Polly McMorrow


'Jäegermeister in human form': Celebrating McCann London's Polly McMorrow

In the latest in our series on brilliant account people, McCann London CEO shares her wisdom

By Creative Salon

Polly McMorrow once bought an airline ticket just so that she could sit next to a client on a plane and sell them some work.

It's a story that sums up McMorrow's determined streak - a unique blend of ambition and empathy and illustrates her strengths as a brilliant account person.

McMorrow has led McCann London since 2022, but she was forged at BBH, the agency she joined as a graduate trainee in 2008 and where she was appointed managing director in 2020 in a promotion that recognised her expertise in managing huge accounts like Audi and driving new business.

As CEO of McCann London, McMorrow has assembled a new leadership crew with a stellar (female) cast across all disciplines - including Mel Arrow as chief strategy officer, Jemima Monies as chief operating officer and Regan Warner as executive creative director.

In a world where good taste can easily be overshadowed by metrics and bottom lines, McMorrow's reverence for quality elevates her leadership to an art form and makes her exceptional. She's a class act, and one steeped in the very best values that have characterised British advertising on the global stage: an uncompromising respect for creative and strategic excellence, a fierce commitment to client partnerships, a razor-sharp competitiveness, and a fundamental decency in everything that she does.

McMorrow's strategy partner, Arrow, says this about her: "Working with Polly is like working with Jäegermeister in human form. She’s passionate, energising, fast, articulate, opinionated and competitive. You will want to order a double.”

Polly McMorrow on being an Account Person

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

I once bought a flight purely so I could sit next to the client on the plane and sell them some work. Then I turned around and immediately came home again.

I guess a pretty typical situation – the senior client was wildly busy (understandable), the timeframe was wildly tight (unsurprising) and the work was entirely out of scope (far from ideal all-round). But we absolutely loved the idea, and face-to-face is sometimes the only way to really engage. Luckily, she loved it – together we made one of the best bits of work for Audi that year, certainly one of my favs. And it bonded us as partners. It’s these decisions that mean you truly ‘lead business’, rather than ‘account manage’. There’s a big difference. We call it Business Leadership here at McCann for that very reason.

On my gravestone it will probably say ‘let’s get on a plane and get over there to see the client.’

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

The more fearless I am, the more impact I make. Ultimately, it’s led to my best decisions, on people, on pitches, and on our client’s business.

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

Care. Really genuinely care about the client, their business, their career, their everything. It’s amazing how differently you approach things when you care about the impact.

There is no better example than Karen Martin. One of the many things I learnt working for her at BBH.

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


We talk about Truth Well Told at McCann. It’s arguably more relevant now than it was in 1912. It’s one of the many things I love about our business. We pride ourselves on revealing the truth about clients business and telling that story in the most compelling way.

Who are some of the most brilliant account women you have come across?

Katie Edwards, who runs our Reckitt business. Alison Webber, who runs our L’Oréal business. And everyone in the ‘messy middle’ of account management, often at the coalface, often spinning plates, often harder as a woman, often pretty bloody exhausting.

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

I am fiercely proud that we have world class women in the top of all the disciplines at McCann: Creative, Design, Strategy, HR, Ops, PM, Business leadership. Mostly I am proud that we are all very different, with different styles, lives, experiences, strengths, ambitions. We need to encourage women to have the same confidence in themselves to achieve whatever their dreams are – speak to Deborah Williams who runs TWA about this. She’s making huge impact in this space with her work with The Executive Challenge.


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