A conversation with Sonia Allard and Elizabeth Henry
05 July 2018
1. First off, we want to know, what brought you to this point in your career, at this moment in time? What’s your story?
I started in digital in 2004 at Y&R as a web planner. Let me tell you, at that time, digital’s place in media plans was totally uncharted territory – it was up to us to build it!
I was able to get a bit of respite from the digital militancy when I joined Adviso for the first time as a digital strategist (we were five at the time, including the partners, and I was the first female employee in the agency’s history).
After that I developed my digital experience at Sid Lee, where I was able to work on brands like Adidas, MGM, Cirque du Soleil, STM, Videotron, Tourisme Montréal and the SAQ, climbing from strategist, to producer, to account director. Ok, so my personal life was practically non-existent for those five years, but oh what I learned! How to work in synergy with creative, how to respect and value a brand, how to find strategies to help clients grow; I was constantly pushing my limits. The possibilities were endless at that time.
Curiosity and a desire to learn about the business side of a brand pushed me to spend five very formative years on the client side, at the SAQ as a specialist and manager. The time I spent with this public company undergoing a digital transformation and customer experience shift gave me the opportunity to pilot two important projects: the transactional redesign of saq.com, as well as the development and execution of the SAQ Inspire program. Both were complex projects involving several business units and a high level of technological complexity that even impacted the business model.
I learned a lot about data, tech, project management, managing partners, change management and mobilizing teams. I was in charge of calls for tender for communications and companies specialized in relationship marketing. I won’t hide that I learned to play politics; something there’s no lack of in government. I learned to make strong business cases, structure my ideas, speak to the right stakeholders and put in all the energy it takes to push a major project forward.
After all that, I returned to my roots. I decided to come back to Adviso as Marketing and Group Account Director. And here I am today, with an exciting new set of responsibilities as Executive Director.
On my end, I arrived in the world of digital kind of by accident; the first job I landed was with Monster.ca (yes, the job search site). I learned as I went, in a position within the business intelligence team. I was fortunate enough to end up, from the very beginning, in a company that valued performance, data analysis and product personalization. A lucky break!
After that, I went over to an agency, NVI. There, I was part of the digital support team where I grew from Account Manager to Account Director, and worked in the heart of client relations, managing client expectations, concerns and realities minute by minute. Then, when NVI became iProspect in 2013, I had the opportunity to put what I’d learned to work for the agency itself, having been promoted to the head of the sales and marketing department.
2. 10 years ago, would you have guessed you’d be in this role today?
To be honest, yes. I learned a ton and loved being a specialist and spending time on the client side. But working on big corporate projects taught me the importance of giving a vision, a direction to your teams. Once they’ve been mobilized, the sky is the limit in terms of what you can accomplish. So, I quickly figured out that I needed to use that strength in a management role working with big teams.
10 years ago, when I started with NVI, my knowledge of digital marketing was pretty modest and I still hadn’t discovered how passionate I would become about it. Instead I thought I’d end up with a career in marketing research, which was the subject of my Master’s. You never know what the future has in store though, so open as many doors as possible, and leave room to follow your curiosity!
3. What part of this new challenge interests you the most?
I’m going to turn that around: How could I have refused? This role is the culmination of my experience as a strategist, advisor, specialist on major customer experience projects and content specialist and gives me the opportunity to develop my management profile. I have everything I need to create the most value possible for a company that I’m passionate about, working with teams known for their competence.
I’m a lover of all things new, and in this case, I have the opportunity to take on a brand-new challenge in terms of management and production.
4. Why did you choose Adviso? Aside from the bottomless Nutella?
Having gotten a taste for it at the beginning of my career (no, I’m not talking about the Nutella) and then again 12 years later, I can legitimately say that the agency’s values haven’t changed over the years, and it’s still the same elements that appeal to me. My path through other organizations only gave me a greater appreciation for the authenticity, humanity and amazing intelligence we have at Adviso.
There were three main things that attracted my attention and respect:
- The vision of the agency and its drive to stay independent in the market
- The opportunity to work in a company that puts innovation at the heart of its activities
- The team’s competence and ability to take on new challenges day after day
5. What are the biggest challenges ahead of you?
Adviso has experienced tremendous growth and its structure needed to evolve. One of the notable ways it did that was by creating these new positions for Sonia and I. One challenge will be to provide the right level of support to teams so that I can be a real coach, giving managers the tools they need to solve problems themselves, rather than falling into the trap of doing it for them. It’s one of the missions I’ve given myself/us as an organization with the culture of a mom and pop shop that’s grown in an organic way.
These are my top 3 priorities:
- Implement the best possible process so that innovations can be quickly and efficiently put into production. That means effectively building in daily optimization and the implementation of well-chosen innovations so that our clients are able to perform better today and tomorrow.
- Make sure information circulates fluidly between teams, to ensure we have a 360-degree overview of our mandates and can identify the best opportunities when they arise.
- Create a feeling of belonging among team leads, for a strong, united management team.
6. What makes you impatient to get started (in a good way)?
Seeing our managers grow and take complete ownership of their roles, pushing content marketing and customer experience specialists to reach their full potential, to the point that the competition is green with envy. Helping the company grow, again and again.
The most exciting thing is making sure that highly talented people have the opportunity to develop to their full potential, by giving them stimulating projects to work on, new challenges, etc. I’m also looking forward to being able to make life easier for teams on a daily basis by offering simple, effective solutions to their everyday challenges.
A huge thank you to our two new executive directors; we wish tons of success (and a lot of fun!).