Tell us about who you are and what your job title is?
Julie Suntrup, Executive Vice President at Amélie Company. Steward of brands, causes and initiatives looking to make change and influence behaviors for the greater good. Connector of CPG, retail and healthcare brand marketing knowledge. Lover of yoga, travel and the art of cooking.
Was there a job you had at one point, outside of advertising, that prepared you most for success later in life?
Without question, being a product of a large family prepared me for success in life. We all had to work hard for what we wanted. My dad was one of 15 children, and I’m one of five. Whatever I had growing up was way more than my father ever had in terms of money or physical possessions. At the age of 12, he put me on a budget. I learned the value of a dollar and hard work at an early age. The idea of being hungry for things I wanted is what created my strong work ethic. I believe so much is possible through one simple thing – hard work.
What do you see as being the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the “glass ceiling”?
The biggest change I’ve seen is more women playing dynamic roles such as CCO or CMO for global, publicly held agencies. They have made real contributions to agency growth and diversity. That is exciting! One of the challenges that still exists is the proverbial work-life balance conundrum, as odd and long hours are generally associated with the ad industry. There’s also the need to recognize that women think and manage differently than men (and that’s ok).
From Like A Girl to Fearless Girl, a raft of advertising campaigns have set out to empower women. How do you feel about these campaigns? Can they change attitudes within the industry?
I love it. I think those campaigns are empowering. I hope they inspire people to continue to find ways to reach audiences with worthy messages – all kinds of messages of acceptance – through a variety of channels.
How have the recent #MeToo and #TimesUp movements played out in the advertising sector? Are they making a significant impact?
I think it’s too early to tell the impact. Yes, it’s a messaging trend and certainly an important one. But is that really going to play out in the advertising sector with brands giving a voice to the movement? I’m not sure. What we are seeing at Amélie is a trend for brands to express their inner goodness – whether that’s by eliciting positive behavior change; communicating how a product is made or what it’s made of; sustainability efforts; and corporate social responsibility. One of our goals here is to help those brands communicate their innate goodness and make a positive impact on people’s lives.
Initiatives such as Free The Bid are trying to create more opportunities for women in advertising. But what could be done at a more grass roots level to attract women in the first place?
Looking at the grassroots level, a lot of this could be done in high school, actually. That’s when we start to form real opinions of what we want to do when we “grow up”. I don’t think careers in advertising are truly marketed or necessarily understood sometimes. It seems a bit ambiguous and non-descript. Sure, they have marketing clubs like DECA and students develop campaigns in order to run for class president or president of student council. This is where tangible role models come into play, to help bring this to life, for both women and men.
Can you reflect on a mentor that helped guide you in your career and tell us what made them special?
One of my mentors, Steve Burrows, ran the international division of Anheuser-Busch. I admired the way he interacted with everyone – his assistant, his team, his agency support. Steve treated everyone as equals and he made people smile and laugh. I always felt better after having spent time with him. One of the quotes Steve used to hang on the wall around the office, I still appreciate and value to this day: “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it” – Charles R. Swindoll.
How do you as a successful woman plan to inspire the next generation of women? In a few words, what advice do you have for women entering the advertising industry?
I’m not sure I have a formal plan to inspire the next generation, other than to be more intentional about it than I have been in the past. I strive to be a good role model, share past experiences, be honest about fears and what I’ve learned, help coach, be open and transparent. My advice: It doesn’t cost a cent to be kind, be a role model or a mentor. Do it. Help other women along.