Q&A with McCann London's new CEO

Sheryl Marjoram shares her thoughts on life, advertising and the appropriate time of day to wear sequins.

Marjoram: joined McCann in 2017 from Saatchi & Saatchi
Marjoram: joined McCann in 2017 from Saatchi & Saatchi

In May, McCann London's managing director Sheryl Majoram was promoted to succeed Alex Lubar as chief executive, becoming the first woman to lead the UK's second-biggest agency by billings.

Marjoram rejoined McCann in 2017, 14 years after an initial three-year stint with the Interpublic network, during which she relocated from Australia to the UK. In the intervening years, she worked at Euro RSCG, Ogilvy & Mather, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Mother and Saatchi & Saatchi.

Campaign caught up with her to find out what makes her tick.

Why did you get into advertising?

My dad was the CEO of some super-cool and iconic Australian businesses: Coles Myer and David Jones, to name two. He was ahead of his time when it came to the use of brand and customer experience to create disproportionate growth and innovation. I would hang off his every word when he talked shop. Mum less so; I think she wished we’d talk about something else every now and then, but I was sold. 

What have you done to get ready for your new job?

Established a personal board and listened – really listened – to critical feedback and advice from a range of stakeholders, checked that my personal habits match the new expectations on my time and mind, and agreed a plan with my team that we will implement with no apology.

How do you think you differ from Alex Lubar and what changes will people see in your management style?

We differ mostly in that I will happily wear white after Labour Day and sequins before lunch, where he never would. That might make us look very different, but the reality is we share the exact same value structure and understanding of what it takes to run a successful creative company.

You've worked at several agencies in London. What is McCann's secret weapon?

It’ll only be a secret to those who’ve been living under a rock; we help brands play a meaningful role in people’s lives and, with that, we can deliver the trifecta of brand, business and cultural impact for our clients. Our work is as hardworking as it is engaging and that’s why we hold the twin title of Effies and Cannes Network of the Year 2019.

You started your career in your native Australia – what do you think UK agencies could learn from the creative culture down under?

I’ve not worked in Australia for over 18 years, so I imagine a whole heap has changed. 

When I first arrived, it was true that there was less privilege and entitlement within the Australian culture, given we didn’t get a free seat at "the table"; we still had to work for it. The world has changed a lot since then and the UK has to work just as hard as any country to stay at the top.

What's your proudest professional achievement?

Finding a rewarding and sustainable way to be obsessive about both my family and my job.

What's your proudest personal achievement?

The sense of family and connection that Yvie [her 10-year-old daughter], Gary [her husband, an art director at MullenLowe] and I share. We live big and fast and loud, and I just love that we’ve found a way to do that, not just as a group but individually too. It’s special. We work at it and we don’t take it for granted. It’s a real achievement for all of us.

What would you be doing if you weren't in advertising?

Interior design. 

For reasons unknown, all your work is done and you can take an unexpected day off. What do you do?

Gary, Yvie and me, all wake up late. Perfectly boiled eggs and buttery hot soldiers. I finish theirs too. Salty, wavy, big open water. Toes in. Face in. Swim out to the back waves and let the sea lift and drop me. Epic BBQ shellfish lunch in the shade. Wild bird noises. Massive, eye-watering, hide-one-bag-in-the-other-and-still-have to-leave-two-in-the-car shopping spree. Gary, Yvie and me on a sofa watching The Great British Bake Off. In bed by 10 with a cup of tea and an episode of Succession. Get in.

What are you reading?

The first three lines of literally everything.

Tell us your best joke.

My gags are all visual.

What's going to save advertising?

Crazy, curious, generous and fearless humans in pursuit of clear, powerful strategy and exquisite, well-branded storytelling with deep meaning that works at scale. Come see us if you want some.