Inspirational Woman: Claire Hollands | Chief Executive Officer at MullenLowe

I’m a passionate Agency leader focused on creativity, growth, and change management. 

Since joining MullenLowe in 2021 we have integrated three Agencies into one to create a more creatively driven, and integrated, Agency with a strong entrepreneurial spirit and challenger mentality. We ended last year as No. 1 in the new business rankings, which is a testament to the progress we’ve made in a short space of time. 

Previously, I was Chief Client Officer at AMV BBDO – Cannes Lions Agency of the Year in 2021. Whilst at AMV I led some of AMV BBDO’s biggest global and domestic brands and led a change agenda across the Agency around our proposition to Clients including project-led model and our social, digital and production offerings. 

I am known as an honest, creative, and collaborative leader. I look to build inclusive cultures with ‘high support, high challenge’ as I believe that’s when people are at their best. With two small children at home, part of my role  is to help carve the path for the next generation of working parents as we adapt to life post-COVID. 

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your current role

Over the last twenty years, I’ve worked in some of the best creative agencies in town and worked on some of the nation’s most loved brands. I’m currently CEO of MullenLowe – an integrated creative agency. If you don’t know the name, you will know our work, not least, as we led all the communications during the COVID-19 pandemic. Outside of work, I have recently become a trustee of the Roald Dahl Marvellous Children’s Charity – an incredible charity helping families with children with life-limiting conditions. At home, family life is chaotic with two small girls – Lottie who’s just started year 1 and Kitty who’s at nursery.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes, but for a career in Medicine. It was only by studying Medicine at University I realised it was completely the wrong career for me. Deciding to exit was a big decision but one I’ve never looked back on. The change made me follow my passions, be comfortable with the unknown and stay true to myself regardless of judgment along the way.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

I think one of the hardest things is getting into our industry. I had to knock on doors and sofa surf to get my first break. Along the way, there have been plenty of challenges and failures, but I think that’s what makes us learn and grow in a good way. Importantly, I’ve also challenged myself. Especially when I’ve been in my comfort zone, I’ve pushed to change up my role or even move. I always want to keep learning.

How did you persevere through the tough times?

Keeping things in perspective is important. We’re not saving lives. Over the years, I’ve learned the hard way what matters. My kids have also helped me bring more of that perspective to work. I also think it’s about having the right people around you. Sometimes it’s easy to take that for granted until it’s not there anymore. Surround yourself with people you respect and like.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I’m not sure it’s an achievement per se, but watching my two girls grow up to be kind, curious, fun-loving human beings is one of the things I feel proudest about.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Treating people like you would want to be treated – fairness and honesty go a long way.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for some incredible mentors along the way. It’s why I’ve been a mentor over the years to lots of people but also supported initiatives like the Marketing Academy. Being a mentor is a real privilege. In my experience, people rarely say no if you ask them.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

The cost of childcare. In the UK we have the third highest childcare costs in Europe. Often, the maths just doesn’t add up for families. Especially if you have two kids and family at a distance who can’t help. I would love there to be more support for families and return-to-work parents especially in the early years.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?

It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Being a CEO and a Mum isn’t straightforward. I am at my best when my home life and my work life are thriving. My challenge is therefore a personal one, to make work, work for me and everyone around me. Bigger picture, post covid, and as flexible working get stress tested, I feel I have a responsibility to help carve out a path for the next generation of working parents coming through our industry.

Read more from our inspirational women here.

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