Women in Advertising: Tricia Russo, CSO at BBDO Atlanta

In honor of International Women’s Day, AdForum is showcasing the achievements of women in advertising in the month of March through a series of interviews.

by Jeff Finkle , Adforum
Tricia Russo
EVP, Chief Strategy Officer BBDO Atlanta

Perspectives: Women in Advertising: Tricia Russo, CSO, BBDO Atlanta



In honor of International Women’s Day, AdForum is showcasing the achievements of women in advertising in the month of March through a series of interviews. We would like to thank Tricia Russo, Chief Strategy Officer at BBDO Atlanta, for taking the time to offer her thoughts and reflect on her career.


AdForum: How would you describe the current overall culture at your agency? How would you describe the culture among your female colleagues and what are the differences?

Tricia: I think the culture is very positive.  Compared to when I started, I see significantly more sensitivity and openness to ideas and leadership coming from people of all shapes and sizes.  I feel that the culture among female colleagues is very strong and united. There’s a lot to be said for not being the only gender in a room, or, the majority gender w/ a male leader.  


The industry has made great effort and strides in focusing on leveling the gender disparity and it shows in the confidence we women feel in our roles and being able to be our most natural, best selves in those roles.  The key difference I see is the confidence women have to lean in to their natural talents and strengths once they feel supported by their organization. 


AdForum: What do you see as being the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the “glass ceiling” into Sr. Executive level positions? What are some of the challenges that still exist for women in reaching the upper echelon of management? 


Tricia: I see a lot more action taken with more women in leadership roles.  I sense a more supportive, fail-fast mentality as well, and it is so good for our industry.  There are still challenges; just because there are more women does not mean boys’ club mentalities do not exist…and those are killers in our environment.  


Our industry requires a culture of finding new ways to solve new (and old) problems and constant creativity, both of which require a hefty dose of responsible fearlessness.  I see the boys’ club mentality (loyalty supported over integrity, path of least resistance and discomfort with change) still alive and well in our industry and working directly against this.  Many men still cling to each other and time tested attitudes which I believe will be at the expense of developing productive, modern working relationships and relevance in a new world.  


AdForum: What do you consider the biggest personal achievement in your career that still fills you with the most pride?

Tricia: Embracing 100% of my own personal brand of being a woman in the workplace and (mostly) being rewarded for it.  



AdForum: How do you find the best work-life balance to help you stay productive and creative at work and to help you live a happy, sane life outside of the office?


Tricia: A supportive partner is crucial.  And knowing how to relax… knowing how to walk the delicate line of being plugged in and unplugging with great fluidity.  Knowing how to take care of yourself is also very important.  Whatever that means to you, being able to engage in caring for yourself in and out of the office makes everything feel better. 


Equally important is a workplace supportive of domestic responsibility regardless of gender.   In most dual-working households I know, the primary caregiver role changes from day to day, and organizations need to support that.   To be honest, I feel organizations still tend to support a woman’s role as primary care giver more than a man’s, and that can be very stressful to the working woman of the household.  



AdForum: Was there a job you had at one point, outside of advertising, that prepared you most for success later in life?


Tricia: I think the job I unknowingly assigned myself has had the greatest impact on my success.  And that is the job of introspection, self-awareness and growth. Looking for the lessons, balancing self-confidence with self-criticism and being unafraid to see what needs to change have been the keys to my success. 



AdForum: Can you reflect on a mentor that helped guide you in your career and tell us what made them special?


Tricia: I’ve had two great mentors, both of which were men.  What made them special was their unwavering support combined with radical honesty.  



AdForum: How do you as a successful woman in your industry plan to inspire the next generation of women? In a few words, what advice do you have for women entering the advertising industry?


Tricia: I plan on continuing to do what I do, be who I am, grow, learn, change and adapt.  I hope to model strength and confidence in doing it your way and a commitment to self-improvement.  I would advise any young woman that finding her true voice and an environment that supports it, is what’s most important in a career in advertising. 

 Tell us your perspective as a woman in advertising 

Tricia Russo
EVP, Chief Strategy Officer BBDO Atlanta