clare chapman

celebrating brilliant account women

Bringing Empathy and Drive to Account Handling: Clare Chapman

The CEO of EssenceMediacomX is the latest powerhouse to feature in our celebratory account women series

By creative salon

A blend of intuition, empathy and client understanding - this is what makes Clare Chapman excel as an account person. She recently returned to EssenceMediacomX as chief executive, the latest step in an illustrious career in the media agency sector, where her unrelenting inquisitiveness and authenticity have propelled her forward.

A northerner at heart, Chapman began her career in Manchester, working as a media planner-buyer across print and radio, before moving to London where she held account leadership roles at MPG/Havas and then Maxus. In 2018, she joined Essence as head of planning, bringing two decades of media experience across a diverse range of industries. As EVP, head of media, she later oversaw all of Essence’s activation and planning teams.

Chapman returned to EMX in November after two years as CEO for Carat UK, reigniting her working relationship with previous chief exec of EMX Ryan Storrar who now leads Group M’s performance marketing division Nexus, EMEA and the UK region.

Since rejoining EMX as chief executive, Chapman has embraced the breakthrough ways of working across EssenceMediacom and has had a “huge impact”, immediately connecting with her “inimitable charm”, according to Sue Unerman, Chief Transformation Officer at EMX. Unerman adds: “Her authenticity is the core of her leadership style and she’s driving everyone to be empowered to do great work. She is a guiding light in navigating challenges. Her passion and commitment knows no bounds.”

In addition, Anna Berry, chief operating officer at EMX, believes that it is perhaps Chapman's northern grit that makes her such an outstanding leader, describing her as constantly and intuitively taking risks to drive EMX and its innovation forward. Berry said: “She is one of the most driven and determined people I know, unwavering in her pursuit of excellence for our clients and business.

“Clare is an inspired and thoughtful leader who fosters an environment where every team member feels empowered to excel. She has invigorated our agency since her return, driving us to break new ground and tackle challenges with confidence."

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

Being an account person comes with multiple moments of pride, but to narrow it down, the most memorable are probably the times when I’ve taken a risk based on an intuitive sense of what people are really looking for, and seen it pay off. Like when I closed a pitch by telling the clients they already had a great media agency - we were not the incumbent - and they shouldn’t bother moving their account unless they were ready to buy in to a whole new way of thinking about media. Happy to say we won.

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

Whilst it’s great that in recent years people have opened up in the workplace and started to show their vulnerability,  in reality I’ve learnt that you should bring a slightly better version of your ‘true authentic self’ to work. Be genuine but take care to smooth out the rougher edges. It’s just about ok to inflict those on your partner and friends - the people who choose to spend time with you regardless. But try not to impose those onto the people who have to spend their working day with you. Do try to be patient and kind, even if you’re having a bad day!

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

They are super empathetic and sensitive to clients’ pressures from across their business. They see their job as making it as easy as possible for their clients to succeed.

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

A deep understanding of the clients’ ambitions, both as individuals and organisations, is key. Armed with that knowledge, the agency knows how they can best support, ensuring success for all.

In terms of the relationship, both parties need to be willing to have difficult conversations, make feedback constructive and lean in to change. All this requires trust, which is built on using open and timely dialogue to drive positive momentum and nip any issues in the bud.

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

Suspend your own agenda and listen carefully. Read between the lines, consider what might be going unsaid and ask smart questions that help get to the heart of any challenges.


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