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02 Aug 2023

Future-proofing marketing with Julia Arenson, Head of Creative Operations at Specsavers

Future-proofing marketing with Julia Arenson, Head of Creative Operations at Specsavers

Meet Julia, a creative powerhouse who embarked on a transformative journey in the advertising industry. Having relocated to the UK nearly two decades ago, she quickly made her mark as the Head of Creative Production for VCCP Blue, despite her limited three years of experience. Embracing challenges fearlessly, she mastered the art of saying "yes" to every opportunity, adopting a "fake it till you make it" mentality that propelled her success. Over the next ten years, she helped steer the agency's remarkable growth from 25 to over 90 professionals. With the shift towards in-house agencies and a desire to be closer to clients and more involved upstream she joined Specsavers as the Head of Creative Operations, where she now works with senior leadership to build a future-proofed in-house agency.

What made you want to work in the advertising space and creative industries?

I’ve always had a passion for the creative field. Initially, I thought I would become a writer and attended ad school, which was very hands-on and gave me a good grounding for what advertising is. I've also always been into the arts and photography, but it was very competitive. However, I discovered real love and strength for the process of facilitating and making things happen. We can have all these great ideas, but without people making them happen, they'll never become a reality.
Creative operations became the perfect fit for me, as it allowed me to work on bringing ideas to life without the pressure of generating them myself, and I love working with creative people.

Tell me about a successful campaign that you've led for Specsavers?

Specsavers "Should have gone to" 2.0 campaign

While I don't lead campaigns as much anymore, one standout campaign during the pandemic was our 2.0 "Should've gone to" ads. We created a fully integrated campaign involving TV, sponsorship, print, radio, online, and more. Each creative piece was tailored to its specific channel while maintaining a cohesive strategy and idea throughout. The campaign's success showcased our agency's ability to create industry defining work collaboratively and efficiently, and received awards from Campaign and Creative circle to name a few.

How do you stay on brand while being creative?

Every creative process begins with a solid strategy. The strategy serves as the anchor for the work, ensuring that it aligns with our brand's essence and meets business objectives. A well-crafted brief is crucial, as it lays the foundation for a creative idea that connects with our audience on a human level. Our team ensures that every brief receives the right attention from the right people, collaboratively working with the marketing team to ensure success. Sometimes, during the course of the work, we realize that the strategy needs to adapt, and we openly discuss and address these changes.

Part of the goal of this in-house agency is to future-proof. Could you tell us about that?

The world of advertising and marketing is ever-evolving, and we must continuously adapt to remain future-proof. To achieve this, we've assembled a team that knows how to manage projects effectively and efficiently to achieve our goals. Our processes, systems, and ways of working are designed to foster innovation and creativity without limiting our potential.

To future-proof, we encourage curiosity and interest among our team members, as it leads to discovering and implementing new approaches and technologies. We regularly review our methods, partners, and systems to ensure they align with our objectives. Artificial Intelligence is an area we're exploring, but we always keep our customer needs at the forefront. If something falls outside our expertise, we collaborate with specialists to bridge the gap. Our goal is to be agile and adapt to the ever-changing landscape while staying true to our mission of providing better sight and hearing for all.

Your approach seems very people centric. Why is this important to you?

One of the things that I find truly amazing about Specsavers is its emphasis on allowing everyone to be genuinely human and embracing human behaviours. While our primary goal as an agency is to create great work, we equally prioritize creating a wonderful place to work for all team members. It's not solely about winning awards or producing exceptional output; it's about ensuring that people feel valued and fulfilled in their roles.

Mentorship is an important part of my approach. Initially, I ventured into mentorship for personal growth and building my community. However, it has evolved into something I genuinely cherish – the opportunity to connect with and support others. Now, in my role at Specsavers, I see how these qualities are truly advantageous, enabling me to contribute to the growth and well-being of our team.

I believe this people-centric approach is deeply ingrained in what we do at Specsavers, and it is something that sets us apart. It is encouraging to witness that these values are highly valued within the organization, making it a special and rewarding place to be.


Julia’s conference at Technology for Marketing 2023

Tell us more about your Technology for Marketing 2023 speaking session

“The power of an in-house agency: Unleashing potential through people, processes, and passion”

Like any agency, our most valuable asset is ours people. At Specsavers Agency, we have a team with extensive experience and a deep understanding of our brand, some of whom have been with us for decades. They truly grasp what our brand means to people and how to communicate its essence effectively. The key is being true to the brand and doing great work that resonates with our audience, helping more people see better and improving their lives.

In building an in-house agency, we believe in combining our seasoned experts who know the brand inside out with individuals who bring new perspectives from their experiences in the industry outside of Specsavers. This alchemy of talents creates something unique that can't be replicated elsewhere. It's our secret sauce to getting exceptional work done.

Don’t miss your chance to see Julia Arenson live! Join us at Technology for Marketing 2023!



Quick-fire questions

What is your favourite social media?

Instagram because I’m in my 40s.

What is your favourite marketing channel?

For Specsavers at the moment, I think outdoor has been great, and we’re having so much fun!

What’s next big thing in marketing?

A lot of the tasks that we do and that take a lot of time will be automated. So it'll be interesting to see what new roles come up out of it, and people having more time to be more strategic and potentially more creative in their role. I'm excited about that.

Does Specsavers cover your glasses?

We do get vouchers, yes, we do! My glasses are Specsavers. I didn't have to start wearing glasses until after I joined Specsavers, so that’s convenient!

What inspires you?

I think if you take one person who inspires me, it’ll probably be Michelle Obama. I always think “What would Michelle Obama do?”. And if you can just embrace her and what she would do in any situation, you're probably going to end up doing the right thing.

What is your proudest moment in your career so far?

I'm really proud of where we are as an agency and as a team at Specsavers right now. And winning so many awards last year just made it feel like all the hard work was being recognised by the advertising community.


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