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Natasha Smith

April 2, 2018

Some tips on how to create a strategy that connects with buyers.

"Sharing something that feels real, not just something that sounds smart."

Anna Parker, chief strategy officer at Havas Chicago, talks about when strategy becomes effective—and profitable.

I grew up in Indiana, and started my career as a producer for a video production company. We were based in the RV (recreational vehicle) Capital of the World and produced marketing content for Jayco, Coachmen, Forest River, and others.

My first business trip was to Minnesota, to film at a manufacturing company that made slightly smaller-than-normal kitchen cabinets for RVs. But I was in love with marketing and storytelling, and I so wanted to get out of Indiana.

So, I earned my master’s in advertising from the University of Florida, got my first agency job at BBDO, and I’ve been moving boxes around on PowerPoint slides ever since (laughs).

Essentially, strategy is about identifying an opportunity and deciding how to best take advantage of it. In Chicago, we call this “unfair advantage.” Our strategy department is constantly in search of consumer needs that aren’t met, data that others wouldn’t think to look for, and intel that you’ll only get if you have an inside connection—all to create work that’s culturally relevant and that resonates with consumers.

To sell great work, a strategic idea or POV should feel new and necessary. It’s almost like unlocking a door in someone’s mind so a new idea can get through. Our natural tendency is to rely on what we know and why something won’t work, so strategic thinking has to be both disarming and inspiring.

Simple and honest language—we’re not here to hold court or teach class.

Understanding the cultural codes and personal context of the people who you’re selling to. How is life changing for them? What are they conflicted about? We prioritize real-time research, observed data, social listening, and analytics to answer these questions.

Sharing something that feels real, not just something that sounds smart. Memes are a good example. They’re kind of like mini strategies. They recognize something honest and real that the world isn’t having a conversation around quite yet, and start that conversation.

Knowing how to leverage a competitive weakness, a brand advantage, a cultural tension, a consumer insight that begs action.

But in the context of marketing and advertising, strategy is really only as effective as the next opportunity that it affords us (i.e., the new work or thinking that comes out of it).

"Everyone has stories to tell, and that’s what makes this job interesting."

In a nutshell, my job is to craft the vision for the department in support of our agency mission, and make sure we have the best people and resources to achieve it.

I work very closely with our creative, account, and media leads to operationalize our mission of invigorating great American brands through cultural relevance. And I work with my team on how we create an unfair advantage for our clients (and our agency) on every project and every pitch.

I also work to build strong connections with colleagues in other offices, both in North America and globally. We can accomplish infinitely more together by centralizing certain practices and sharing knowledge.

My goal is to make the work we do for our clients work even harder. We’re always looking to make the consumer more fascinating, the ideas even more resonant, amplify our reach for less money, and think of exciting ways to make ideas participatory.

There’s an experience I remember vividly that reminded me to check my assumptions at the door—especially about consumers, and gave me some words that I still think about today as it relates to my job.

I was doing in-home ethnographies for a big retailer. I interviewed a woman at her home in LA about shopping, her family, and so on. But the conversation stayed surface level.

When I got up to leave, I saw a small plaque on her dresser and asked her about it. She said “Oh, I got that when I graduated from Pepperdine University,” and then launched into all of these amazing stories about being the first in her family to go to college, her professional experiences, and her hopes for her kids.

Looking back, I think I had assumed she didn’t have interesting stories to tell. That’s one of the worst assumptions you can make in this job—about consumers, clients, colleagues. I just wasn’t asking the right questions. Everyone has stories to tell, and that’s what makes this job interesting. There’s no such thing as normal people.

The plaque said: “Enjoy. Assume nothing. Stand for something.” I’ve always felt those were good words to live by in this career.

The ad industry isn’t evolving fast enough to keep up with how people think, live, and consume content. At Havas, I hope we continue to wreak havoc on agency models, convention, stereotypes, barriers, and standards.

The frenzy. Making things that make people say: “I can’t believe they made that.”

