Interview with Ethel Sanchez

Join me as I have a conversation with Ethel Sanchez, Head of Strategy and Analytics at NUWORKS Interactive Labs in the Philippines. As she shares her 3 pieces of advice for a strategist, her strategy journey,  and what she found most helpful in joining the Planning Dirty Academy. 

Welcome. My name’s Julian Cole and today’s guest is Ethel Sanchez. Who’s head of strategy and analytics at new work interactive in the Philippines. Now Ethel, my first question to you is what’s your best three pieces of advice for strategists. Hi Julian. All right. Um, three best pieces of advice for strategists.

Um, first would be to master. The language of business. No, this is really important. Specially. Now there’s plenty of resources online and business model design, supply chains, revenue, and cost structures read up for soon. You want me talking to clients and marketing alone, but also to the rest of the functional areas of business.

So we rarely have to elevate the thinking now from brand strategy to total business strategy, because there’s no more line that divides that. So, yep. First it’s mastered the language of business. Second would be to lead the accountability agenda. So brief or solutions that deliver the greatest impact to business goals now.

And, um, lead the measurement agenda. Also measure the impact you make. Define and communicate the value it brings to the business and just, don’t give up on finding a common language to align creative and business impact because that’s the only way to protect our work and to protect our industry. The third one would be to keep your mind humble and open.

So it saddens me when agencies try too hard to like prove each other wrong as if there’s one superior way of thinking or doing things. We’re all like really creative people thinking differently, but in one boat, Fighting for the work over our minds to be valued appropriately in this new world. So especially for us planners, the core principles of creative strategy are the same and unchanging it.

GNC’s just evolve that into forms that best serve their strategic directions, their unique set of clients, their heritage, their strengths, but rather than simply being part of some code, understand the brilliance and beauty in every piece of agency thinking philosophy, you can lay your eyes on. And use all of that.

That’s a foundation of your own vision, your own style and your own story. I love it. That’s so good. And, and I love the idea of leading the accountability because that often gets missed. I feel like in agencies, especially creative agencies, they often kind of, it just goes into the void. Everyone’s focused on the creative and then no, one’s really taking the reins of how are we going to measure the success of this and the accountability.

And I felt like when I was in America, at least also was a little off. They, the. Um, accountability was definitely on for media agencies, but not creative. So really I really love, um, that goal there. Um, Ethel I’d love, you’ve had a great history. Um, so I’d love to hear your past and how you got, um, in strategy and where you are today.

Okay. Um, all right. So. I will go as far back as college. So torn between psychology and business. I pursued both degrees in college, not knowing the future value in that fusion, neck, psych, um, consumer understanding and business and marketing. So after college, I had short stints in market research and media planning out of curiosity, before finding home in strategic planning, where I spent the last 13 years with a diverse mix of agencies, every role switched deliberately very different from.

Whatever it was, I was getting comfortable doing at that time. So each move of painful one, they were all awesome agencies, but the pace of change in the world of business made me restless. I knew I had to keep moving to stretch every muscle in my planner brain, across agency thinking philosophies and specializations across markets and across categories.

So it was my first agency, Saatchi and Saatchi that opened my eyes to the idea of creative solving, creativity, solving bigger problems in the world. So there was this, um, Asia wide, um, planners competition called what’s the big idea. And that was early 2004. And I remember really enjoying, you know, thinking of solutions, such as like a wearable location tracker, um, with an emergency bottle and for vulnerable segments, like kids, seniors, or the physically handicapped.

And, um, it’s particularly memorable because five years after I saw that exact gadget in something like a gallery of the future in Tokyo, and it was so proud that I thought of that exact thing as a young planner inspired by the competition and the challenge to think big and beyond. Key visuals and taglines.

I carried that thrilling restlessness about the future with me, the McHenry led strategy for creative initiatives and for a number of years, champion the agencies digital acceleration program on top of day-to-day brand planning work. So I spent seven happy years there, marveling at the power of truth, um, in directing creative energy to its most impactful purposes.

After that I pursued, um, or regional planning role in Singapore, it was a life decision to expand my horizon by working in another country. But also at the time there was something happening in regional client hubs causing local agencies to lose accounts. For some reason, I was keen on understanding why and how agency work was being valued as big client companies who are going through centralization.

And as part of the bigger, you know, they had this global productivity agenda. It was just beginning at the time, and it was worried for the local creative industry. And so I gathered what I could gather, um, to get a sense of how we could future proof, our industry. Here back home. And from there recognizing that, you know, if we’re able to expand our creative expertise from craft to creative business solutions, that will be the way the future proof the industry.

I came back to Manila to learn and practice, um, creative planning. Um, for this one agency that’s very close to our hearts, JC BBD O I had a wonderful time. Um, Planning for work that works, but then the fight went on. Everyone wanted the great work yet campaign budgets and campaign cycles continue to shrink.

And so when an opportunity came to join the client side, I jumped at the chance to once and for all fully understand what was really happening on that side. And it was, um, for a while marketing effectiveness champion and managed some brands as well. And on my last year led the e-commerce a lot for the EDU, um, Philippines.

And this gave me visibility of the imminent digitalization of everything, the pressure. Performance measurement that attractiveness of in-housing as an option for creative resources and the marketing analytics and e-commerce, uh, imperatives that was really eerie at the time, um, at pilot stage. But, but now becoming more of like, um, A must do.

And I guess the gist of it would be that the agile opened my eyes to why agencies are facing such huge risk of having misplaced or misunderstood value in all of that. But thankfully, I got a lot of insight too, in terms of like how to exactly. Reverse it. And so all that shape the vision in my mind of the agency of the future, like to future proof, you know, the industry digital expertise is non-negotiable for sure, but it’s not even medium expertise that matters most, but creativity with accountable impact, um, impact.

