In this week’s ’10 minutes with…’, UM London’s Lydia van den Dries talks about the importance of mentorship, using the power of news brands to amplify voices and why she needs to get hold of a bigger table…
How did you get into the advertising industry?
In my last year of uni I thought advertising looked like fun, so I applied to lots of creative agency grad schemes as they were the only jobs I’d heard of – I had no idea what a media agency was back then!
I didn’t get a single reply, so I decided to put myself through the same training programme that a lot of creative agencies were putting their own grads on – Google Squared. During the course I was put in a group with a planner from Mindshare. She put my CV forward as she knew I was looking for a job, and after a successful interview I started in the Digital Display team.
The Display and Print teams merged, then after a year I realised I wanted more creativity in my job, so I moved into the Partnerships team. Fast forward a couple more years and I’m still loving the Partnerships life, here at UM.
What is your proudest career highlight?
One particular highlight has been the mentoring programmes I’ve been part of as they’ve allowed me to use my experience to help others entering the industry.
At Mindshare I mentored a school leaver deciding whether to go to university or take an apprenticeship, and at UM I’ve mentored a business school masters student graduating into a competitive job market. Having the chance to share my knowledge and guide others to forge their own path has been very rewarding.
What ad campaign or person do you admire most? (Other than your own campaigns!)
The Sex Education series 3 OOH posters. They have the tagline “growth is a group project” at the top and feature beautiful botanical illustrations next to each character of flower or plant that represents their personality. I love flowers so the thoughtful descriptions and unique aesthetic of the art direction really appealed to me.
Best piece of advice you’ve received?
Setting boundaries doesn’t make you selfish.
Why does advertising matter?
Advertising has the potential to shape culture, spark conversation and drive positive change. It’s everywhere, inescapable, so the representations and messages advertising sends out are being constantly received by society. Advertising is important because of its ability to influence.
What’s your favourite ad campaign featured in news brands?
Working in Partnerships, I’ve got to choose a partnership over an ad campaign, and I loved the Levi’s partnership with The Guardian for their ‘Your Voice. Your Way.’ project.
They took eight young creatives with no previous newspaper experience and gave them the opportunity to produce a zine to be distributed in the Saturday Guardian. The project was created to amplify the voices of young people who aren’t always heard. The eight talents represented a diverse portrait of modern Britain very much in keeping with the values of both brands.
Everything produced also had to work online as well, so all the contributors received introductions to the traditional skills of print layout and magazine “flow”, and how to translate the same work online.
Because of the pandemic, the Guardian, Levi’s and the talent all had to work over Google Hangouts and WhatsApp groups, making it even more of an achievement. To see a news brand giving young people a voice and access to the industry in this way is something I’d love to see more of.
You’re a journalist for a day: what would you cover?
I’d cover the climate emergency: how we can all make a difference and why we should care. The more people who understand the gravity of the situation, the better chance we have of slowing down the demise of our planet.
How does journalism matter to you?
Journalism holds tremendous power. It tells the stories of our time in a way that can be understood by the masses. It allows people to form opinions, educate themselves, and can shape culture in a similar way to advertising – only perhaps with more potency as people trust journalism more than they trust advertising!
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
I’m a big fan of podcasts so find a lot of inspiration through guests of the shows I listen to.
Who are your fantasy dinner party guests?
AA Gill and Anthony Bourdain (if they were both still with us), Michaela Coel, Wes Anderson, Stanley Tucci, Frank Ocean, Margot Robbie, Saoirse Ronan, and Angela Scanlon. Quite a random bunch, but I’d ask them all to bring a plus one so they don’t feel awkward coming round for dinner with me and my husband and a load of strangers. We’re going to need a big table…
How do you switch off from work?
My work is very computer-based, so the antidote to that is getting out in nature – I love a walk in the park or along a river. I’m a firm believer in ‘grounding’ so like to sit or stand on the grass and to walk amongst flowers.
I do love a good book, although I’ve got back into The Office (US version, sorry UK!) on Netflix so that screen time creeps back up more than I’d like. Seeing friends for a laugh and a drink is such a great switch-off from work too.
If you weren’t in the advertising industry, you would be…?
I’d be either a florist or a flower farmer. Or perhaps I’d own a little shop that sells zero-waste products, books and flowers, maybe with a couple of tables for a bit of coffee and cake – maybe the shop wouldn’t be so little after all!
Gym or gin?
Both. Gym to compensate for all the gin…