Jessica Tamsedge

celebrating brilliant account women

Setting The Benchmark: Dentsu Creative's Jessica Tamsedge

We're giving a shoutout to some of the best account people, and we add Dentsu CEO Jessica Tamsedge to the list

By Dani Gibson

For all the cynics who question the long-term sustainability of the advertising industry - time to meet Jessica Tamsedge, Dentsu Creative CEO. Smart, brilliantly witty, and fearless, and effervescent and entirely of the moment: these might be a lot of adjectives for one person but if ever one could bottle the future of what the advertising industry could and be, Tamsedge would be it.

Her creative partner, Dentsu Creative UK's CCO Caroline Pay has this apt description of her: "Jessica's energy is infinite, as are her smarts. She is fascinating and fascinated by all things. Her ability to build real, loving, full relationships with clients and colleagues is astounding. And she never, ever stops. She is so excited by work, by life, by what we’re doing together at DC.

"Jess is contagious. I feel very lucky to be by her side."

An accomplished piano player, who played the instrument competitively when she was younger, Tamsedge seemed destined for a career in music. But it was a path that she says felt "horribly lonely". The creative industry was clearly her calling. An Oxford graduate in French and German, Tamsedge "hates' how she got into advertising.

Tamsedge joined Dentsu Creative from McCann - where she served as chief client officer at McCann, Europe & UK, driving client growth by ensuring brands held significant meaning in people’s lives - in early 2023 but her journey into marketing began in 2009 when she transitioned from teaching English and music in Paris.

Tamsedge first stumbled into marketing when her boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend, who worked at Diageo, asked her to shadow her for a week - and at the time, she ended up in a Guinness creative review at AMV. The experience desperately made her want to go agency side. However, each time she applied for grad schemes she was turned down. She then offered to work for free at M&C Saatchi and was eventually offered a job by the agency's then CEO, Carrie Hindmarsh. "I hate how I got into advertising, because it was my personal network that made me aware of the industry, then my family’s support and ability to work for free meant I got the job. It’s everything that’s wrong with the industry - exclusionary, invisible, unaffordable - and everything we need to fix," she says.

Tamsedge actively advocates for positive change in the marketing industry. She contributes her expertise to the UK’s IPA Council and the Industry Advisory Panel of the Advertising Standards Authority, providing insights for the formulation of fair and progressive industry regulations. Additionally, as a member of WACL and NABS 100, she mentors a diverse range of talent within the industry.

Her former client, and the former Nomad Foods CMO, Steve Axe - currently CMO at Education Group - has this to say about her: "Jess is simply THE best account person I have ever worked with in over 30 years of working with creative agencies. Jess combines strategic leadership, thought-partnership, creative inspiration, and commercial smarts with the ability to attract and build brilliant teams who will do whatever it takes to get the result you are looking for. And the bonus is it comes with a high energy, can-do attitude and a sense of humour too.

"She sets the benchmark."

Jessica Tamsedge on being an Account Person

Tell us about one experience you’ve had as an account person that made you really proud

My first leadership role was as Head of Account Management for Grey London. Of everything we achieved, I was most proud of the introduction of a simple metric in our people’s KPIs. Appraisals had always been a forum for top down feedback, so we introduced a simple score for direct reports. ‘To what extent is this individual invested in your own career development?’ This simple reframing ensured the best account managers were looking down as well up, and recognising that great leadership was about succeeding through others.

What’s been the biggest learning you’ve had in your career?

Conventional industry wisdom would have it that the best work wins. Which it does. But only if you’ve earned the trust of your clients such that they believe you are solving a problem, not selling an idea. I’ve learnt the best barometer for this is when your clients get in touch. Are they ringing with a brief, or are they ringing to share a challenge, to think aloud and work through solutions? We’ve expanded our relationship with Sherwin Williams because we understood their growth comes from retail partners as much as consumer choice. It’s evolved our approach, building their brands from the inside out with employees, customers and partners. No finer application of creativity than one that drives the whole business forward.

What’s that one skill that the best account people you know have?

Our role is to set to the conditions for creativity. The best account people do this in two ways.

Creating psychological safety for their agency teams, or rather a safe space for brave ideas, and then fighting for the time and ways of working needed to make them real.

Secondly, the willingness to say no. Our job is to give clients what they need to solve their challenges. Our job is to push for the possible, not the obvious. Sometimes that means bowing out and acknowledging ‘this one’s not for us’. Our partnership with Hilton has been a brilliant example of proving brands are built differently today and has become a source of pride across the agency.

What makes for a strong, productive client/agency relationship?

When I took the Chief Client Officer role at McCann, I was asked if I’d show up differently with clients, as a point of escalation or a tightly controlled cadence via ‘top to tops’.. I found it really weird. A client role for me meant being on the frontline of those partnerships. Through Covid, we spoke to our key CMOs every week, understanding their sales, supply chain and competition. We moved people across on secondment, we shared resource, we shared space, we turned around ads in a week, we paused media spend. The strongest relationships went beyond creative work to creative problem solving.

What advice would you give to people wanting to be a brilliant account person?

Stay curious and see everything as a learning opportunity. Understand your people, your clients and their business. We are fortunate enough to work in an industry that touches every sector. Spend time with your clients’ brands and services, your personal experience is your superpower.


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