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Julie Descamps 2023-09-28

Introducing Mary Maddever, a seasoned professional who serves as the EVP for Strategy and Realscreen, and holds the role of Editorial Director at Brunico. With a diverse portfolio, Mary shares insights on navigating industry trends, the transformative role of journalists, and the challenges posed by society's shrinking attention spans.


What inspired you to become a journalist and how did you get into the profession?

I began my journalism career doing film reviews, and my first staff job was covering commercial production shoots for Playback, a Canadian version of Variety or Hollywood Reporter, focussed on TV and Film industry. So I've always been a little judgey and in the entertainment/media space. 

What’s your role at Strategy - and what are the latest developments there?

I'm EVP for Strategy and Realscreen, and Editorial Director for Brunico - and we're focused on staying ahead of the curve as industries are shaped by evolving tech and new economic/market conditions. On the tech side, on a granular level that includes testing and learning how best to utilise AI in our own business, while exploring how the industries we cover are using the tech effectively, and the guardrails they're putting in place. 

My role at Realscreen, a magazine and daily news brand covering the global unscripted biz, entails soaking up bigger picture media industry context via attending TV markets and talking with network and studio execs regarding entertainment industry challenges and opportunities, which is a great POV into the shifting consumer behaviours faced by the ad industry.

As a member of the Epica Awards jury, how do you approach evaluating and selecting the best creative work from around the world?

First of all I approach it from the POV of an audience member. What would grab me and make me look/read/listen? What would influence my decisions? Then I apply the lens of someone who's seen A LOT of advertising, and if the work is too similar to something that's already been done - without insights that are relevant to the brand in question - it doesn't resonate for me. Finally, and most importantly, is it strategic? Does the creative direction have potential to differentiate the brand? That's a 10.

How important is the relationship between journalism and the creative community, and how can it be further strengthened?

Journalists have the opportunity to impact change by shining a light on serious issues, like sustainability and inclusivity, and present readers with great solutions from around the world. Pulling focus on how some brands use their investment power and influence for good can inspire more planet positive programs. 

What’s the biggest challenge facing the creative industry today – and how might it be addressed?


It's harder and harder to find your audience as their screen time is spent in an ever growing world of streaming options. 

The way to address it is either a massively compelling mass market play, or being super niche with your insights, strategy and connection planning. I don't see much in the middle breaking through. 

Zulu Alpha Kilo's Superbowl spot with Melissa McCarthy is an example of the mass attention-grabbing stakes - it's a full on musical. While their Tough Turban work for Pfaff Harley Davidson is a great example of the niche approach - creating a bike helmet alternative for Sikh riders in a specific community. 

Another route is being unexpected and unpredictable - but with consistency. The work Rethink has done for Ikea and Ketchup is fun and whimsical, and is so spot on brand and clever that it has an unmissable cumulative impact. Is there any other Ketchup constantly on your radar? Or any other place to buy Korken?

So the short answer is: Creativity.

Pulling focus on how some brands use their investment power and influence for good can inspire more planet positive programs.
It's harder and harder to find your audience as their screen time is spent in an ever growing world of streaming options.

What role do you see journalism playing in promoting and advocating for diversity and inclusion within the creative industry?

Not moving off the issue. Keep highlighting the work, the programs, and the progress. 

Who are your role models or mentors in journalism and the creative world? And what’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?

Too many to mention. I'm inspired by the people I meet in this industry more often than not. 

Re career advice, I was once asked at a TV market I was covering in Cannes if I wanted to be doing this 20 years from now. They asked it in a way that suggested I should not... although at the time I was very happy as Editor of Kidscreen magazine. (On reflection, I think maybe the person who asked that may have needed a career change).

But it did motivate me to keep moving up the ranks, and opened up wonderful opportunities to launch new brands, and work with many great teams.

On the flip side, when a really respected and inspiring journalism professor I was collaborating with saw how much I enjoyed working with the students on a project I'd given them as a visiting lecturer, he warned to not go too far away from the craft that you love. Luckily, I've kept a dual role that allows for both. I think that's a challenge we all grapple with...finding a balance and new ways to enjoy the journey.

What are the most memorable campaigns or creative projects you've covered and what made them stand out for you? 

The Dove Real Beauty campaign and Self Esteem Project has always stood out for me. In Canada, the work was led by a team of hugely inspirational women; Nancy Vonk and Janet Kestin who were at Ogilvy at the time, and Sharon McLeod who headed up the brand at Unilever. They went from strength to strength with the program - from the Evolution viral video, to an amazing stage play, and an education program to help young girls feel confident and reach their full potential.

Although they’re close neighbours, culturally speaking in what ways is Canadian advertising different to the American approach?

We have a wide range to cover, from cities that are very culturally diverse, to a province like Quebec that is predominantly French-speaking and has its own star system and media properties. 

There is less of a melting pot approach, and more of a focus on the individuality of the communities being targeted. Which is a challenge, given the market is 1/10 of the size of the U.S. So you see work that finds the connective tissue across different audience sectors. And that is a clever and beautiful thing. 

A recent Kruger campaign - Unapologetically Human - did a great job of that. A masterbrand campaign had a mass market anthem spot by Broken Heart Love Affair, and then different language versions were created with multicultural marketing agency Ethnicity Matters, with tracks by popular Asian and South Asian musicians in Hindi and Urdo, Cantonese and Mandarin. 


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