"Sharing something that feels real, not just something that sounds smart."

Anna Parker, chief strategy officer at Havas Chicago, talks about when strategy becomes effective—and profitable.

I grew up in Indiana, and started my career as a producer for a video production company. We were based in the RV (recreational vehicle) Capital of the World and produced marketing content for Jayco, Coachmen, Forest River, and others.

My first business trip was to Minnesota, to film at a manufacturing company that made slightly smaller-than-normal kitchen cabinets for RVs. But I was in love with marketing and storytelling, and I so wanted to get out of Indiana.

So, I earned my master’s in advertising from the University of Florida, got my first agency job at BBDO, and I’ve been moving boxes around on PowerPoint slides ever since (laughs).

Essentially, strategy is about identifying an opportunity and deciding how to best take advantage of it. In Chicago, we call this “unfair advantage.” Our strategy department is constantly in search of consumer needs that aren’t met, data that others wouldn’t think to look for, and intel that you’ll only get if you have an inside connection—all to create work that’s culturally relevant and that resonates with consumers.

To sell great work, a strategic idea or POV should feel new and necessary. It’s almost like unlocking a door in someone’s mind so a new idea can get through. Our natural tendency is to rely on what we know and why something won’t work, so strategic thinking has to be both disarming and inspiring.

Simple and honest language—we’re not here to hold court or teach class.

Understanding the cultural codes and personal context of the people who you’re selling to. How is life changing for them? What are they conflicted about? We prioritize real-time research, observed data, social listening, and analytics to answer these questions.

Sharing something that feels real, not just something that sounds smart. Memes are a good example. They’re kind of like mini strategies. They recognize something honest and real that the world isn’t having a conversation around quite yet, and start that conversation.

Knowing how to leverage a competitive weakness, a brand advantage, a cultural tension, a consumer insight that begs action.

But in the context of marketing and advertising, strategy is really only as effective as the next opportunity that it affords us (i.e., the new work or thinking that comes out of it).

"Everyone has stories to tell, and that’s what makes this job interesting."

In a nutshell, my job is to craft the vision for the department in support of our agency mission, and make sure we have the best people and resources to achieve it.

I work very closely with our creative, account, and media leads to operationalize our mission of invigorating great American brands through cultural relevance. And I work with my team on how we create an unfair advantage for our clients (and our agency) on every project and every pitch.

I also work to build strong connections with colleagues in other offices, both in North America and globally. We can accomplish infinitely more together by centralizing certain practices and sharing knowledge.

My goal is to make the work we do for our clients work even harder. We’re always looking to make the consumer more fascinating, the ideas even more resonant, amplify our reach for less money, and think of exciting ways to make ideas participatory.

There’s an experience I remember vividly that reminded me to check my assumptions at the door—especially about consumers, and gave me some words that I still think about today as it relates to my job.

I was doing in-home ethnographies for a big retailer. I interviewed a woman at her home in LA about shopping, her family, and so on. But the conversation stayed surface level.

When I got up to leave, I saw a small plaque on her dresser and asked her about it. She said “Oh, I got that when I graduated from Pepperdine University,” and then launched into all of these amazing stories about being the first in her family to go to college, her professional experiences, and her hopes for her kids.

Looking back, I think I had assumed she didn’t have interesting stories to tell. That’s one of the worst assumptions you can make in this job—about consumers, clients, colleagues. I just wasn’t asking the right questions. Everyone has stories to tell, and that’s what makes this job interesting. There’s no such thing as normal people.

The plaque said: “Enjoy. Assume nothing. Stand for something.” I’ve always felt those were good words to live by in this career.

The ad industry isn’t evolving fast enough to keep up with how people think, live, and consume content. At Havas, I hope we continue to wreak havoc on agency models, convention, stereotypes, barriers, and standards.

The frenzy. Making things that make people say: “I can’t believe they made that.”

