Meeting of the Minds: Bard Barber and Tori Fraser from Houston

Barber and Fraser share their best career advice, hot takes, and what they currently have on repeat.

This week’s Meeting of the Minds sees Bard Barber and Tori Fraser from brand and design agency Houston reveal their leadership heroes, current streaming binge, and career goals.

The Mediaweek series showcases their diverse perspectives, thoughts and opinions by bringing together two different points of view from an industry rookie and an experienced expert.

Bard Barber, Head of New Business Development, Houston

Houston - Bard Barber

Favourite podcast/read – British GQ – it’s been 20 years since I left Scotland, but it’s nice to keep across stuff from Old Blighty. And nothing beats kicking back with a glass of something nice and a physical copy to thumb through – weird how that feels like a treat these days.

Current streaming binge – The latest Fargo, properly dark humour stuff. Jon Hamm plays a character who is fairly horrific. Also, I never ever watched Mad Men, is that strange given I worked 15 odd years in advertising? Although I did work at BWM for 6 years, so maybe I lived Mad Men instead… great times indeed.

Guilty pleasure content – Below Deck Australia – drama on the high seas. Sun, Sea, Sand and Sex… you know the drill. What more could you want?

What do you have on repeat – These days it’s dub techno and deep house mixes on SoundCloud – I was a bit of a clubber back in the 90s in Scotland, and dance music has just stayed with me… it’s always pumping through my headphones at work. Sorry Daye [Moffitt], I know you’d rather be talking jive.

Best career advice – Know your stuff/presentation/project back to front and inside out, and never assume the other guy will have his shit together either – this was after a particularly bad meeting, and it’s really stuck. Ultimately, whether you like it or not, it’s down to the Suits to get it right and cop it when it goes off the rails.

Leadership hero – Captain Jason, Below Deck Australia. Man crush.

Best training course/session – I learn on the job, and I am still learning. The people around me are the best trainers.

I wish someone had told me – Play lotto more?

Actually, and I know it’s a cliché, but it’s really about living in the moment. Savour every minute. Don’t hold back for a rainy day, don’t save things for special ‘only’. As you get older, it’s simple attrition, people around you get sick and worse. A good friend of mine has a great, insightful turn of phrase; “how many summers do you have left?” Not as many as we’d hope, I’m sure. Get out there and enjoy them.

Favourite place to network – Networking is a constant, it’s not a place or a time. It’s about continuality connecting dots, connecting people, ideas, opportunities. And, what goes around, comes around – it doesn’t matter if the conversations you have and the parties you put together don’t directly benefit you… in time, they pay off.

Something that’s surprised you about the industry – I’ve been lucky enough to work client side and agency side – the difference is stark! One is not better than the other. It’s just that the dynamics, the pressures and goals are so different – even though we are kind of all working in the same space.

What is your hot take on the industry – Align on the problem we are solving – build consistent and ownable brand foundations; a sharp, compelling positioning and story, distinctive long-term brand assets, and truly embed it in your company’s culture. Get these right and you’ll always have an edge.

Career goal for 2024 – I’ve just turned 50, so I guess my goal is to keep my career alive for as long as I can!

In all seriousness though – it does run through my head about where/what might be next. Am I still relevant? What is my offering? Is there a ‘use-by’ date in our category? So, a bit of uncertainty I think in terms of career, at my stage in life.

To be honest, I’d be happy to stay with Stu [O’Brien] and the crew at Houston until the bitter end; it’s an amazing place, and I think we do great things.

Tori Fraser, Account Manager, Houston

Houston - Tori Fraser

Favourite podcast/read – I’m not so much of a big reader (working on it in 2024!). But you can almost guarantee anytime I’ve got my AirPods in around the house, I’m diving into the archive of drama from the Scandal series by Shameless pod. Nothing better than getting the lowdown of celeb controversies and their rises and falls of fame over the years – juicy!

Current streaming binge –  Friends is back on rotation for, I’d say maybe the twelfth time? Cut between Kath and Kim to keep things noice, different, unusual.

What do you have on repeat – Jazz House music. Give Berlioz (hot house particularly) a run and transport yourself to a new-age underground bar in New Orleans. The perfect background for *headphones in, focus time* at work.

Best career advice – Ask why. Learn why something is particularly good or bad, or done in a particular way. Not just “because that’s how we do it.” How can I then apply that curiosity and reason, that why, to what I’m doing, or be able to pick up what makes something worthwhile on projects in the future?

Leadership hero –  I don’t think we can hang our hat on one person or character to be a hero. I look to different leaders for different reasons (my grandpa, first aid responders, my mentors at work), but feel everyone has it in them to be a hero to the next person.

Best training course/session – Being thrown in the deep end. There’s no better training than coming out the other side of a real-life spanner.

I wish someone had told me – How important the people I work with would become to me. Call it a ‘shared vision’ or ‘trauma bonding’ – we’ve been through it all together and I’ve found some of my fave people in workplaces over the years.

Favourite place to network – Friends of friends of friends! I’m ever working to expand my circle of familiar faces outside of work, you never know who you’ll meet on the weekends at your local. 

Something that’s surprised you about the industry – The number of people who jump at the opportunity to WFH. In a post-Covid world that’s filled with faces behind screens, I can’t get past the difference it makes collaborating and workshopping IRL. No number of Teams calls or Slack huddles can replace the collaboration that comes from being in a room with your peers. I’m team WFO (work from office) all the way. 

What is your hot take on the industry – The siloed working mentality is a thing of the past. No my team vs your team. To my point above, there’s nothing like real collaboration, more brains in the room, and departments/teams all working together. Having visibility across what each other is working on is so important – why double-handle something? 

Career goal for 2024 – I can feel this year will be a career high for me, seeing through some really challenging but exciting projects. I want to walk out of 2024 knowing we’ve broken barriers and built businesses set up to thrive in this ever-evolving world. Brand strategy is a fascinating place for my mind to be right now – lots of cool things to come!

To take part in future editions of Meeting of the Minds please email: [email protected]

For past editions of Meeting of the Minds see here

Top Image: Bard Barber and Tori Fraser

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