Interview

James Swift

8 February 2021

Bridget Angear & Craig Mawdsley’s Strategy Diet 

Contagious asks top advertising strategists about their media consumption and research habits

Have you ever wanted to know what the ad industry’s sharpest strategists feed their brains on a daily basis, or what resources they swear by when tackling a brief?

We have. So we’re asking.

Bridget Angear and Craig Mawdsley are two of the most experienced and revered strategists in UK advertising. They were appointed joint chief strategy officers at AMV BBDO in 2012 but vacated the agency last month. They have now set up their own strategy consultancy, Craig+Bridget. 

What media do you consume that makes you better at your job or helps you think about strategy generally?

Craig: It’s all podcasts for me, so many podcasts! I run in the mornings and it’s a great way to absorb information. More or less, Talking Politics, Intelligence Squared, Shane Parrish, The Economist, Full Fact, Pivot, Planet Money, Prof G...

Bridget: I would say stimulus for strategy can come from anywhere. I’m a big fan of podcasts when running, too. I tend to take the recommendations from The Week and listen to them. I love Radio 4 for its diverse, eclectic mix of content. I’ll read any book that is recommended in any genre. I tend to have one fiction and one factual book on the go.

Are there any resources that you typically turn to first when working on a brief?

Craig: Every brief is different! They all start with the blinking cursor on the Google search bar. I think there’s an art to the apt search term that can set you off on the right path. We are so privileged (and often take for granted) that the entire knowledge of the world is available to us. We forget that it hasn’t always been this way.

Bridget: The truth is, you have to know what you are looking for. Stastista is a useful source of data. Harvard Business School for case studies. Academic papers can be enlightening. Company reports often reveal what’s important.

Who is someone that you follow/read/watch for their opinions and ideas?

Craig: Ben Thompson’s Stratechery email and podcast is totally indispensable for understanding the modern world, by understanding the tech economy.

Bridget: I enjoy Mark Ritson. Even when I don’t always agree with him, I find his common sense, no bullshit view of marketing refreshing.

Walking. The secret way to get ideas. Anyone can do it. It always works.

Craig Mawdsley, Craig+Bridget

Is there anyone or any resource that you think strategists rely on too much that is counterproductive?

Craig: Social media. Taking screen shots of random things people have said on Twitter and pretending that it’s some kind of revelation about what people think. Totally misleading and counter productive.

Bridget: To answer that in a slightly different way, I think it is important for strategies to be grounded on facts and insight not subjective opinion. 

What do you think is the most underused resource for better strategy?

Craig: A proper academic understanding of the theories and research data that underpin business and economics.

Bridget: We both studied economics so no surprise we agree on this. 

Is there anywhere you go when you’re struggling with a brief or a place that seems to help you work or think?

Craig: 6am, running.

Bridget: 7am running.

Office etiquette: music or no music?

Craig: Music, all day, every day. I used to inflict it on Bridget when we shared an office. Remember offices? Ages ago! 

Bridget: No music. I like peace and quiet.  Although Craig does have good music taste.

What’s the best free resource for a strategist?

Craig: Walking. The secret way to get ideas. Anyone can do it. It always works.

Bridget: Talking to people. You always learn something.

What sort of media/resources would you recommend to someone just starting their career as a strategist?

Craig: Follow your nose. Read and listen to anything and everything that sparks your curiosity. Especially if it doesn’t seem at all relevant to the problem at hand.

Bridget: Be a curious generalist – read everything even if you don’t know how it will be useful. Be an expert specialist – know the brand and the category you are working in as well as you can. Be expert in how the business works and steep yourself in understanding the consumer.

What’s something that happened in pop culture that showed a better understanding of people than advertising?

Craig: YOU HAVE NO AUTHORITY HERE, JACKIE WEAVER.

Bridget: Marcus Rashford using his status to affect positive change. 

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