Natasha Smith

Strategic Communications Manager

Natasha Smith is the strategic communications manager for Havas Group. She happily represents 404 in the 212.

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On February 1, 2017, German police arrested a Tunisian asylum seeker suspected of recruiting for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and planning an attack in Berlin. Meanwhile, the Tunisian Truth and Dignity Commission broadcast —for the first time in the Arab world—its public hearings investigating human rights abuses in Tunisia since 1955. How is the model country for democratic transition in the Arab world also the host and largest exporter of terrorists?

In December 2010, Tunisia started the spark for the wave of revolutions that swept the Arab world calling for democracy, human rights, and economic equality. More than six years later, Tunisia has gained the reputation as the lone success story of democratic transitions, while other “Arab Spring” countries continue to descend into wars, extremism, and strengthened dictatorships.

With the inclusion of Islamist parties in governance, all the while exporting the largest number of foreign fighters in ISIL,what conditions contributed to the peaceful democratic transition in Tunisia? What are the main challenges still facing the country today?

A Turbulent Transition

After the “Jasmine Revolution” in 2011 and the ouster of former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali following a 23-year rule, Tunisia held its first free elections since its independence in 1956. The elections of October 2011 Tunisia’s Islamist Party Ennahda a victory with the largest number of seats (89 out of 217) in the National Constituent Assembly (109 were needed for a majority). Left and secular parties gained the next largest numbers of seats, with left-wing Congress for the Republic (CPR) in second place (29 seats), followed by left-wing Ettakatol Party (20 seats), and the secular liberal Progressive Democratic Party (16 seats).

The party initially winning third place, then having seats revoked and members resigning from the party, was a curious case. The Popular Petition Party was Womens Jovanna Phoebe Ballerinas Hush Puppies 3mhTs7Ps2
only a few months before the election by an Islamist-leaning London-based media entrepreneur, Mohamed Hechmi Hamdi, who claimed that he was contacted by Tunisians urging him to run for election. His appeal appears to be his origin in Sidi Bouzid, in the inner and southern parts of Tunisia which are typically ignored, as elites and politicians have often come from coastal areas. He also painted himself as someone who understands the hardships of marginalized Tunisians and as a victim of the former regime who was exiled for 25 years, and he publicized that his election campaign was excluded from mainstream media coverage.

The 2011 elections and Ennahda’s victory did not necessarily lead to a stable transfer of power. Following the elections, Tunisia faced a series of difficult challenges that almost broke the long-praised peaceful democratic transition. Those same challenges, including political, ideological, and violent extremism, were faced by other Arab countries during their transitional periods.

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SPEAKERS - BANGALORE EDITION

Natalie Evans Harris

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Manish Gupta

Co-founder and CEO, VideoKen Infosys Foundation Chair Professor at IIIT Bangalore

Komal Sharma Talwar

Founder TT Consultants , XLPAT Member, GoI AI Task Force

Abishek Surendran

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Harsha Urlam

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Kartik Kulbhushan

Global Business Transformation Leader Sun Pharma

Atul Tripathi

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Namrita Mahindro

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Ravinder Pal Singh

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S. Senthil Nathan

GM – Information SystemsCavinkare Pvt. Ltd.

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CEO of Galatea San Francisco, California. USA

Jaspreet Bindra

Senior VP Digital Transformation/ Chief Digital Officer Mahindra Group

Ankur Narang

Senior Vice President Technology Decision Sciences Yatra Online Pvt Ltd

Deepak Sharma

Chief Digital Officer Kotak Mahindra Bank

Johnson Poh

Adjunct Faculty Big Data and Analytics Singapore Management University

Kaushik Ghate

Sr. Vice President Head –Consumer Analytics Data Sciences HDFC Bank

Dhanesh Padmanabhan

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Sayed Peerzade

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Avik Sarkar

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Amol Pai

President Business Digital Technology Solutions YES Bank

Amit Kurhekar

Global technology leader Procter Gamble

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