Odysseus Arms CEO Libby Brockhoff sheds light on one of her career ‘failures’ at 3% Conference

Photo credit: Bronac McNeill Photography & Film

Re-entering the advertising industry after taking time off to have and raise children is not an easy feat for mothers, who often don’t get the flexible schedules and support they need at agencies upon coming back into the field.

That’s why agencies like Y&R have recently launched programs to help mothers reintegrate themselves into the industry and make it easier for them to balance their careers with family commitments. For example, Y&R’s career reboot program, which the agency announced last month, is a 12-week training program open to both women and men that will provide “hands-on experience, resources and training” to help them reboot their careers.

At the 3% Conference in New York, Odysseus Arms chief executive and co-founder Libby Brockhoff told attendees how she’s helping moms continue their careers in advertising during a panel called ‘My Failure Resume.’ She said her agency, which is based in San Francisco, gives mothers the chance to “work on smaller projects that don’t totally take over their world, and do it when they want to do it” through its ‘Army of Moms’ network.

Given that the topic of the panel was around failure, Brockhoff also shared a personal career “failure” with attendees and discussed what she learned from it.

Brockhoff told the audience that at the age of 27, she was one of the founders of Mother London, which she also happened to name.

“I wanted to call it Mother to really embrace the creative spirit and let creative people do more than make ads,” she said. “I wanted to help them embrace that.”

After “pouring everything” that she had into the agency for four years, Brockhoff said that she woke up one day and realized that she wanted more out of life than a career in advertising.

“After I’d been working there for a while, I woke up one day and had this fear,” she said. “It was a fear of having a screensaver on my phone that would just be a dog. I wanted more than that. I wanted to have a family and have kids and have a husband.”

Instead of consulting other women or her fellow partners at Mother to get advice and figure out a plan of action, Brockhoff said she decided to quit and move back to America. However, playing “Monday morning quarterback,” Brockhoff said she could have spoken to her partners at Mother at the time to figure out a solution that would work for her, like having her open Mother’s New York shop while working remotely a few days a week. But at the time, she said she “didn’t know how to” navigate a situation like that.

After taking off five years from the industry, Brockhoff said she re-entered it “kicking and screaming,” noting that it took “a friend, a support team, and somebody who believed in me to get me back into it.”

“I never saw myself coming back because I had built up this Mother thing as being the only thing that I could ever do,” she said. “There was so much shame that I’d quit and so much embarrassment.”

But since founding Odysseus Arms in 2011 with her partner Franklin Tipton - who also happens to be her husband - she’s experienced much success, working with brands including Facebook, YouTube and Hotel Tonight. She’s also made it a point to help women along the way via things like the agency’s ‘Army of Moms’ network since her experience leaving Mother made her realize the importance of having a strong support system in place.

“Hopefully that experience gave me the empathy to be able to help women get back into the workforce and learn how to do it,” she said.

Wunderman proudly supports The Drum’s 3% Conference coverage. We believe true diversity does not check boxes, it checks itself. http://wunderman.com/

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Minda Smiley

Minda Smiley is a reporter at The Drum covering creativity and advertising. Based in Philadelphia, she primarily covers independent agencies and B2B marketing. She also oversees The Drum’s “Independent Influence,” a weekly series that spotlights the work, perspectives and inspirations behind independent agencies. During her time at The Drum, she has covered industry events including SXSW, ANA Masters of Marketing, 4A’s Transformation and C2 Montréal. She is a graduate of the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism.

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