meet the md
What it's like to be MD of BBH: "It was the best decision of my career"
Meet BBH's managing director Holly Ripper, who believes you should always trust your instinct
12 December 2022
Holly Ripper was promoted from managing partner to managing director of BBH in February this year, having worked at the agency since 2015. She previously worked at Ogilvy and Havas in Sydney.
She is credited with bedding in and leading the agency's key Tesco account, as well as running account management and new business. She was instrumental in winning the Ribena account last year.
Holly is passionate about cultivating a culture at BBH that sets the stage for people to do the best work of their careers and is committed to building back differently post-Covid, with a focus on flexibility, empathy and efficiency.
We caught up with her to talk about her role.
How did you get into advertising?
In my former years I worked with the team at Nike to help persuade their male directors that a market existed for the young, female sports enthusiast, like me (back then, less so now). A few years later I spent a summer with the marketing department, visiting the Nike Secret Cage Tournament at the Millenium Dome, Launching Elvis vs. JXL at Nike Town, meeting their Wimbledon tennis pros and playing cricket with Wieden & Kennedy. I was sold.
And why BBH?
The Guardian’s "Three Little Pigs", Refuge x Lauren Luke "How to look your best the morning after (domestic abuse)" and Lynx "Astronaut" had all come out a few years before I joined and then in 2015 BBH won Tesco. What an incredible opportunity to apply all that strategic and creative brilliance to a British institution with no differentiation in the market, with trust levels at a 4-year low and customers trading up or down. It was the best decision of my career.
What does your current role entail?
In a word. Balance.
The past with the future.
The needs of our people, our clients and our own business.
The push for difference whilst maintaining pragmatism.
Empathy with action.
Our whole world has been turned upside down in the last few years and we have the responsibility to put it back together better, but not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
What do you enjoy most about your current role?
When I interviewed for the role I promised to make good things happen. I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to make meaningful change for our people, our clients and our work (although Helen Rhodes, ECD said she’s glad I’m kept busy as MD as it stops me writing as many endlines).
... and what would you like to change?
Make BBH the most modern, different business it can be - while not losing the timeless truths that make our work great. A part of that is the diversity of our staff in all respects, not for diversity's sake but because it gives us a better understanding of the people we serve so we can make work that speaks to them and it makes our culture better.
What's the best thing about working for BBH?
The people. I am in awe of the brilliance, resilience and wit I see throughout my day. Everyone is good and nice and that is incredibly powerful and exhilarating to be around.
How does the BBH legacy play out today?
We are so fortunate to have an incredible brand that has been synonymous with The Power of Difference for the last 40 years; through the craft of our creative, the calibre of the people and the effectiveness of the work we make. None of that is going to change.
But the world looks very different today, post-Brexit, BLM, the MeToo movement, Covid and now the COL crisis. We need to use this as an opportunity to put ourselves and the industry back together with more empathy, more difference and more avenues for creative brilliance.
Do you meet up with your opposite numbers in other Publicis Groupe agencies?
Yes! Carly Avener is a great ally but I am also lucky to have worked at BBH with many brilliant women now leading agencies around the industry; Cressida Holmes Smith from LG, Helen James from CPB and of course Polly McMorrow from McCann. It’s an amazing support network for a new MD.
What advice would you have for people joining the industry?
Rely on your gut instinct. With the people you meet, the ideas you fight for, the jobs you get offered, the points of view you challenge, the time to stay put, the time to find a new adventure and most importantly, when to leave the pub.
What campaign that you've worked on are you most proud of?
Tesco Mobile. Supermarket Mobile is a big platform idea with a humble, witty, distinct tone of voice that only Tesco could do. We worked hand in hand with our brilliant clients to make it happen across all channels and it’s only going to get better. The ASA ban on "What the shiitake" and "They’re taking the pistachio" was a personal career highlight.
Where would you like your career to go next?
I’m still learning new things in this role and I have a formidable, fun and generous leadership team around me to help guide and challenge. My focus is on building strong client partnerships, nurturing an awesome culture and making the best work of my career. All here at BBH. It’s a very special place.