AdNews x Forgetting to come back from London

The lure of London, and its massive lake of talent, roles and opportunity, is hard to resist for those in advertising.

Many leave for a working holiday, only to wake up years later and wonder what happened.

Dani Bassil went to London and forgot to come back. Twenty years later she is in Sydney as CEO of Clemenger BBDO Australia.

“I got to age 27 and at that time you had to apply for the working visa by 28,” she says. “I’d always wanted to do it but things got in the way as they do with life.

“A few friends were over there, so I told Mum and Dad I’d be back in two years.

“I went as a baby in advertising and came back as a CEO. So, I guess that is probably a definition of being good for the career.

“I think all of the different experiences I had at different agencies have served me well, to get me where I am. And I wouldn’t change any of those things.

“The scale of the market there is so big compared to here. There’s enough work for everyone.

“My advice is just get over there, meet a couple of good recruiters, do a bit of freelancing, see what you like.

“That’s how I did it and that served me very well, because it gave me an idea of what flavour of agency that I wanted.

“This led me to working at Wieden + Kennedy and Mother and places that were very highly creative, because I knew that’s the direction I wanted to go.

“I would say, test the waters and see where you get to.”

Sheryl Marjoram, CEO DDB Sydney, left for London from The Campaign Palace where her clients happened to be sponsors (in various guises) of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.

“The Palace was in so many ways before its time,” she says.

“In this instance it was because (CEO) Reg Bryson insisted that the fullest experience of the brand needed to match up to the promise of the 120 second ads that would ultimately play in 60 Minutes and during the Games coverage.

“So work started from the minute the sponsorship was announced; years before the Games would start; and we worked from the inside out using a galvanising idea for the whole brand. One that was capable of shaping products, experiences, services and culture first, not just the ads.

“The Westpac Olympic comms package was incredibly popular and hardworking not to mention super fun to make but to know that it was only one component of the work delivered was really motivating to me.”

After the games were over, she read headlines such as “GBP 50 million to launch new Magnum Ice Cream”.

“I knew I just had to go to London,” she says. “I felt like the sheer scale of what you had to play with over there would mean I’d be able to stay in rooms like the Olympic Sponsorships let me into. Rooms where people were making massive decisions and using creativity and brands in pervasive ways.

“I arrived as the bubble burst and London was flooded with American talent. I stood out because of the holistic brand views The Campaign Palace had instilled in me. My Australian experience was of huge value and without it, I would’ve just been another dude wanting a job.

“So that’s why I went to London and how it was that I was able to get a job there.”

She didn’t mean to stay so long

“I was doing really well I guess. I was working at some of the best agencies in the world, tackling massive issues on the world’s best brands,” she says.

“I was at eye level with some of the world’s best talent and I was finding a way of being successful within this world. It was intoxicating and affirming and all the good stuff.

“Lots of Aussies go for two years and stay for longer just like I did. Because a lot of Aussies are successful there. I think Aussies are both pragmatic and progressive in equal measure and that brings a capacity for humility and curiosity and those are two of the most vital fuel sources in our business generally and incredibly appreciated in the UK ad scene..

“Maybe I stayed so long because I was invited to and I was invited to because I’m an Aussie. Dunno. But I loved every single actual second and it certainly didn’t feel like 21+ years.”

First published via AdNews