‘Time to disrupt my status quo’: Top DDB ad strategist starting her own business

One of New Zealand’s top advertising strategists has left ad agency DDB Aotearoa to start her own strategic consultancy.

“It’s my time to disrupt my status quo,” Lucinda Sherborne told the Herald in confirming her departure from the advertising giant after 15 years.

“With 15 years coming up, it’s a nice, big round number and line in the sand for change and thinking about my next 15 years.

“You have to have the courage to embrace the uncomfortable if you want to unlock powerful ideas.”

A well-travelled strategist with more than three decades’ industry experience, Sherborne most recently worked as the head of planning at DDB Aotearoa. Before that, she worked at Saatchi & Saatchi, Colenso BBDO and Y&R New Zealand. While in the UK, she worked at the Leith Agency in Scotland and BBH in London.

Sherborne said the decision wasn’t caused by Covid, but the circumstances of the pandemic did speed up her decision to make a change.

“There’s an absolute revolution in the way we work, in terms of freedom and flexibility, and I realised that if I’m going to make a change, I should do it while there’s this momentum in the workplace.”

Sherborne said she would always see DDB as her spiritual home, but she was hungry for new challenges in the industry.

In starting her own business, Sherborne will offer consulting and independent planning services to businesses. This could involve strategic marketing planning, but she also sees potential for these skills to be applied across innovation departments, cultural change within a business and training services.

“Everything’s mixed up and being reinvented in the business, marketing and communications world. Nothing’s binary. This is the chance to flex my strategy muscles in new areas and redirect my thinking and problem solving upstream, beyond just advertising.”

Rather than having brand thinking tagged on at the end during the marketing phase, Sherborne says she’s often seen the difference it can make to introduce strategic branding and marketing thinking far earlier in the commercial process.

“If there’s one thing that my experience and perspective has taught me over the
last few years, it is the brands that truly wish to effect change must be obsessed with solving human problems, real customer needs and striking at the heart of people’s lives, tensions, truths and desires,” she says.

“This is what excites me. I want to help inspire thinking and ideas that get beneath the skin. Because without that you won’t be let into people’s lives.”

Sherborne’s move from DDB is the latest in a string of changes across the advertising landscape, including the departure this year of former DDB chief executive Justin Mowday and chief creative officer Damon Stapleton.

It also comes amid a period of record low unemployment in New Zealand (3.4 per cent) and a growing desire among workers to have greater control of how and when they work.

Sherborne is only a week and a half into her entrepreneurial journey, but she already welcomes the idea of being able to choose when and how she works, as well as what projects she gets involved with.

“The sense of flexibility and remoteness has normalised the sense of working independently and freedom to take on bite-sized chunks of work here, there and from everywhere.”

Nomadic times

The rapid progress of flexible working arrangements over the past two years is starting to be reflected in the language used in contracts and HR structures within businesses.

This week Publicis Groupe, the holding company of Saatchi & Saatchi NZ, announced a raft of new paid entitlements and remote working options.

The new entitlements include gender affirmation leave (10 days), domestic and family violence leave (10 days), fertility treatment leave (10 days), miscarriage leave (5 days) and an increase in compassionate leave (5 days). The company also recently announced the change from personal leave to wellbeing leave, to account for the fact that mental unwellness can also make it difficult to work.

In addition to all this, the business has also confirmed a new programme that will enable employees to temporarily work remotely overseas or in a different region to spend time with immediate family members.

This policy will be particularly appealing to immigrants and other workers who have been separated from their families over the past two years.

This policy, dubbed Publicis Re’Union, will be available to staff in New Zealand and Australia until the end of 2022.

“After a challenging stretch of lockdowns in Australia and New Zealand, we wanted to give staff the opportunity to reunite with their loved ones for a period of time, while also providing them with the option to continue working or take extended leave,” said Publicis Groupe ANZ chief executive Michael Rebelo.

The liberalisation of employment arrangements is also having an impact on immigration rules in certain countries, with many launching so-called “digital nomad visas” that allow remote workers to stay in a country for an extended period of time.

The Bahamas, Croatia, Czech Republic, Mauritius, Mexico, Portugal and Taiwan are just some of 24 countries that today offer these nomad visas to workers who can prove they have a stable source of income through remote work.

Given that so much work is done online these days and demand for flexibility will only increase, it’s safe to assume that more nations will be added to that list in the coming years.

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