Judith O'Leary

Interview with Judith O'Leary

Founder & MD of Represent Comms

We caught up with The Star Awards 2019, Chairman's Award for First Time Entry Agency winner, Judith O'Leary, Founder and MD of Represent Comms. 

You won the Marketing Society Star Award for the Chairman’s Award for first time entry (Agency) and recently you’ve been recognised as the Creative Industries Leader of the Year at the Scottish Women’s Awards. So it’s been quite the year for you so far. What does winning these awards mean to you personally and as a business?

Awards are a great way of getting your brand known – we recommend it to clients as part of an integrated communications strategy, so for me it is important to lead by example!

Personally, I am hugely proud to be leading an agency that wins awards especially if the award is given by leaders in the industry such in the case of the Chairman’s award.

The Marketing Society’s new mission is to Empower Brave Leaders, What does being a Brave leader mean to you?

Being brave is very much part of being a great leader.  Feel the fear and do it anyway has always been my mantra – it is hugely empowering not only for myself but for the team who adopt this approach also.  That isn’t to say I don’t weigh up the potential risks of my actions before making a decision – that’s important especially when you have peoples’ livelihoods in your hands.    

How do you think the quality of Scotland’s Marketing Industry compares globally? 

Sometimes we think and act locally rather than globally, and this can be seen in the quality of some of the creative work that is churned out.  Being ahead of the curve on trends and anticipating what our audiences are looking for next will ensure we create awe inspiring campaigns that are held in high regard globally.

Are there any brands that you’ve got your eye on or would like to work with?

In my past life I have worked on Warburtons, Kleenex and Huggies – I would love to work with a large FMCG brand again. I miss being part of an-agency collaborative approach that big brands with big budgets adopt.  This is how truly integrated campaigns are created when all agencies including creative, media, PR and digital communications work together from the outset.

You’ve worked with some brilliant brands. What has been your stand out favourite campaign to work on and why?

Like children you can’t have favourites … but I did love working on the Silverburn launch.  The creative designed by Three Brand was amazing and that gave us so much to work with. Currently we are working on the Wallace Monument and that is a great account to work on especially the Hall of Heroes campaign where two inspiring women were invested as a result of a public vote.  Finally, nothing can beat the excitement of the Royal Highland Show. We have worked on this account for nearly 15 years and every year we push the boundaries across social, print and broadcast.  The increase in visitor numbers each year is proof that what we are doing is working.

What do you think are going to be the main challenges for agencies in the next two years?

Without doubt it is finding and retaining talent.  Scotland is short of great people and we are finding we have to recruit from London agencies to get the caliber of people we want at Represent.  The strength of the Edinburgh brand and the quality of life in Scotland compared to the Capital makes it possible to move people to here and in order to retain this talent we need to offer great working conditions including flexible working and career progression.

We’ve recently launched applications for our Employer Brand of the Year Awards with Denholm Associates. What advice to you have for our member organisations who are keen to work towards a diverse and inclusive workforce? And what would you say the culture is like at Represent?

Our culture comes from our Why which is Make it Amazing. That’s the standard we hold ourselves to every day and this is what drives our focus. It’s that dizzying, heart pounding, ear ringing sensation that great work creates and we are only truly satisfied when we can answer, honestly, “Yes. That’s amazing.”  That’s our manifesto and informs everything we do.


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