July 27, 2021

Bossing It: What Anna Watkins’ Non-Linear Experience Brings to Technicolor Creative Studios

The newly-appointed global VP of growth and brand partnerships shares her accumulated wisdom on managing teams, aligning vision and understanding clients' businesses

The newly launched collective of creative studios across advertising and entertainment, Technicolor Creative Studios, recently announced the hire of Anna Watkins as global VP of growth and brand partnerships. Anna joins the brand experience and advertising division, headed by David Patton. The hire comes as the advertising division looks to expand its remit and creative offering to brands across the globe. 

Anna was previously MD at Verizon Media UK, overseeing growth at Yahoo, AOL, and HuffPost. Prior to this she was Global CEO Mofilm (You and Mr Jones) and has also served as managing director of Initiative and Guardian Labs as well as CEO of Grand Union. She started her career in advertising at M&C Saatchi and TBWA.

The full interview appears on LBB Online.

LBB – What was your first experience of leadership?

Anna – It was when I was hired by Grand Union, the digital agency, to launch their branded content and social media arm, Hubbub, as MD back in 2005. It was an incredible opportunity and I stayed with the company for over seven years, becoming CEO of Grand Union and building up the agency for sale to FullSix (Havas). 


LBB – How did you figure out what kind of leader you wanted to be – or what kind of leader you didn’t want to be?

Anna – I’ve always been driven by the opportunity for change and transformation which is what has led my career choices from joining M&C Saatchi soon after it opened its doors, to launching the Guardian’s in-house agency, Guardian Labs, through to joining Technicolor and its drive for growth direct to brands through innovation and creative technology. So, I would say that I am an entrepreneurial leader, one that embraces new opportunities and fundamentally believes that taking calculated risks delivers future rewards.


LBB –  It's been a really challenging year - and that's an understatement. How do you cope with the responsibility of leading a team through such difficult waters?

Anna –  I think the hardest thing for everyone has been adapting to a remote way of working – easier in some ways for Technicolor Creative Studios given we are a global technology driven company used to working across continents and time zones. However, the reality is that collaboration and creativity is far harder to deliver when working in isolation and as a leader the challenge has been in how to unite teams virtually. We have really focused on how we can make a new flexible model work, one that meets each and every individual’s need, and critically how we can foster a sense of teamwork remotely when we haven’t been able to connect in person.


LBB –  This year has seen the industry confronted with its lack of action/progress on diversity and inclusion. As a leader how have you dealt with this?

Anna – We always respect, embrace and encourage the uniqueness of individuals and their talents because we fundamentally believe our creativity needs diversity. That said, we still have a lot to learn and there is still much more that we can do throughout our employee life cycle from our recruitment approach, our policies, our rewards, our culture as well as how we manage, develop and promote talent. 

In order to drive change, we have created a DE&I committee made up of four members of our exec team as well as representatives from all areas of the business, who explore, evaluate and champion new initiatives to promote diversity.  

And we’ve had frank and open discussions around demystifying disability, mental health awareness, respecting gender pronouns, representation in media, standing with our BIPOC and AAPI community and more with external moderators and speakers who can help present insights and facilitate new ways of thinking around these all-important areas of DE&I.


LBB –  How important is your company culture to the success of your business? And how have you managed to keep it alive with staff working remotely in 2020/2021? 

Anna –  Positive company culture is vital to our staff and the success of our business. We actively try and develop a culture of creativity, inspiration and support amongst our staff and wider creative community, by bringing people together with virtual events and mentorship initiatives that hope to bridge the gaps we might be experiencing in isolation. 

We launched a monthly newsletter to inspire staff and our wider creative community during Covid, in an effort to highlight the creative work and people who drive it throughout our business. A huge part of our company culture is celebrating the makers behind the projects - you can often see our talent profiled across our channels through both our Makers and Heart and Where Art Plays with Science initiatives.


LBB –  What are the most useful resources you’ve found to help you along your leadership journey?

Anna –  I remember a lesson I was taught early on which was to understand your client’s business as if it were your own. This means not just reading trade publications but also industry specific publications and content so that you can have a much broader and in-depth perspective on how to connect with their consumers effectively through your work that you produce.

See the full article on LBB here