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So You Want My Job? Tanya Brookfield on how she became Elvis’s chief exec

Tanya Brookfield, chief exec of Elvis: “I listen. All the time“

Welcome to So You Want My Job? where, each week, we ask the people working in some of the industry’s coolest jobs about how they got where they are. And, along the way, we dig into their philosophies, inspirations, processes and experiences. Hopefully, our interviewees can help inspire you to pursue (or create) a job that’s just as exciting.

This week we speak to Tanya Brookfield, chief executive officer at creative agency Elvis. First though, a quick reminder that you can subscribe to our a bi-monthly newsletter (Working it Out), which maps the trends in the wider jobs market.

So, Tanya, what did you want to be when you growing up?

I wanted to be a fashion designer. Not only was I obsessed with the clothes but also with the prestige and mystery surrounding the great fashion houses and their eccentric creative directors (and I remain so to this day). I loved the mischief and humour of John Paul Gaultier and later the darker innovation of Alexander McQueen. This world was just so aspirational to me; sitting in my PJs on a Saturday morning watching fashion TV, music videos on MTV, hyper-styled 80s films like Working Girl, and inhaling the fashion press.

And does your job now resemble that in any way?

100%. While I’m not a creative, my role is all about style and design and creativity and mischief. But it’s also gloriously entertaining, funny, warm and filled with passion and drive. It’s perfect. We have so many pieces of work that reflect this (the most regular comment I get from industry friends is “the stuff you create always looks like you’re having the best time“, and I couldn’t agree more) but there are two in particular that have resonated with me recently.

First, winning the press category of Purpose Disruptors’ The Great Reset competition with our ’Thanks For Nothing’ ad. We have committed to becoming a B Corp and we believe that businesses have a responsibility to people and planet, not just profit, so this challenge was incredibly important to us.

For us, capturing the attention of the UK’s highest carbon emitters and redirecting their focus to climate demanded an ostensible approach; a conscious departure from the tone and communications typically associated with climate change, so that was our starting point. We also knew we had a unique opportunity to dial up the accidental nature of our climate heroes, a nuance that couldn’t have been embraced at any other time. The creative feels fresh and engaging and we were delighted that the judges thought so too.

Secondly, I also love our Dairylea ’We Dareylea You’ campaign. The brand was in decline so we had to re-establish it as a family favourite. Dareylea saw us dare families to have some silly fun together. The work is just so positive and energetic, and the paper sets we created, along with the casting, the message and the direction all feel so delightfully free and cheeky.

How did you get your job?

I think it was destiny. Hear me out! In my final year at uni, I went to the pub after a terrible interview for Arthur Anderson (both parties realised pretty quickly during the maths test that we were not a good fit). As I walked in, I randomly bumped into an old friend who had just found out he hadn’t got the job as an account exec “working on Kellogg’s and Lego” at a creative agency in Manchester. I bought him a drink to commiserate and after I explained the car crash that was my experience, he told me a little more about the role he had lost out on too. I can’t quite describe the feeling, but I couldn’t believe that the job he described was a real thing! It sounded absolutely glorious. But, most importantly, it sounded like it had to be mine. The morning after I tracked down the job ad and applied immediately. The rest is history.

OK, so what is it you actually do? How do you explain your job to a taxi driver?

I run a business that is responsible for coming up with creative ideas for ads and digital content. We’re paid to create those ideas for some of the world’s most popular food and drinks brands. Most importantly, today we are making more and more content that is kind, inclusive and responsible.

Do your parents understand what it is that you do?

My dad asked me this question last week, so on that basis, I’d have to say not really. What he does know is that I love my job, the agency and (parts of) the industry.

What do you love most about your job?

Literally everything. Everyone I work with – their quirks, passions, jokes, drive, morals. The work. The clients. I even sort of love the process stuff. But if I had to narrow it down, I would say the variety in my role makes it extremely fulfilling. I get bored easily and that’s almost impossible in this job, as every day I meet new people, gain new experiences, create new goals and learn something. It really is incredibly enriching.

How would someone entering the industry go about getting your job now? What would be their route?

It’s so tough, but because of the pace and intensity of the industry, I think you need to firstly absolutely love the creative product and the process, and secondly have the drive and energy to compete. These two things combined are the raw materials. After that, it’s the same as anywhere: talent, confidence, awareness.

What advice would you offer to others entering the advertising industry, especially at this weird time?

I think the whole industry is having to re-evaluate what we stand for and why we’re here at the moment. The excess and the appalling treatment of people is dying out with the old guard and that’s a really good thing. But that’s not enough, so I would say come into the industry with an understanding and respect for the power of the medium and do everything you can to make a positive impact on society and the planet. That’s what the industry needs and those who focus on that will succeed.

What would you say is the trait that best suits you for your role?

I listen. All the time. What is actually being said? What is the objective? Is there a trend? What can I learn? Why is this important? And then I digest and, finally, react in an appropriate way – acknowledge, learn, action, fix, support etc. I have found this invaluable throughout my career, but especially in my role now.

And lastly, who should those who want your job read or listen to?

As above. Listen to everyone. Be curious and open.

Last week, we heard from Night After Night’s chief creative officer Casey McGrath about working with Kings of Leon.

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