My Media Week: Jen Smith, Maxus

Jen Smith: global creative director at Maxus
Jen Smith: global creative director at Maxus

We join Jen Smith, global creative director at Maxus, locking down 2017 plans for new creative development programme, Flare, and shaking her glitter at the agency Christmas bash.


Today, I’m working from home with a difference. I’ve gathered my team for an away day chez Smith to map out the upcoming "year of Flare" [the creative training and development programme rolling out at Maxus], define our point of view and how to sell that in to the agency.

Around 10% of the agency is currently participating, selected for their personality fit and spectrum of clients and contacts. For 2017 we’re looking to take everybody through the programme.

As well as looking at ways to be more creative with media, the goal is to fuel more inspired, creative and better ways of approaching everything we do as a business. More than ever in media, we need to question everything and be comfortable with putting different points of view into practice.

Much coffee and one hearty Christmas lunch (including crackers) later, we’re full of festive cheer and more than fired up to present Flare back at Maxus HQ.


This morning I am the very proud mother of a beautiful angel at the school nativity. My daughter even has a line, which she delivers with much aplomb. I melt just a little.

First up with my work hat on, I’m meeting the new business team to talk about next year’s goals for our planning process, Change Planning.

Recruiting is a great part of the job. It’s a real buzz when you find somebody with the right abilities who also possesses the right cultural fit. This afternoon, I’m interviewing two candidates for a strategist position. It’s a notoriously hard role to recruit for, so when people reach out to me I’ll always make time for a cup of tea and chat. I’m impressed with what I see today.


We meet with Gayle Noah, media director and Hugh Pile, the chief marketing officer at L’Oréal for a kick-off meeting to go through all of their ambitions for 2017, and how we can help them to realise those. We’re incredibly fortunate to have a client who is so ardently passionate about innovating.

We are also treated to one of the other highlights of working with L’Oréal; the festive goodie bag – which does not disappoint.

Next, my weekly check-in with the strategy team in Maxus’ Delhi office about the work that they are doing. We share best practices and learnings and it’s a fantastic opportunity for me to hook into all the great stuff they are running.

India is a really interesting media market in terms of being able to be creative and brave – whether integrating with television of building outdoor units. They are far less constrained by the formats and media regulation that we deal with. The landscape is way ahead in terms of interesting media work. But they lag far behind in terms of the media infrastructure that we take for granted on a daily basis. It’s nuances like these that make sharing of best practice and shouting about the great work happening across the markets we operate in a top priority for me.

This afternoon, we’re upholding a lovely and long held tradition by welcoming the Google team for Christmas lunch at our local, the Angler. As well as a wrap-up of the year just gone, we’re also downing tools in order to just share time. They’re a super lovely bunch.


It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say there is a lot of pitch activity going on right now. While I can’t divulge details…yet, this morning as well as many others recently are spent in very interesting new business meetings.

Getting to know key people in each discipline is crucial, but an equally enjoyable part of stepping into my new role. Becoming better collaborators means being comfortable enough to pick up the phone to one another and have that conversation that – if left unsaid – can stir issues.

Crucially, we’re looking to assert media’s position as a creative execution opportunity higher up the chain than as a distribution channel farther down.

Today I’m at Ogilvy, meeting with their lovely and supportive ECD Emma de la Fosse to discuss how we can integrate further, whilst enjoying the incredible views of London their offices afford.

The afternoon sees me on a call with our creative technologist team in New York to hear what they’re developing. We’re talking a great deal about voice-activated tech, so I want to ensure that we’re aware of any and all possibilities being explored. I’m wary of crystal ball gazing in media given the current pace of change, but we can definitely expect to see a renaissance of audio in 2017

Amazon Echo and Google Home have taken the trend for voice services beyond the realm of voice search and personal assistants, and hardwired them into our homes.

Tech already pervades our lounges, and other areas of the house where we entertain. The kitchen – the heart of our homes – is the next important domestic hub. The possibilities are functional (as when I shout out my shopping list to our Amazon Alexa) and often inadvertently entertaining. My two daughters gain endless pleasure from quizzing poor Alexa on the raunchier lyrics of Little Mix song Shout Out to My Ex If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t ask Alexa…she doesn’t have the answer.

It’s the Maxus Christmas party tonight, held at an achingly hip East London venue. It’s brilliant, we have an amazing and very merry time. We had professional make-up artists in to do our party make up. Sparkle-wise, my look is not far off the angel on top of the Christmas tree. And I pay the price for all that festive glitter with a massive eye infection the next morning. Serves me right.

No scandalous gossip from me, as I make a dignified tactical 11pm exit, although I do spot some impressive dance moves towards the end of my stint. None however, from our chief executive Nick Baughan, who refuses to join in with as much as a toe shuffle. Bah humbug.


The weekly morning meeting with my team of Flarists (my term of endearment for those enrolled in the Flare training course) is characterised less by the initiation of ideas and decisions, more by idle sharing of shame shots from the latter hours of ‘the night before’.

Following that, I catch up with the other teams on where we are and what’s needed before we close down for Christmas.

Late lunch is with [Maxus Global CEO] Lindsay Pattison. It’s a hello and goodbye catch up before we go our separate ways for Christmas; Lindsay to warm seas and sparkling seas and me to the less tropical but equally lovely Essex.

I’m so looking forward to cosy pyjama days making cookies and having cuddles with my two beautiful daughters. Wishing you all a very merry Christmas.

The lowdown

Age: 39
Favourite media: Instagram and a Snapchat filter
My biggest inspiration: My kick-arse fabulous family but I also get a little buzz out of kick-arse ladies that write – Cheryl Strayed comes on the list
Dream job: Maxus 2020. It doesn’t exist right now so I am helping to make it
Not a lot of people know this about me... I love to dance – all it takes is a G&T and a George Michael tune and I will embarrass myself and my children on a dance floor

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