Young Guns: The Works planner Steven Sullivan

By AdNews | 20 July 2018
Steven Sullivan

Our Young Guns profile takes a weekly look at some of the young talent across the advertising, ad tech, marketing and media sector in Australia. It aims to shed light on the varying roles, people and companies across the buzzing industry.

Today we speak to The Works planner Steven Sullivan.

Duration in current role/time at the company:

Two years.

How long have you been in the industry?

Two years.

How did you get here? Was this always the plan?

I started via an internship, at the time strategy sounded kind of dry compared to what I thought were trendy creative or glamorous account manager roles. It was just a foot in the door, but once I got to experience and understand the nature of strategic thinking – I’ve never looked back.

Who's your right-hand person/who guides you day to day?

It’s quite surreal I’m literally surrounded by a mountain of knowledge; I sit next to Adam Donnelley, our chief strategy officer and the president of the international advertising association (also a notoriously messy neighbour). Directly across from me is Mitesh Solanki, a CX and strategy gun and Cate Mathers, an amazing brand guru. I’m incredibly fortunate to be nurtured by such an experienced and adept group.

What’s best thing about the industry you work in?

Without a doubt, it’s the value placed on constantly learning, an atmosphere and collective energy that strives to never stop moving forward. Whether it’s new methodologies, philosophies, technology, consumers or culture. It’s invigorating to be in an environment of inspired and curious individuals, I think that’s pretty special.

And the biggest challenge?

The inherent nature of marketing as a social science, at the very least it’s certainly the most persistent. We work in an environment where there’s often little definitive empirical evidence, even when applying core principles. The complexity of human nature, society and time constraints presents a constant challenge to achieve effectiveness and understand genuine causation as opposed to correlation.

Whose job have you set your sights on in the future?

I don’t have a job I’m after as I love what I currently do, it’s the skillset of those around me that I aspire to. Having completed an IDEO course last year and working on a number of CX projects, I’m particularly focused on learning more around design thinking and behavioural economics.

Where do you turn for inspiration?

Beyond the usual places, one of my best friends works in a Martech start up, he also reads a lot so speaking with him about his experience, views on culture and what he’s reading is always thought provoking.

My favourite advert is and why? 

I don’t have an all-time favourite but this came to mind purely for the solid strategy off the back of a beautiful insight. A deep human truth that’s motivating and equally relevant to their product, we’re flawed and that’s what makes us unique. They’ve flipped the negative into something positive, it’s a rich creative platform that’s universally relevant to all humans – it’s good thinking.

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

I spend my weekends DJing and running my own dance parties, I’ve also just launched my own record label which I’m really excited about. I run this with a friend in Melbourne, we’re both big collectors of records so it’s exciting to release our own record.

In five years' time I'll be:

Sadly, bald. The hair is getting pretty thin and my dad went around then too. Each hair cut these days feels like a dance with destiny.

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