meet the md
What it's like to be MD of The&Partnership: "We need to keep pushing the boundaries of what we do"
Sarah Clark has been a key part of The&Partnership for over 20 years. We find out what's kept her so fired up
21 February 2023
Sarah Clark, who is a planner by background, joined The&Partnership (then known as Clemmow Hornby Inge) in 2002 from TBWA\London.
During her career at the agency she has led some of the agencies biggest accounts, including British Gas, Argos and Carphone Warehouse. She was promoted to joint managing director, alongside Gary Simmons in 2017.
We caught up with her to find out what keeps her loyal to the agency and what lessons she's learned.
You’ve worked at The&Partnership in its various iterations for over 20 years – what’s kept you there?
Unquestionably the people - my brilliant mentors, peers, team, and partners alike, both client and agency side. I have been lucky enough to build wonderful relationships both within and outside of the agency – and it’s the partnership, friendship, and shared ambition that we share that has defined the last 20 years for me. We roll up our sleeves to crack problems together, we laugh together, we challenge each other and support each other in equal measure. Lots of faces have change and many have stayed the same. So much of who I am is wrapped up in this partnership, and all of the brilliant people who have been part of it over the years - I am enormously proud of all we have achieved together and even more excited about what’s to come.
And what keeps you fired up now?
That there is so much more to do, achieve and create together. Our creative work is better than ever, our people are more inspiring than ever, our clients are more collaborative and ambitious than ever, so the sky is the limit if we keep pushing, innovating, and making brave decisions. So, what really fires me up is the ambition of our partnership – for our clients, for our people and for the work. Together we help brands unlock their super-powers – what could be more exciting than that?
What’s the biggest challenge that you think the industry will face in 2023?
Our industry has to truly deliver on commitments made – there has been more talk than ever about a more representative industry both in terms of the people within it, and the work we create together. We’re at a crossroads where we must walk the talk and be held to account for the true difference we have made (or not made) Targets are good, achieving them is better. Nothing worth doing ever came easy, but in 2023 we must collectively demonstrate genuine progress.
What’s the biggest challenge that you think you’ll face as MD in 2023?
Ensuring our people continue to thrive - achieving their career goals and life goals in equal measure, and making the best work of their lives in the process. Much of that is fuelled by the unique culture we create together - so we’re all working hard to keep that culture alive and well in a new hybrid working future. We must get the balance right between vibrant, energetic inspiring collaborative working spaces and the solo working time we have all come to relish too. So, I’d say ‘getting the balance right’ is our biggest challenge, because that’s where the magic happens.
In your six years as MD, what has been your proudest achievement to date?
Our work for RNIB that has transformed them from just another charitable organisation into an award-winning accessible design leader with work that genuinely makes a difference. A pregnancy test that is accessible for the blind and partially sighted, a supermarket experience that is inclusive rather than exclusive and the most accessible visual identity in the world. Seeing Helen, Katherine, Ed, Benedict, Angus, Yan, Joe, Donno, Hannah, Amy, Sarah, Ted, Adam, and countless others getting the recognition they deserve – their achievements are my source of pride. Genuine, impactful change through design, innovation and tremendous team effort across the board.
How would you describe The&Partnership’s mantra of entrepreneurial creativity?
For me, that means we solve problems with creativity – and we challenge ourselves to do that in ever fresh and compelling ways. A very smart colleague of mine once told me that ‘the future of advertising won’t look like advertising’ and those words have stuck with me. We need to keep pushing the boundaries of what we do – whether it’s building a mood hotel for Argos, designing an accessible pregnancy test for RNIB, getting 6 billion TikTok views for NatWest or creating an urban jungle in Westminster for The Times. We are beyond lucky to work in this creative playground, let’s keep stretching the boundaries of what we can do, and partner harder to create the work of our lives.
You’ve had an enduring personal relationship with the longstanding British Gas account. What piece of work are you most proud of?
Well, it’s coming, and we are absolutely busting to get it out into the world in 2023.
Apart from that, (can you sense my excitement?) it would be either…
Our covid spot – made in 10 days, smashing through the glum pandemic ad breaks with some optimism, no mention of ‘in these unprecedented times’ and testament to a brilliant team, on their A-game, pulling together to do what they do best. At British Gas and T&P.
Or our "Straight Answers" campaign that has helped, and continues to help, navigate the nation through this energy and cost of living crisis. To work with an organisation ready to step up and show leadership in the most challenging of times, fill the vacuum left by changing leadership in government and offer pragmatic help to anyone, whether a customer or not. That’s got to be work to be proud of.