Digitas Jennifer Berry


Becoming a Change Maker: Digitas UK CEO Jennifer Berry

Leading the agency, Berry discusses her experience of account management

By Dani Gibson

It's been over a year and a half now since Jennifer Berry moved to Digitas UK.

As a veteran of Publicis Groupe who first joined Amnesia Razorfish in 2007, she has worked with the likes of Unilever, Citi, United Nations, Marriott, AB In Bev and CVS. Her international career has seen Berry rise through the ranks, moving from her native Australia to New York where she would eventually head up its US northeast regional business as executive vice-president and managing director for nearly three years.

Then in 2022, the possibility of leading its sister agency Digitas in the UK was too good to turn down. And in doing so she was determined to offer empathy and care in her leadership style while the world was continuing to work itself out as businesses were being revived post-pandemic.

At the time, she hadn't been looking for the move but when it was announced that Dani Bassil would be stepping down, she had been visiting family in Europe and happened to be at the right place at the right time. Once she had set up shop, she embarked on a mission to transform the agency into a unicorn, aiming to increase its chance of hitting it big.

“Jen is brilliant at creating positive momentum in any situation," says Simon Peck, global client lead, at Publicis Groupe. "She’s able to inspire and motivate the diverse tech and creative brains at Digitas UK equally well. It’s partly down to her sunny optimism, mixed with a dash of Aussie can-do spirit, but it is all underpinned by a steely determination to make great work, a genuine passion for her clients and a selfless desire to see her team succeed.”

In the last year, Berry has strengthened the Digitas UK team by hiring Carren O'Keefe as CCO along with promoting chief data officer Leila Seith Hassan and head of talent Jessica Priest. Meanwhile, Matt Lodder has returned to the world of agencies as Digitas UK's chief operating officer in recent months too.

As well as becoming a recent member of WACL, Berry is a leader who strives for social change and also served as a mentor for the Vanguard program, established by the 4As Foundation. This program is designed to provide a framework for the industry, ensuring more diverse and inclusive leadership in the future. Digitas has also partnered with companies like NexTech Girls, to expand access and promote practical education for women and girls in the tech industry.

Berry shares some of her thoughts and experiences on great account handling through out her career.

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

The dream for me is to do world changing work with clients and teams that I love. A particular career highlight for me was my work on Dove’s #ProjectShowUs, which was not only ground-breaking in addressing systemic change for representation but also a true demonstration of trust built between client and agency. By living and breathing our client’s mission and bringing a deep understanding of the industry and the consumer, we were able to proactively pitch an idea that resonated not only domestically but also internationally, thanks to the strength of our relationship and the potential seismic impact of the idea. It was ambitious, and over two years of dedication and risk-taking led to transformative outcomes for our female-identifying community, the Dove business and the collective client/agency teams. For me success is not all about awards, but I’m particularly proud of winning the golden trifecta of the Cannes Glass Lion, the Jay Chiat Award, and Global Effies – which collectively recognise creativity in service of social good, strategy and effectiveness, which I believe are the ultimate markers of successful work.

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

To be honest, I am always learning, and looking back on my career, that is the stand-out lesson for me. The hunger to continue learning allows you to be relevant and navigate the complexities of our ever-changing landscape. This curiosity has guided me through changing trends, team dynamics and brought me comfort in embracing uncertainty and innovation. It also influences how I show up for the team, and fostering a culture of learning and curiosity is crucial. This culture of learning has fuelled personal and professional growth, and is still my guiding principle today as CEO.

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

I’m particularly passionate about this one! I believe there are two types of account people, and the exceptional ones are like orchestra conductors, leading with strategic finesse rather than just handling administrative tasks and, almost worse, being too salesy. They understand (and are passionate!) about the nuances of the client’s business and industry and understand how to marry this with the agency offerings to create the most impactful work. Exceptional account people have a strong point of view and are respected by both client and agency teams. They also have the ability to bring out the best in everyone on their team, and finally, and most importantly, they're trusted confidants to their clients, offering valuable insights and strategic guidance to tackle challenges head-on.

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

For me, the best client/agency relationships are built on trust – and with these foundations, this is where the magic will happen. Open communication, where opinions flow freely, is also key to building mutual respect. Genuine care for the client and their goals, along with looking out for the team's well-being, strengthens the bond. By truly integrating into our clients' teams, grasping their businesses, and making their goals our goals, we make partnerships that go beyond transactions, ensuring lasting success. Being a leader, has only reinforced these principles, highlighting the enduring importance of trust and communication in fostering strong client partnerships.

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

For those aiming to shine as account professionals, here's my advice: seize every opportunity, stay curious, and champion your clients and team with passion. Collaboration and a unique perspective are crucial. Embrace challenges as chances to grow and most of all, you will spend a lot of time at work, so love what you do and have fun!


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