Don’t get into advertising, get into culture: Vicki Maguire

30 Apr,2015

Vicki Maguire

By Dyanne Coelho


“Don’t ever have a Plan B,” Vicki Maguire begins, prompting everyone in the audience to sit up straight waiting for her next words. The Deputy Executive Creative Director, Grey Advertising, London is Jury Foreman at the Kyoorius Advertising Awards. Ms Maguire has worked with clients like Nokia, Hamleys and Ford Fiesta among others. She has also been listed among the 20 most influential women in advertising.


As part of the FYIday organised by Kyoorius, Ms Maguire spoke on ‘The 10 things I wish someone had told me.’ Her first point, ‘Don’t have a plan B’. She went on to tell a personal story of when she was a fashion designer. “I was London’s worst fashion designer,” she explained, “I’ve been sacked from Paul Smith, Vivienne Westwood and French Connection.” When my original Plan A fell apart, I didn’t have a Plan B, Ms Maguire said. It’s all about having another Plan A, not a backup Plan B, but a new Plan A. “I decided to make advertising my new Plan A, and if I ever give up advertising, I’ve got to find another Plan A.”


Do love your clients – Ms Maguire stated her second point. “I used to hate clients. It was their job to ruin our ideas, and we used to sit in big offices and bitch about them.” She highlighted the importance of maintaining a satisfactory client-agency relationship, especially with the creative department of the agency. Clients like to interact with the creatives, she said, because they see the passion in them and are inspired to open up, which helps to create better content.


Ms Maguire went on to point out that having an office doesn’t necessarily assure good work. “Don’t have an office,” she said. It’s not about the status, the leather sofa, the mac, the watch or anything else she explained, it’s merely about the work. “Just do your shit and stuff comes to you.”


“Don’t get into advertising, get into culture. The best kind of advertising is that which has lifted out of 30, 60, 90, digital and that has got into culture,” Ms Maguire said. It’s when something hits hard, that it gets shared and does the job that advertisers wanted to do, she pointed out. Get into the culture of things, don’t just advertise she advised.


Stressing upon the idea of believing in oneself, the Deputy ECD at Grey London Vicki added: “Do kill your idols.” Vicki went on to tell us the story of how once she got to work closely with the people in the industry that she idolised, she realised that they were human too and made mistakes, and had stupid ideas, and got drunk and puked, just like everyone else. “They’re not Gods. Meet your idols, then kill them, then aim to be better than them,” she advised.


“Don’t take any shit,” Ms Maguire said, explaining the time when she was forced to work on ad campaigns of shampoos, feminine hygiene etc., because she was a woman. “If you’ve given an agency your best and you’re still getting that work, it’s them not you; move.” I’ve been sacked so many times now, that I think failure is something I really do well, she said, but now I know it’s not my fault. “Every time that happens to me I don’t think oh I’ve lost my job. I simply think oh, another few months to do a personal project. Fuck ’em, don’t take any shit.”


“I’m not afraid to fail,” said Ms Maguire pointing out the importance of striving to succeed. “The more you fail, the less power failure has over you,” she said. It’s fate telling you to move on, highlighting the importance of being strong and never giving up. “Even good people fail and have shit ideas,” she said, “Go a little further, push a little harder.”


“Don’t put your happiness in other people’s hands, they’ll drop it,” Ms Maguire continued. We all work in agencies and expect to be taken places. Sometimes you get stuck on a brief for six months only to see it die in research, she said. There will always be disappointments, don’t let that be the be all and end all. . It hurts, but give it your all. Be responsible for your own creative fulfilment. “Find a therapy brief,” she said. “If you don’t find fulfillment in your job and can’t leave it for some reason, go find another avenue to find fulfilment in.” And then shared the story of a young gent she worked with who wasn’t happy with his job. Suddenly one day the man walked into the office requesting leave. When asked the reason for it, he said that he had been making concrete trainers as a sideline and was taking 12 pairs to Pharrell who paid him a quarter of a million pounds for it. “He had another little thing on the side, not a Plan B, but a Plan A+,” Ms Maguire explains. “Find something that makes you happy, find a plan A+.”


“Don’t be an arsehole.” You get good and you start winning awards. Highlighting the importance of being humble and maintaining relationships for mutual benefit, she said: “Advertising has got its own karma.”  And spoke about the importance of being generous with your time and being helpful. “It pays.”


Ms Maguire concluded with her last pointer, ‘Don’t listen to anyone else, they might be wrong.’ If you respect someone and their opinion listen to them, go back and see them, keep in touch, but if someone doesn’t like your stuff, trust your gut first, for they might be wrong… It was someone I admire who told me that I was a horrible fashion designer and that I should write down my ideas instead. That’s how I got into advertising.” And then added on an energetic note: “Keep your friends tight, find somebody who loves you.”


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