Young Gun does New York: JWT account manager Ellie Sutton

11 April 2019

In an effort to incite leadership development and keep their young guns interested and motivated, agencies need to find new and exciting ways to build loyalty with adland’s leaders of the future.

Creative agency J. Walter Thompson’s In Your Shoes (IYS) exchange program aims to provide emerging leaders with an "intense development opportunity", allowing them to gain valuable international business experience, share best practice and knowledge, gain new insights plus exponentially build their profile as a future leader within JWT’s global network.

By being part of the IYS program, JWT Sydney’s Ellie Sutton discovered a whole new world of creative effectiveness. She swapped jobs, homes and lifestyle and fell headlong into a three month stint in NYC, becoming addicted to hot apple cider and bagels along the way.

Here’s what Sutton thought of her American job swap experience.

How long have you been in the industry?
Two years, eight months. But my head has been in it for life.

What made you apply for JWT’s IYS program?
We have an impressive global network at our fingertips and the program presented a truly unique opportunity to explore a new working and living culture. It was the answer to my inherent desire to explore, absorb and grow, both personally and professionally.

How long were you in NYC and when did you arrive home?
Two months. I arrived home on Christmas Eve – experiencing the best of a white Holiday Season and a balmy Aussie Christmas.

What were you doing before this job and how did you get this gig?
Studying my bachelor’s degree of business at The Queensland University of Technology. I always had my eye on JWT and fortunately had a mutual connection with John Gutteridge (then JWT’s Australia and New Zealand CEO) so bit the bullet and sent my resume straight to him. Fortunately, Gutteridge's down to earth nature meant that my email didn’t end up in the trash and I was put in touch with HR. The rest is history.

Describe your job in one word:

Major difference between the US industry and Australian industry?
The sheer scale across budgets, departments, in-house capabilities and number of final deliverables in comparison to Australia totally blew me away.

What were your real and cliché expectations of working in NYC?
REAL: The office will be ginormous, the budgets will be big, the opportunities will be one-of-a-kind – couldn’t have been more accurate. 
CLICHÉ: New Yorkers aren’t friendly, the office will be strictly hierarchical in its nature, you will work ungodly hours – couldn’t have been more inaccurate!

How does the reality match up to what you expected working at the other side of the world?
The New York office welcomed me with open arms and I felt like a part of the family from day one. I was pleasantly surprised by the approachability of even the most senior staff and, contrary to popular belief, the promotion of a healthy work-life balance.

How did your two-month stint in NYC help you when you arrived home?
Spending two months working in the New York office has really helped broaden my perspective on both JWT and the industry. I was exposed to entire departments which currently don’t exist in the Australian market, state of the art in-house production capabilities, as well as new ways of working which I’ve already shared with the team.

Best thing about working in NYC:
Working out of our headquarter agency, I had access to some of the best talent in JWT’s global network who provided constant inspiration.

This drove me to cease every opportunity that came my way which led to a few “pinch me” moments. Coincidently, through my work on the I Touch Myself Breast Cancer Awareness campaign featuring Serena Williams, which was led out of our Sydney office, I was invited to an incredible event that was being hosted during the time I happened to be in NYC. ‘The People V Cancer’ was held at The Plaza Hotel. There, I listened to talks by the world’s top oncologists on cancer research and panels discussing the role of popular culture and advertising in cancer research today.

Oh, did I mention the Monday morning bagels?

Any major hard learnings from your time overseas?
JWT NYC has a strong focus on promoting diversity in the advertising industry. This is a widely talked about topic, yet my understanding is that real action is lagging. I witnessed first-hand how powerful talent initiatives such as Multicultural Advertising Intern Program (MAIP) and Young Commodores, JWT NYC’s program which gives multicultural high school and college students the opportunity to work a real-life non-profit client that deals with issues that affect their demographic, are in instigating and creating immediate focus on change in generating a buzzing diverse workforce. It would be wonderful to see the Australian market approach this topic with the same rigor, starting by using more diverse hiring strategies and widening the net. Do we really still need a degree to join the creative industry?

What's exciting you about the industry right now?
The convergence of creativity and technology.

What concerns you about the industry and its future?
Looking around agencies there seems to be a very young workforce in high rotation, which makes me question the possibility of a long-term future in the industry. The revolving door can either be hypnotic or unsettling amongst my peers. At times, the call of a nine to five is loud but I quickly remember how much I love the crazy agency life. I do wonder when the tipping point will come that sees young talent build a progressive career with the one agency… if ever.

Who's your right-hand person/who guides you day to day?
My partner, Luke.

And your almighty mentor that you hope to dethrone?
No one specifically however, I have serious admiration for the seniors that I’m fortunate enough to work with at JWT Sydney. Ana Lynch, client service director, for her passion and impressive creative solutions that solve our client’s business problems. Sinead Roartry, creative director, for her dedication to the work and unwavering pursuit of creative excellence. Angela Morris, chief strategic officer, whose extraordinary talent of simplifying even the most complex strategic challenges has me constantly inspired.

Career-wise, where do you see yourself in five years?
It’s tough to say. My 10-year goal is to be at the helm of an innovative, creative company. 

Companies are shifting so rapidly that I can’t say exactly what industry it might be or what path I’m going to take to get there but, there is a Richard Branson quote that resonates: “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.”

What is the elephant in the room?
The traditional advertising model lacks the agility to pivot at the same speed as industries are evolving.

In your opinion is that elephant the same as it is in Sydney and NYC?

Favourite advert is:
Dove, Evolution – The first of the Dove “Real Beauty” campaigns which went viral before viral was a thing.

I think this tells a wonderful message to women everywhere that what the beauty industry portrays is not real-life and we shouldn’t hold ourselves to these completely unrealistic standards. Thirteen years on, the message is still relevant as ever.

What’s your personal motto?
Don’t fight what you can’t change. Adapt and overcome.

I got into advertising because:
I’m thrilled by the ideal of using creativity to impact change.

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

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