And that impact not being confined within marketing, but throughout the value chain this time. So that vision, um, Fortunately earned me a scholarship at the Berlin school. It was my essay. I wrote about it and that earned me, um, a scholarship. And that has really in school has been my window to the global crisis of creativity until now it, it just keeps my eyes open to.

The agencies all over the world, struggling to protect the value of creativity, amidst short-termism measurement obsessional, and, um, the automation of creative craft. They moved in housing, everything, and I realized. Uh, I would just want it to be a planner again, you know, and I wanted to prove that the agency model wasn’t a scent and won’t be broken as long as we’re able to keep up with creativity’s expanding applications and commit the creative work that’s accountable.

Um, and we just need to make the, the value. That creativity brings the business clearer, and that can be the planners, you know, agenda. We have always been the masters of measurement, um, research, making sure that everything is grounded on, on insight, the conscience behind the work. And so. I think we’re really in the best position to defend that.

Um, and to make it clear, understand business problems better and be ready to expand our expertise from campaigns to experiences, tools, and platforms that businesses in a way favor, because they are they’re measurable. They’re accountable. The effectiveness is, is, is, um, irrefutable. And so that vision brought me to new works.

So, um, I guess. It was a long story. I’m sorry, but that, that all of that just brought me to where I am now. Um, new work is an innovations agency here in the Philippines and wherever a business may have the opportunity to deliver value in the consumer journey. So that’s where we stretch. What’s possible with data, creativity and technology also combined.

To help with business innovation. So scope ranging from social media activations to branded games, to learning portals bots and online stores, and really enjoying the chance to pursue all the vision in my head, uh, with this brief theme, now that I’m with. Yeah, that’s great. And, um, an amazing journey luck with iconic agents.

And then, you know, Diasio has always been known for the great ma like marketing teams and, and such a strong confidence in marketing. So I feel like that would have been so good, but also kind of sounds like you were coming back to that original idea, you know, of digital and creativity and technology. Um, and what that can do the boundaries of that.

So it sounds like you’re on an exciting journey still, so great. Great to hear. And, and I’d love to hear how you, how you, because you’ve been with the planning dirty Academy for over a year. Now. I’d love to hear how you first came across it. And then what value it’s, uh, what’s value it has been to you. Oh, okay.

I came across it sometime. How’s it’s been more than a year now, I think, but I remember just, um, doing freelance work, um, for, for, for VBD also before, um, before finally, um, starting with Newark. So it was just like a brief freelance, um, freelancing standard I had with them and we were, I was with the planners and one of the blacks there’s was, was like saying, um, that he S.

Uh, hoarding some decks, some really useful decks. And, and he was like, look, look, look at this. This is like, I wish I saw this, like when I was starting. And then I started, wow, finally, someone someone’s putting all these things together, what used to be just, you know, find your way through it. And somehow we had, we were able to build this a community, some unwritten.

Rules of like how to attack things. And then here we are very, very sharply and, um, you know, well-designed structures in place also simplified for beginners, simple enough for beginners to understand, but also not compromising on the essentials and the fundamentals and what you really should get right from the very beginning.

And so that’s how I discovered planning there. The end. Um, I eventually subscribed because I said, I just wanted to refresh, like really go back. It was like going back to planning. I just want to go back and review everything again. But also moving forward, I say, build a team. Um, I wanted this to be like our go to no training program.

Um, so yeah. Recently, what I found really useful. So aside from, you know, everything’s useful, um, it’s a tough question to answer because everything planning there, it is very useful for any planner. Um, extremely useful. It’s a guide to all the important aspects of the job. It’s got all the rigor, as well as the hacks.

Every planner would need to move quickly to a position of strength, influence, and confidence as a thought leader in any agency. But recently I found it. What I found really, um, very helpful also was your advice on being the over-protective parent, the young planners. So be the over-protective variant and we just all went through a very challenging 2020 and with timings getting shorter pitches happening here and there briefs becoming more complex or ambiguous.

Um, remote work and meetings is just way harder for young planners to be the confident thinkers and influencers. Um, we need them to be, and when things are moving really fast, it’s generally harder to think, to ask questions, to ask for time, protect your thinking time or the necessary resources and conversations so that you can continue delivering quality strategy, which the planners is not negotiable.

They can reduce my thinking time, but you know, we just have this personal barometer of like what quality thinking should be. And we don’t want to lose that. Um, even with all the pressure. So you got to protect them. So protect the young planners through all of that pressure and your tips on building their confidence, creating a safe space for them to just really converse with you and to find their voice, their own voice, and getting them to find their own specialization.

That’s like a starting point and anchor for their confidence, and then they can move from there. Uh, Excellent. So it’s really, it’s been very helpful in keeping my team sane and strong. Very thankful to the planning 30 Academy for that. Yeah. It’s, it’s true though. Isn’t it? Like, you’ve been a leader in a number of places, so you’d, you’d say this as well, but it’s just strategy is all about confidence.

And, and that’s the number one thing we’ve got to protect is that confidence in other strategists and it comes from education, but then it also comes from having someone in senior leadership. Who’s, you know, protecting you from everything else as well, or, you know, will at least have your back. If you go into.

Discussion. Well, thank you so much, Ethel. This has been great. Love you love your journey and loved the advice, uh, bringing accountability back. Um, that’s, that’s our role as strategist. So thank you for chatting today. Thank you for having me add fun. Thanks.


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