Havas London's Vicki Maguire on staying creative and abandoning underwired bras

As part of Campaign's 'Leadership in lockdown' series, Havas London's creative chief talks about how she is managing her team and finding inspiration in unprecedented times.

Maguire: feeling knackered after she completed the viral 5K challenge to raise funds for the NHS
Maguire: feeling knackered after she completed the viral 5K challenge to raise funds for the NHS

The lockdown is a challenge for everyone. Agencies have had to change the way they work, be it developing creative work, pitching for new business or just catching up with the team. There's no rulebook and it can be even more disconcerting if you're new to a leadership role. So how are some of adland's leaders coping in the lockdown?

Next up is Vicki Maguire, chief creative officer at Havas London, who was only a few months into her new job when quarantine began. 

Where are you spending quarantine and how do you run your day? 

My partner McCaulay had a transplant a couple of years ago; consequently, he is on immunosuppressants and therefore the "shielded list". That means we are not just self-isolating from the world, but from each other. We live in a garden-less flat in east London and it’s fair to say we are getting on each other’s tits.

What were the biggest adjustments that you had to make in the first few weeks in terms of your work, your team and your clients/external partners?

I was eight weeks into my next dream job when lockdown happened. Luckily, my 100-day plan was to hit the ground running, and I’d already made some good friends in the department and had some great chats with clients.  

There’s no rulebook for what we’re living through right now, so we make our own. Family matters. Be kind, be present. Be generous. Check in, keep talking, look out for each other. Don’t be a dick. I’ve always believed the best way to get great work out of someone is to let them work the way they work best. If you’re an introvert, I’ll find you a corner; if you’re an extrovert, I’ll give you a stage. If you work early in the morning because the kids are asleep, fine. If you work late because you’ve been home schooling, also fine. We make it work, whatever it is.   

How has your business made savings and why have you chosen certain routes – eg pay cuts versus furloughing versus redundancies? 

As a network (both in the UK and globally), we believe that our most important asset is our people – so we’re doing everything we can to protect them, avoiding any redundancies during the period of lockdown. 

What has been the hardest part and what has been the most uplifting part of lockdown? 

I don’t work from home. I don’t have an office or even a proper space to work. I go to cafés and sit at the back. I need noise, chaos. Anything but the same four walls. So the first days were HARD. But now? I’m sitting at my ironing board table in my PJ bottoms, Microsoft Teaming it like a fucking BOSS.

What are you working on?

I’m still kind of a newbie, so I’m working to get across our clients’ businesses, my department and the agency in general. We’re pitching and bedding in new-business wins, but this is first and foremost a people industry – so I’m making sure our people, both colleagues and clients, are thriving.

How do you find inspiration?  

I’ve got to say I find the energy around uncertainty a real kick.

Has the experience taught you something that you’ll change when you get back to working from an office? 

Yep – I’m never going back to underwired bras again.

What change do you expect to see in the industry?

I hope to see SEISMIC changes in the number of women/mothers/parents/carers coming back into advertising, with the knowledge that the industry will back their lifestyle or parenting choices. And we have no excuse – we’re seeing first hand that creativity and productivity don’t suffer because you’re not at your allotted desk at 9am sharp. But as any woman/parent/carer/BAME or LGBT+ person knows, this industry doesn’t like too much change – so we will see.

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