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‘I wanted to be somewhere shaping the future’: why Jo Wallace moved to Media.Monks


By Sam Bradley | Senior Reporter

August 23, 2022 | 8 min read

After making a surprise move from Wunderman Thompson to Media.Monks and winning a legal battle with the Daily Mail, star creative director Jo Wallace tells us what we can expect to see from her next.

Jo Wallace

Jo Wallace recently took up a new position at Media.Monks / Media.Monks

Jo Wallace has a knack for surprising. Over the years she has employed that skill to build a brand out of nowhere for accounting software Sage, for example, and put it to good use in headline-grabbing campaigns that highlighted the grim link between football and domestic violence or helped the National Centre for Domestic Violence and Women’s Aid break through to the wider public.

This summer, she provided a new surprise by moving from prestigious Wunderman Thompson to challenger network Media.Monks. As global creative director, she was one of Wunderman Thompson’s figureheads. Now, having been global executive creative director at Media.Monks since June, she tells The Drum that this is an agency ”shaping the future of the industry”.

Having previously held positions at Quiet Storm and Saatchi & Saatchi, Wallace’s latest move takes her from one of advertising’s imperial institutions to one of its newest and fastest-growing contenders.

”I’d been [at Wunderman Thompson] for some time and achieved a lot,” she tells The Drum. ”We did some great work, but it just felt like a good time to move on. I like to keep evolving.

”The step to Media.Monks is a really good one for me. I wanted my next step to be somewhere that feels like it’s really shaping the future of the industry and kind of allow me to do my very best work.”

That best work, she says, won’t focus on traditional big ideas but instead elevate ”multidisciplinary creative”.

”That’s across ideas but also execution, combining that with digital and strategic knowledge. Together, with my skills plus the skill sets that are already in place, we can create the best work. The possibilities are endless.”

That approach, she says, is enabled by Media.Monks’ internationalist approach to work – quite different to the traditional set-up in place when she joined J Walter Thompson. ”There isn’t a smokescreen where we say ’we do all this’ but actually it’s separate and siloed. This end-to-end offering from data to strategy to creative – it’s a genuine part of the organization you can tap into.”

Wallace says the hiring freeze currently in place at Media.Monks won’t limit her ability to help steer the business – if anything, she suggests, it could provide an opportunity for those already in situ to prove themselves able to grow the business.

”I’m really excited by the drive to grow the business – not only existing business but going out there and helping to win new clients and push forward as much as possible.

”There’s so much talent already in place that I think it’s a great opportunity to understand what everyone is offering, to make sure everyone’s performing and excelling to their best and support them in doing that. And at some point, [the hiring freeze] will change.”

Diverse approach

At Wunderman Thompson, Wallace was one of the highest-profile figures calling for more diversity and equality within the advertising industry. That cause is ”baked in” to her approach, she says.

But Wallace has plenty of experience dealing with the forces arrayed against that mission, too. This March, she settled a defamation case against the Daily Mail after it falsely alleged that she had been involved in the dismissal of two straight white men at JWT. The paper also published personal photographs taken without permission from Wallace’s private Instagram; the coverage led to a wave of online abuse directed at her, which she had to report to the police. The months-long case, she says, ”was a really difficult time”.

”It is very hard to be accused of something by a international newspaper that’s completely untrue. And I was really pleased with the support that I received from the industry as a whole.”

Now, though, she says she is looking forwards to what she can achieve in the future. ”It’s not my job to kind of... bring diversity. I know that there was a lot of misinformation in the papers about me being hired to raise a diversity agenda, which is nonsense. That is not what I was hired to do. I was hired to be a creative director because that’s what I do.

”It just so happens that I feel passionately – as so many people in this industry do – that we could very much use more diversity. I’m fortunate enough that I have a bit of a voice and that I like to advocate for that along with many others.”

Her approach will be welcomed at Media.Monks, at least. The agency is host to ”so many different backgrounds, talents, ethnicities, genders,” she says. ”It seems like an incredibly forward-facing agency and organization in that sense.

”I didn’t join thinking I was going to up the ante on diversity, but I know for a fact that the founders and the people leading want to increase diversity across the board, because we all know that it makes an impact in so many ways.”

Dinner speakers

Away from the office, Wallace’s series of dinner party events, Good Girls Eat Dinner, has kept going through the pandemic. The non-profit series has gone from an exclusive soiree in a tucked-away members’ club to a 200-guest strong evening do at the summit of the Gherkin. After a hiatus during Covid, Wallace staged a comeback in April. ”It’s all about getting incredible female role models in front of people,” she says.

After an event marking its seventh anniversary had to be canceled, she’s working on creating a Good Girls podcast. ”Hopefully it can bridge the gap. I’ve got all my equipment, I’m working on it in my spare time.”

A fan of the Diary of a CEO and Guilty Feminist series, Wallace says of podcasts: ”I love them as a way to get information and learn something and hear voices that you may not have heard from before. Selfishly, one of the things I love about Good Girls Eat Dinner is that I get to approach and hear from people who I find incredibly interesting, so it’s an excuse to reach out and get to know these people.”

Initially it’ll feature the four speakers originally due to speak at the anniversary dinner, while future episodes will be focused on ”bringing really amazing female voices through... to bring what’s so powerful about Good Girls Eat Dinner in the physical form to a podcast”.

Agency Business Agency Culture Media.monks

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