Amy Kean, head of futures, Havas Media

Amy Kean is at the top of her game. As head of futures at Havas Media, she steers the leadership and innovation hub of the media group in the UK.

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We see it so much with women having imposter syndrome, or speaking too quickly during a meeting because they are so used to being interrupted

In the vanguard of a new breed of innovators, she is as ambitious as she is generous, working with organisations including Bournemouth University, the London College of Contemporary Music and the London School of Economics to mentor and inspire the next wave of digital talent.

"I learn much more from students than I ever expected," she says. "From discussing the moral implications of driverless cars to the new wave of entrepreneurialism, it is easy to forget the passion students have, and that is so important to remember."

Having been at the forefront of the digital advertising revolution running PR at the IAB, in the days when internet advertising was traditional media’s poor relation, Kean is a passionate and long-standing advocate for the industry.

"When I started at the IAB we measured the size of pop-up ads," she recalls. "We were five people in a loft and it was all seen as a bit dirty. It was a hard slog, but I loved being the feisty underdog."

Even then Kean punched above her weight when it came to challenging assumptions and changing minds about the power of digital media. "When digital adspend overtook TV it was a huge moment," she says.

"I realised that I didn’t want to just talk about advertising any more – I wanted to make it."While a wealth of women occupy the very top posts in the media-agency landscape, seeking out role models at the all-important mid-point of their career remains challenging.

You have to have a thick skin, and traditionally male characteristics are highly valued

The long-hours culture, combined with persistent tales of outright sexism in the industry, can make it a challenging environment.

Kean is taking steps to tackle these challenges. "There are companies just paying lip-service [to the need to attract and retain a more diverse talent pool]; it’s so frustrating."

At Havas, an organisation Kean credits with being "incredibly progres­sive", she has helped set up a dedicated group to empower women – HER, which stands for Havas = Equality and Respect.

"The reason it is so important is confidence," she contends. "We see it so much with women having imposter syndrome, or speaking too quickly during a meeting because they are so used to being interrupted."

Kean wants to address this issue. "Millennials, whether men or women, often have a sense of entitlement. For any woman who hasn’t experienced sexism – and some haven’t – it is easy to say we don’t need support, but it’s crucial," she says.

A cultural shift

She can also take credit for helping to foster that ever-elusive "culture of innovation" at Havas Media. "When we launched Havas Media Labs, we were keen for it not be stuck in the corner of the office with a 3D printer," she explains.

Instead, Kean has worked tirelessly to embed the culture of innovation. This included the introduction of "fuck-up cards" designed to encourage planners to take risks and to push both themselves and their clients to invest in innovation without fear of failure.­­

Neither does that fear afflict Kean. "You have to have a thick skin, and traditionally male characteristics are highly valued. But this can be a good thing: it’s made me more business-like," she says. Despite her professional outlook, Kean still speaks her mind; a Digital Maverick in the truest sense of the word.


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Job description: Digital marketing executive

1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).

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