Initiative’s MD Sally Weavers Speaks

Sally Weavers has worked with some of the UK’s most prominent agencies and brands, including MINI, and more recently Tesco. During her time at WCRS, Sally received numerous accolades for her work, including a win at the Media Week Awards Grand Prix, as well as scooping up the Marketing Week Effectiveness Award.

We caught up with Sally, one year into her new role as Managing Director of Initiative UK, to get her views on everything from winning new clients to her preferences on tea and biscuits!


Q. Thank you for coming along today, Sally. Before we get started, give us a little outline of your career. How long have you worked in media?

A. This is my twenty-fifth year in the business. I started at JWT in the media department as a graduate trainee in 1989. I didn’t like the idea of ‘media independents’ as we called them then, so I didn’t make the move to Mindshare. Instead, I went to WCRS as their in-house comms planner and stayed there for over ten years. My first media agency was Vizeum in 2009, then UM in 2011, and finally a move up to Initiative in 2013.


Q. How long have you been in your current role? Tell us a bit about what it entails.

A. Only 10 months – it’s been a very busy time. We are small, but now perfectly formed with some fabulous people covering trading, strategy, and creativity. My focus is always on people, product and new business, although I am continually meddling in strategy.


Q. Tea or coffee?

A. Coffee.

Q. What is your favourite biscuit, and do you dunk?

A. Chocolate digestive; rarely.


Q. One of Initiative’s core values is about keeping it simple, especially when it comes to pitching for new business. Why do you think this has been so successful for Initiative winning new clients of late?

A. I think that media can easily become complicated, which is the last thing our clients need. We try to strip away all the complexity to focus on what really matters, and it helps everyone see the wood for the trees.


Q. At what point in your career did you realise you’d really “made it”?

A. Ha! I’m not sure I have!


Q. Describe your perfect work day; one where you know that you’d go home satisfied, happy, and relaxed.

A. The trains tend to dictate my mood. If they run late in the morning then my whole day is messed up, so arriving at the office on time is a good start. I like to keep mornings to get stuff done: emails, proposals, appraisals, phone calls, and then a quick lunch on the roof terrace with someone making me laugh. An afternoon of client meetings then home in time for a spot of homework with my 12-year old.


Q. Do you have a hobby?

A. Gardening.


Q. What is your pre-pitch ritual if you have one? Key tips on how to prepare for a pitch?

A. I write everything down, speech style, and then miraculously I remember it. I always like to do at least one really shambolic rehearsal. I think it keeps your adrenalin up for the real thing.


Q. If you had to do karaoke right now, what song would you sing?

A. I’d actually run out of the room screaming!


Q. What do you love about our industry?

A. The people – in particular, the young ones coming in. They are super creative, really confident, and multi-talented. Look at our website to see what I mean.


Q. If you could click your fingers and change one thing in our industry what would it be?

A. The over-emphasis on price in pitches. I would like the best plan to win.


Q. If you could teleport to anywhere in the world, where would you go?

A. Hoi An in Vietnam – really wonderful food and people.


Q. What are you most proud of in your work life?

A. I loved working on the launch of MINI; it was a fabulous team. We went out of our way to break the rules of the car market, and we had great fun doing it.


Q. What advice would you give people, specifically women, who want to progress up the ladder?

A. Find a way of balancing work and home life that works for you. I don’t think we should all work the same way; we are all wired differently. So understanding how you work best is key for your happiness both at work and at home.


Q. There’s you and four guests from history or fiction, either dead or alive. Who would you choose to have dinner with and where would you go to eat?

A. Michael Palin, Sir Joseph Banks, Terence Conran and Henri Matisse. It would be for a long lunch on the terrace of the River Café. They would all like it there.


Q. Recently in the media there has been a lot written about the importance of switching off (digitally), meditation and sleeping 8 hours a night. How realistic do you think this approach is for high-flying, busy women, who balance successful careers with family life?

A. I like the theory. I’m quite bad about this in practice though. I check emails all the time and start to hyper-ventilate if my phone battery dies!


Q. What is the best work jolly you’ve ever been on?

A. The National Geographic Institute in Washington, with the National Geographic decades ago. It was such an amazing place full of people who absolutely loved their job.


Q. Describe your perfect weekend.

A. Breakfast in the garden, a bike ride, a pub lunch, a bit of gardening in the late afternoon, a good film, and dinner cooked for me.


Q. If you weren’t doing what you do, what would you be doing instead?

A. I would do something creative; probably garden design. When I retire – God knows when that will be – I want to do a course at Kew.

That brings a close to our interview, thank you.

The team here at Rapport would like to thank Sally for coming along and taking part in our Q&A session, and we wish her the best of luck for the future!

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