A day in the life: Dylan Williams, global chief strategy and innovation officer at Publicis Worldwide

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Part 2 in a series: Publicis strategy chief on the impression his mentor made of living in the present

My ambition for the day is, as ever, to break a law. Otherwise, I’m not doing anything significant.

3:06 a.m. The mid-sleep awakening. I have a bimodal sleep pattern, apparently. Irrespective of the time zone I find myself in, I always wake at 3:06. Numerologists have had a field day with this.

3:07 a.m. "Planners don’t run." As a junior, I once bounded past John Bartle on the Bartle Bogle Hegarty stairwell. He stopped my ascent with four profound words: "Planners don’t run, Dylan." I’ve lived by this brutal maxim ever since. But, in today’s always-on environment, the urge to run has never tugged so powerfully. I drift back to sleep challenging the wisdom of my old mentor.

7:30 a.m. A Sonny and Bleu breakfast. Minecraft the boy. Beatbox the girl. Kiss the wife. Start the car.

9:00 a.m. Australian drugs and Asian beer. To merely visit all 233 network offices would take four years. So the change leadership plan of our chief executive, Arthur Sadoun, instead draws on lean principles: 1. Rapidly prototype in the UK and the US; 2) Empower regional management teams to refine and scale early successes. The morning catch-ups with Asia-Pacific corroborate this approach. Within seven months of launching our first start-up incubator, Drugstore London, a second in Sydney is now open. I follow this with a heads-up to my lead strategist in Asia. Our global Heineken win brings bold ambitions and familiar faces to his region. He’s happy.

11:00 a.m. Play on Facebook. Sitting on Facebook’s Creative Council has its perks. Like a cross-discipline "love-in" to ensure we better utilize the platform. It’s a fantastic session. Everybody spends the three hours on their mobiles.

2:00 p.m. A swipe-right lunch date. A great first date talking "Tinder for deal flow" with the founder of Tendr.

3:30 p.m. Prince Wen Hui’s Cook, Romario and the rope-a-dope. Four meetings that all play to a familiar pantomime. An initial energy burst as everyone bids to control the dialogue. Followed by a rapid tail-off as the need for an idea emerges. I’m learning to resist the early melee. Instead, like the third-century chef in the Taoist fable, or the Brazilian goal-poacher Romario, or Ali against Foreman, I try to practice "the act of inaction." Consciously to do nothing until spaces appear where real impact can be made. This kind of intervention will become the new language of strategy. Being mindful of the moment and acting appropriately in the instant will replace sequential planning and execution as the gap between marketing and commerce blurs to a singular point.

7:30 p.m. Healthy clouds. A final flourish as I discuss plans for two forthcoming "meet the makers" events: one focused on connected car innovation alongside CloudMade and one on health tech featuring start-ups from surgical augmented reality to pelvic-floor trainers.

9:00 p.m. A chance to dance. As I arrive home, I reflect again on JB’s early guidance. He was right. But in a way I’d never really appreciated. The more one runs to the next thing, the more one is absent to the moment at hand. The more one thinks of tomorrow, the more one misses today. As technology converges, we humans dash ever-more madly from pillar to post. The modern strategist must respond by replacing mindless sprinting with the mindful movement of the dancer. For, in dance, as Martha Grah a.m. once observed, "all that is important is this one moment in the movement. Make the moment vital and worth living. Do not let it slip away unnoticed and unused."Anyway, I didn’t break any laws today. Apart from some dodgy driving. But tomorrow is Thursday. Which usually sees a peak in disobedience.

In our army, we have 27,000 troops. It’s not something you can replace with a 99¢ software package and not something that ever sits still. The matrix of complexity adds new rows and columns every day and it’s somewhat remarkable that we, and a few others, keep up with that change and integrate all this in the allocation, optimization and attribution functions that define our business purpose.

Rob Norman is the chief digital officer at GroupM.

Dylan Williams is global chief strategy and innovation officer at Publicis Worldwide.


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