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5 Minutes with… Katy Wright

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The FCB Inferno managing director on why she didn’t become an airline pilot, why tactical and brand are one and the same and why data shouldn’t be mysterious

5 Minutes with… Katy Wright

FCB Inferno’s Katy Wright is a self-confessed people person, which is why she's so spent her career building meaningful working relationships with clients and colleagues. And it’s why, when she was promoted to the London agency’s managing director in 2021, she emphasised that creativity is team sport.

Katy’s won and led accounts including Valspar, BMW and Kimberly-Clark brands Andrex and Kleenex and overseen some of the agencies most creatively awarded work including Raising Profiles for the Big Issue, which took an e-Commerce Grand Prix at Cannes last year – a first for a not for profit client. She’s also played an integral role in driving the training and development programme for the agency, has hosted TedX London events, and is a trained pilot.

LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with her to find out more.


LBB> Where did you grow up and what sort of kid were you? Were there any clues back then as to the career path you’d end up taking?


Katy> So kid Katy. Picture the scene. I grew up in a little village between Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire, probably razzing around on either my racer or my brother's back-brake BMX. I was a bit of a tomboy!

My parents met when my dad was an airline pilot and my mum was a stewardess – alongside having running drama clubs, writing plays and gaining two degrees from Oxford which she got in her 60s. 

When school asked me what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, I said I'm either going to be an actress or an airline pilot - and I actually think I ended up somewhere in between!


LBB> So how did you take your first steps into actually working out that advertising was what would give you that feeling?


Katy> I knew nothing about this job. We had no friends, no acquaintances that did this job. I knew I needed to find what I wanted to do. I'd read David Ogilvy's book and this really piqued my interest. I got my break working for a tiny independent DM agency, working on 'below the line' when we'd be made to sit down at the far end of the table. And now, hey, it turns out return on investment and effectiveness is quite critical! So I did direct and digital before I worked for a more 'traditional' above-the-line agency: that was my path and I haven't looked back.


LBB> In the early days of your career, what were some projects/clients that particularly helped you to grow and understand the business?


Katy> I worked in a team that launched the Goldfish credit card, which was quite category-changing at the time. As much as it was financial service heavy, it was about using creativity to solve problems and really smart innovation around what was perceived as a dull, dry, quite expected category. 


LBB> Beyond that, what are the most exciting plans for the agency right now?


Katy> We've been pushing more on being explicit with what makes us different. We've always focused and prided ourselves on being strong business partners and, as one of the most awarded agencies creatively at Cannes for the last three years, shown our strengths in creative problem solving for clients too.

We genuinely believe you shouldn't have to choose between tactical and brand marketing so we've been applying it to some more clients’ work. I think that's going to give us a point of difference, getting people excited by that.

If you look at StorySign, we didn't create an ad - we came up with a product, an innovation. The same with The Big Issue when we worked with Monzo and again with LinkedIn. You're using the full muscle of your agency. I say when I meet clients, "please do not come on this call and say, ‘I need a TV ad’.” Tell me what your problem is. 

That is essentially solving problems creatively. That's why Owen, Ben, Sharon and I work so closely. It's not business over here, creatives over here. If you’re thinking it’s either brand work or tactical work you’re wrong: It's all the brand and you shouldn't have to choose as a client. 



LBB> What are you most proud of in your career so far?


Katy> I’ve had the privilege to work with and continue to work with some brilliant people and being a part of that journey is a joyous and incredible thing. People talk about achievements, and seeing people realise their full potential - there's nothing more important and that makes me more proud. 


LBB> As a managing director, how do you make sure the people in the agency have the right attitude to make sure that’s the case?


Katy> The best work comes from when people realise that they can come together and that their opinion matters - that's why it's so critical that Owen and I work really well together and why we have put so much focus on project team working.

Our culture's really important to us – how you feel when you walk to our building. Having recently moved, we still wanted that ‘feeling’ you get where you're welcome. My aim is to have a space at FCB Inferno where you don’t necessarily know who the clients are and who the agency people are. 


LBB> I saw you recently made Zoe Osinnowo FCB Inferno’s first business inclusivity lead. What bigger picture do changes like that add up to? 


We don't talk about wanting people to fit our culture. People don't fit in, they add, they enrich. You become more interesting. And that's why Susan [Credle, global chief creative officer] has recently updated our brand bedrock to be creativity fuelled by diversity, data and technology. 

Zoe is a fantastic hire and this evolution to her role is exactly what we need to sit between what we strive to do creatively and as an organisation.


LBB> What do you find frustrating about the industry today?


Katy> I hate seeing clients be bamboozled with data and tech because it's not hard. Because actually, it's our job to simplify it - to be a partner and demystify. Your clients should never feel intimidated by data, it should empower them.


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FCB Inferno, Fri, 08 Apr 2022 14:02:41 GMT