Claire Fenner joined Atomic 212° in 2014 as general manager before stepping up to managing director and partner.
Earlier this month, she was recently elevated to CEO at the independent media agency after returning from maternity leave.
Fenner spoke to Mediaweek about transitioning back to work, the industry challenges on her mind, and what marketers need to focus on in the year ahead.
Mediaweek: You’ve recently returned to the workforce after taking maternity leave – how has Atomic 212° helped you with that transition?
CF: Seven weeks in, the transition has been really smooth so far. Atomic 212° has an incredibly generous paid parental leave policy which enabled me to have 12 months off and make the most of my time with my daughter without the financial strain of completely losing an income.
This is important for all new parents but even more important to me as a single parent and therefore a single-income family.
In terms of returning to work the other partners – Barry O’Brien and James Dixon – have been incredibly supportive and we have had really open conversations about what I needed to make the transition easier.
They’ve supported me to take on a new role as CEO, which is incredibly rewarding and an exciting way to return to work with a new challenge and so much opportunity ahead.
MW: What are two or three industry challenges that are on your mind, and how can they be solved or achieved?
CF: The talent/resource shortage is a constant challenge, one that was made worse by the pandemic. Agencies need to be able to attract the best talent and identify ways to best leverage the skill sets of their teams most effectively.
That includes thinking about roles and the strengths of individuals differently to deliver the best outcome as a team.
The MFA is already doing some great work around the industry value proposition through its “We Are the Changers” campaign. It will be great to see where they take that this year. Hopefully we will start to see less churn and more people wanting to develop their careers in media agency roles.
Hybrid working is another challenge in terms of its impact on culture, creativity, growth, development and even efficiency within businesses. We need to continue to find the best way to ensure that hybrid working enhances the workplace and teamwork rather than detracts from it.
An ongoing issue is procurement-driven remuneration decisions and the lack of consideration that is sometimes given to the value of media agency services and the placing of more value on media’s role in business growth.
MW: What areas do you think marketers need to focus their attention on in the next 12 months?
CF: One critical issue is ensuring their investment is being managed well and will help to protect or grow their market share in an economic climate that is set to get worse. Part of that is being able to account for how their investment is delivering business outcomes through robust statistical analysis and modelling.
Some businesses will be tempted to reduce their marketing investment and bunker down through an economic downturn. But there is a lot of research to support the benefit of maintaining or increasing investment and marketing share of voice in a weak economic climate to minimise the impact on the business and even gain market share.
MW: What is your outlook for Atomic 212° in the year ahead?
CF: We’ve had a really strong few years and all of the work we’ve done to improve our product has started to pay off, with some great new business wins in 2022. We have a lot of momentum and I’m excited to see what we can achieve as we continue to enhance our product.
We have invested in a really strong people and culture team and will continue to see the impact of the new energy and initiatives from that team pay off in terms of growth and development of our people, attracting new talent and retaining the people we have.
Top image: Claire Fenner