Culture Is Key to the Success: Pauline Oudin, Managing Director & Partner, Gradient

by Dasha Ovsyannikova

On behalf of AdForum, we hope you are staying safe during this unprecedented time and its challenges.

Although our world is dominated by virus, we have made a decision to publish interviews we conducted earlier this month. These interviews are virus-unrelated, so we hope they provide some inspiration, relief and rejuvenation! We are in this together and because of this, we are upholding our commitment to our clients, to publish news and insights. 
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Above all, be safe. 

How would you describe the overall culture at your agency / company? 

Culture is key to the success of a talent-based business, so Gradient has actually put quite a bit of strategic thinking into our own culture. So I can quite confidently state that our agency is very collaborative. That is usually the first thing new team members notice. While we are creatively-led, we all realize the importance of every point of view to balance out the thinking, from the account team's perspective of the client's needs, to the production team's perspective of timeline and budget realities, to strategy's team's understanding of consumer trends and needs, to digital's perspective on social trends and content creation needs. All of that back and forth, push and pull, tempers the strong creative visions until we find the best possible solution for our clients. To that key element, we add a strong dose of pride in our work and joy for the process. We really do enjoy working together!


In your opinion, what do you see as the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the glass ceiling?

I personally believe that there is more listening now. I believe women don't come with as many preconceived notions of what is the right fix, which is how these very collaborative efforts, which is key in experiential marketing, can succeed.


Do you think that women still face challenges in our industry, and if so, what are they? 

I think there is still a hero-worship attitude in our industry, which makes people go back to a few star names, which are pretty much all men as they are the ones that tend to push the "I" vs the "We." Brands believe that they have to pay for the hero to ensure they can get the "killer show," when they don't realize that a hero is often a diva with a great PR team. A strong team will usually get you a more strategic approach with a significantly more enjoyable road to the finish line.


How should we tackle an issue such equal opportunity? 

I do believe that leveraging technology to help make the recruiting process more "blind" can be very helpful, with digital personality and capability assessments prior to meetings ever happening. To that, we can push for more and more transparency. The Nordic countries have implemented a completely transparent salary system. As a business manager, it sounds a little scary to implement, but that would probably be the way to address equal opportunity/equal pay.


How did you find your way into the marketing communications industry and what professional achievement are you most proud of?

Interestingly, going back to my previous comment about the power of smart online assessments, I actually did a similar evaluation when in college to help guide my professional counseling. The results came back with the first recommendation for officer training in the military. The runner up was advertising. I started researching the industry and the careers within it and fell in love. I haven't looked back since! As for my most cherished professional achievement, it always comes down to creating a truly enjoyable place to work, which I believe I managed to implement both here at Gradient, and in my last agency. We spend so much time with our coworkers, that creating an environment that fosters excellence, while promoting personal growth and high satisfaction levels, is what I thrive on. My professional pride is made up on accumulation of everyday successes.


Who inspires you the most, either inside the industry or outside? Why?

Most recently, I was deeply inspired by the author and speaker Brené Brown. After reading a few of her books, and watching her available speaking engagements, I worked through her guidance on how to lead through vulnerability - a very "feminine" concept, which spoke very loudly to me, and resonates strongly with the talented team members at Gradient. One strong woman can make such an impact.