For our February ‘Time of the Month’ GoodChat, we opened our virtual doors to Abba Newbery, Chief Marketing Officer at Habito, to share her invaluable learnings and experience that she has gathered from over 25 years of breaking the mold, as well as to discuss the topics of gender and LGBTQ representation in our industry.

From being part of the team that orchestrated the iconic Guinness ‘Surfer’ ad in the 1990s, to recently turning online mortgage broker Habito into a publishing house that recently produced an erotic novel, it’s clear Abba is not afraid of standing out from the crowd.

The insights Abba was able to distill from her career to date, along with her thoughts to the future of encouraging diversity, I would be hard-pressed at pulling out key ones, but allow me to have a go at sharing three key insights from the discussion:

Champion throughout

The importance of individuals championing your career is something that can help push you further. Abba stated she was fortunate enough to have many brilliant characters support her throughout her career, from the incredible Stevie Spring, to the genius Claire Enders. In referencing Claire, Abba was keen to point out Claire was one of the only individuals she knew to own a table at Claridge’s, to which our founder, Mr Stephens highlighted owning a table at All Bar One was just as good.

A special acknowledgement was extended by Abba to Andy Jones, who not only provided her with an incredible amount of support during her time at McCann, but also introduced her to her future wife, Marian!

The role of the Umbrella

Along with having individuals support her career, Abba also highlighted the need for people to protect you, stating the late Paul Hayes from News UK was like an umbrella from which she could work her magic with no fear.

Paul allowed her to say the things she needed to say and push the business in the direction she believed it needed to go, without constant pushback from senior leadership – “we need dissenting voices and different voices, and the need isn’t just to listen to them but also protect them to ensure others can listen”.

Think to Friends of the Future

A brilliant way of reviewing your work and challenging the work we are doing further is, as Abba described: ‘hold a lens on society and push hard for a world we want to live in and make sure it’s reflected in everything we do’.

If you’re going to show ads to the friends of the future, are you happy the ads you are creating and promoting are reflective of the world that you want to live in? And in the process of doing this we need to then hold each other accountable, which at times means not being afraid to call out things that aren’t reflective. Abba acknowledges that brands will make mistakes, especially when it comes to pushing for Diversity and Inclusion, but that they’re doing the right thing in getting out there and doing it. Brands may not get it right, but they will do if they keep working on it.

As someone who is in the infancy of his career in media communications – having a figure who has seemingly been there, done that across agency, media owner and client side come in and speak is something I can’t help but be in awe of, thank you Abba!


James Skirrow| Senior Planning Executive