Awards and Events in association withCreative Circle

Rose Herceg on Why 'Mad' Ideas Drive Results

Advertising Agency
London, United Kingdom
WPP’s president for AUNZ chats to LBB’s Laura Swinton ahead of judging on the Executive Jury for MAD STARS 2024 about AI, getting in the weeds and why it takes a ‘mad’ idea to do what CFOs want
Rose Herceg may be the president of WPP in Australia and New Zealand, but, she says, she’ll always be a strategist at heart. That’s why she’s looking forward to rolling her sleeves up and digging into the work at this year’s MAD STARS, the international advertising award show and festival in Busan, South Korea. It’s set to be an interesting year on the awards front as AI looks set to take centre stage. As for how Australia and New Zealand will perform in this year’s awards cycle, Rose says it’s too early to tell but that the region is seeing a really impressive cohort of bold, brave clients who are ready to champion brilliant big ideas. 

LBB> The big story this year is AI - what sort of challenges and discussions will this bring up in the jury room?

Rose> AI for creative transformation. AI for good. AI for inclusion. AI for society. AI for equality. AI for business growth. 

AI is a revelatory tool. Like all tools, it needs to be used well. I’m guessing we’ll be discussing how AI builds and unleashes creativity. Opens up doors. Takes imagination and multiplies it 100-fold. We’ll see soon enough.

LBB> We're just entering the 2024 award cycle, but based on what you've seen, how strong a year do you think this has been for Australian creativity and New Zealand creativity?

Rose> We’re still working with clients to get ideas up. We still have time to enter. We’re in the thick of it! I think we’re looking good but the next four to six weeks will be critical. 

LBB> What are the major factors shaping Australian and New Zealand creativity right now?

Rose> Clients who recognise a brilliant idea and have steel in their spines to get the idea through their internal C-Suite.

LBB> MAD STARS is all about the big ideas - how open are clients to these big 'Mad' ideas?

Rose> In my experience, many more than you read about. Some also understand that it takes a mad idea to do what CFOs want. Drive sales, revenue, and profit. It’s not a surprise that the most successful businesses in the history of the world also have the most successful campaigns.

LBB> You're in such a senior leadership position, not necessarily getting into the weeds of the work in your day-to-day role so what sort of lens do you think you'll bring to judging?

Rose> You’d be surprised by just how “into the weeds” I am. I came into this role as a strategist. Ask any strategist who is worth the salt about their daily work. You’ll hear them tell you that they are absolutely in the tall grass with their sleeves rolled up. You’ll never take the strategist out of the President.

LBB> You're two years into your role at WPP - what have been some of the biggest, boldest ideas that you've seen and loved in that time?

Rose> I love our Australian and New Zealand sensibilities. The KFC work from Ogilvy Australia. Michelin Impossible through to 12 Course Degustation. Inspired. So very KFC. Hugely successful in building one of Australia’s most successful businesses. Ogilvy’s work for the Matildas – “til it’s done”. VML’s FitChix work for Honest Egg Co. Brilliant. Lateral. Thoroughly Australian and wildly successful commercially. AKQA Australia’s work for Tennis Australia and Action Audio. I still love EssenceMediacom’s work for Whiskas called Cats in a Box – where the delivery box from Amazon became the ultimate toy for cats. whiteGREYs work for Volvo on Living Seawalls, an ocean conservation project. What I dig the most is that these ideas drive commercial success. They are smart. They are entertaining. But what they all have in common is that they deliver sales and growth. It’s smart business.

LBB> In your time, you've done a lot to address the gender balance in WPP Australia's leadership - how crucial is diversity and representation when it comes to building a culture that can nurture these bold 'MAD' ideas?

Rose> We’ve more to do but we’ve made some great progress. We’re nearly at a 50/50 gender split at the very top. We do need to remember that diversity comes in all forms. Gender, race, ethnicity, orientation, age. Australia is the most highly multiculturalised country in the world. New Zealand is in the top 10. We are doing everything we can to make sure we have a WPP down under and in NZ that reflects this reality. It’s good for business because every study that exists tells you that diversity in your workforce drives the best creativity. Ideas coming from every place creates a level of quality that is unbeatable. Life experience backgrounds that are entirely unique to each other, helps enormously the creative process. It’s also good business because having people inside our business who reflect the citizenry of Australia, helps us better understand our client’s customers too. 

LBB> It's an interesting and busy time for you at WPP right now - so much going on in terms of the VML merger, the AI strategy etc - why is it important and useful for you to take that time to really immerse yourself in the work and the creativity? How does judging something like Mad Stars refuel you?

Rose> The lever that makes the demonstrable difference in a business is creativity. Look at most successful businesses in the world. The common denominator is creativity. 
The work IS the reason WPP exists. If our ambition is to be the most creative company in the world then the work is the evidence that proves this. Judging Mad Stars exposes me to the work. From everywhere. For every category. Seeing how stories are told. How customers are charmed.  How experiences are created.

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