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3 actionable insights with… Joan CEO Lisa Clunie

Joen CEO Lisa Clunie says, commit to the bit. No matter what.

The Drum’s 3 Actionable Insights series asks top industry leaders to share their thoughts about the actions our readers should take immediately. Lisa Clunie, chief executive of top independent agency Joan, explains why you should fight to stay focused, really commit to your ideas and why the ad industry ‘shouldn’t get drunk on itself.’

1. Do fewer things, really well. You need to simplify and make choices which is really one of the hardest things to do. It's the thing most clients struggle with. There's a benefit to being an agency because you can see a client's problem when you're not embroiled in it. Having that bird's eye view is very valuable. Then it’s about getting people rallied around simplifying, shortening the list of solutions, and then making sure that each aspect is really well taken care of. You don’t need to fill every hole or every bucket. No one should be saying ‘wait, we need to be on Discord.’ And, ‘wait, there’s this collaboration with Fortnite.’ It’s too much if you’re just spraying everywhere and spreading yourself too thin. You need to really focus your strategy otherwise you won’t be making enough of a difference on any one platform.

2. When you commit, truly commit. I learned this from my partner who always says, ‘commit to the bit like in comedy.’ If you're going to make a joke, you have to go all in and hammer that joke nine ways ‘til Sunday. The more you go at it, the funnier it gets. That same attitude needs to be brought to the agency. Pulling back at the last minute is a problem in our industry. It really hurts the end product, whether it be a strategic thought, a creative thought or an ambitious plan that you’re trying to build. You need to go for it because pulling back shakes client confidence. It distracts from the momentum that you've gained and you actually have to kind of restart the engine. When that happens, you never get the potency that you had in the first go. This compliments doing the idea of doing fewer things. You’ve got to make your choice and really go at it all the way.

3. Keep your mind in the culture, not in the boardroom. I care a lot about word choice. I hate corporate buzzwords. For example, I hate the word ‘consumers’ and other words that dehumanize us and make us all robots. The world sort of weirdly changes within the four walls of the boardroom. Everyone starts thinking like audiences are TV watchers from the nineties. It's extremely important to really live your life. Love your relationships. Get out there, do things and think about your work as part of culture. You have to be citizens of the world, understand the world itself and then bring that back to the business… The ad industry has a tendency to get drunk on itself. It’s a closed loop where you read what everyone else is doing. You study the work. Then you try to compete with that and win award shows. It just ends up being us talking to ourselves and putting the same kind of work out there over and over again. It can be a very insular industry. To me it's a very important thing to keep your non-advertising related friend group. Entertain yourself with things outside of this industry and make sure you're checking yourself and ask ‘do I like this or am I trying to please the industry?’ The next question is: ‘will audiences love it?’ Make sure to keep your perspective versus drinking the Kool Aid.

You can check out more of our 3 Actionable Insights series here, and don’t forget to sign up for The Drum’s daily US email here.