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Work & Wellbeing Business Leadership The Judges’ Club

The Judges’ Club: meet L’Oréal’s chief marketing and digital officer Lex Bradshaw-Zanger

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By Ellen Ormesher, Senior Reporter

April 25, 2022 | 9 min read

Continuing our new interview series where we get to know the judges of The Drum Awards a little better, we sit down with Lex Bradshaw-Zanger, chief marketing and digital officer at L’Oréal and 2022 chair of The Drum Awards for Marketing judging panel, to find out more about his journey to the top.

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The Drum speaks to L’oréal's marketing chief Lex Bradshaw-Zanger

How did you get your start in the industry?

If I’m honest, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I studied business and French at university in London and Marseille and then ended up in the USA to start my career.

I was very attracted to the balance of art and science in the ad world, where creativity meets business strategy, and this has always been a key driver for me. Even with more and more data-driven marketing, there is still a deep art to crafting human experiences.

I was given an opportunity through some connections to join the largest independent ad agency in the US, The Richards Group, in a role that straddled brand strategy and consulting. This was an amazing and formative experience as part of a small team where I learned about both how consumers engage and think about brands and also how companies execute to deliver on the brand promise. This was a really defining moment of my career as it constantly reminds me that everything we do has to resonate both rationally and emotionally with our customers... who are real people too!

How did you end up in your current role?

I’ve had a very squiggly career – in function and geography – and have been lucky both in the opportunities that have come my way and to be at the forefront of digital and marketing transformation for almost two decades.

I think there have been two phases to my career, with a pivot in the middle. From 2001 to 2012 I was in the agency world, working with everyone from The Richards Group to WPP to Leo Burnett. I then moved to Paris to work with Facebook (now Meta) in client-side digital and marketing roles before ending up at McDonald’s and then L’Oréal.

I have been extremely lucky – not only because of the opportunities and learning from the colleagues and organizations I have had, but also to have been at the right place at the right time to learn about each of the major evolutions of the past decade-plus in marketing and how they have evolved what marketing is about in the 21st century.

I believe that this breadth of function, geography and clients have had a big impact on my experience. I’m a strong advocate of the book Range by David Epstein and we need to build different skills to tackle the challenges of tomorrow.

What career moment are you most proud of?

I’ve had many proud moments, always in the creation and impact of new ideas with great teams around me.

Pitch wins in the agency world are where you get to do your best work and have the most fun – every agency pitch win is a proud moment where amazing work, delivered through tough grind, gets seen and appreciated.

Covid and the lockdowns that followed pushed every marketer to find their new A- game – the pivots our teams made as a business in shifting the media and channel mix to grow e-commerce while staying tightly knit and collaborative were incredible times. I’m particularly proud of how we maintained team spirit and fun, even through the screen.

More recently, we were one of the first global partners to launch shopping on TikTok, taking live content to the next level with integrated payment and fulfillment – the future of ’retailtainment’ in the UK and a reinvention of the e-commerce experience.

What’s a piece of work you’ve seen recently that really blew your mind?

I’m a geek and love buying tech, so I spend a great deal of time reading content on ‘top 10 gadgets’ or ‘reviews of XYZ’, while professionally speaking I’m also a fan of affiliation, so magazines that are now turning their content into an ad using affiliate links to e-commerce are really quite cool.

I couldn’t answer this question without talking about our own recent campaign for #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt, which brings together true viral products on TikTok with creators curating their own personal beauty boxes and commerce directly integrated to the TikTok app. It is viral, social, entertainment and commerce in a seamless experience!

Best advice you’ve ever received?

A career is like a chess game, so plot each move around a larger strategy. In a world of work that is changing dramatically, your career needs to have a story and vision (it can always change).

Think function over the title, enjoy what you do every day and give it 110%. It is more about what you are doing and who you are doing it with; titles mean many different things in different contexts.

What are your views on the importance of awards?

A lot of great work can go unnoticed in the clutter of communications today and some work we don’t even see if we aren’t in the target group. On top of this, it isn’t always easy to understand the impact or the results that work has driven if you aren’t close to the business or the category.

On top of all this, it’s hard to praise yourself, so awards need to be this window of opportunity – a chance to show off and be recognized for amazing work.

But awards now need to focus on more than just great ideas. They have to show how we can execute these in multiple channels of the modern world and drive both consumer insight and business results.

If you could fix one problem in the marketing industry, what would it be?

Access and representation. We need to change the profile of those working in the industry at every level. We are working on this through our UK and Ireland DE&I strategy, including our paid summer placements, internships and apprenticeships.

On a personal level, I work with The School of Marketing to offer my experience in mentoring students from around the world about the realities of our business and how best to prepare for roles today and in the future.

What about an issue in the cosmetics industry?

There is an opportunity for the cosmetics industry to better serve everyone’s own definition of beauty. At L’Oréal, we believe in universalization. Beauty is very diverse and we believe that there is no single model to which people should try to conform. Our mission is to use our scale and use our wide portfolio of brands to provide products and experiences that serve every individual’s definition of beauty.

Where do you turn for inspiration?

I believe that we can never stop learning or being inspired and that this can come from where we least expect it. I find most inspiration in working with other categories and industries on their challenges and do this in three key ways:

One is through purposeful engagement. I chair a corporate engagement group for The Children’s Society called #GenerationHope. This connects senior UK marketers with TCS to bring their skills to bear on the challenges of young people in our society and to reverse the decade-long decline in their wellbeing.

Secondly is by coaching startups, both in our industry and more broadly. I coach startups on their strategy, business models and audience development – mostly, but not always, in the tech space.

Finally is by mentoring young marketers. I think there is a significant gap between what we learn at school and the world of marketing, both agency and client-side. I enjoy teaching the ‘reality’ of marketing, the avoidance of bright shiny (digital) objects, as well as guiding younger marketers on their careers.

And how do you switch off and maintain a work life balance?

I don’t switch off enough, but we are working hard as an organization to ensure balance for each other. We don’t send messages – so email, texts, chats – after 7pm or at weekends to ensure that each of us can properly disconnect. This means that even the smallest interruptions can be taken away.

I have three daughters who are the best investment of my time and they help me to stay objective and balance my life between work and preparing them to conquer the world!

Work & Wellbeing Business Leadership The Judges’ Club

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