specialist, CultureVerse

What’s the biggest challenge in your role?

One of the biggest challenges is making sure all cultures and perspectives are heard and represented.

What does a typical day look like for you?

My day is always different and interesting. I am either connecting with multicultural communities, organisations and community leaders, or creating and co-designing multilingual campaigns for local and federal government. You will often find me at events networking and sharing our work or scouting voice talent for radio, videos and case studies in a diverse range of languages.

What attracted you to Think HQ?

The creativity and multicultural perspective, Think HQ’s staff speak over 21 different languages and dialects, which allows us to solve different briefs from different perspectives?

What are you focused on for 2023?

Apart from continuing to bring more voices and perspectives to our campaigns using the engagement projects, I’m focusing on our presentation at the The 36th National Conference of the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators where we will share our translation method in campaigns like the Voice for NIAA  or the Multicultural Framework review from de Department of Home Affairs

What do you love most about your role?

I love that what we do really impacts and benefits people, places and the planet (Yes, that is also our slogan).



Roberta Ramalho - Senior Motion Designer

What does a typical day look like for you?

My day kicks off with a breakfast alongside my highly energetic 4-year-old son, followed by getting him ready for kindergarten. As an immigrant mother, I don’t have a “village” to help me, so I handle drop-offs and pick-ups all on my own. Thankfully, Think HQ has been incredibly supportive, allowing me to work remotely since my son was born. Once I’m back at home, I settle into my office and chat with my manager to discuss the day’s priorities. This involves reviewing completed tasks, as well as jumping into briefs for projects scheduled throughout the day or week. With this roadmap in mind, I open After Effects and let my creativity flow freely for the rest of the day.

What attracted you THQ?

My journey with THQ began in 2017 when I moved from Brazil and started as a freelancer. I’m proud to say I’ve remained a part of this team because I genuinely believe that my work here is fulfilling. I find purpose in the projects I’m involved in as they positively contribute to different communities in various ways. I’ve always aspired to do more than simply create videos to sell products. My goal was to use my skills to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives, to be part of campaigns that leave a lasting impact. It’s this drive and sense of purpose that have kept me at THQ for six years and counting.

What’s the biggest challenge in your role?

As a motion designer, I must constantly keep up-to-date with all  the latest software, tools, and technologies. This is essential in our ever-evolving field. Also at THQ, we’ve embarked on a mission to ensure the inclusivity of our work, making it accessible to all, making our videos captioned or lip-synced in several languages. There are instances where we are tasked with producing content in up to 75 languages within a really tight window. Managing both time and resources in such situations can be an immense challenge, requiring a huge team effort. In this dynamic industry, the ability to adapt is not just an advantage but a requisite for remaining relevant.

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