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Cass Zawadowski: Health Check

07 April 2021

CASS ZAWADOWSKI

VP, Executive Creative Director
Wunderman Thompson Toronto
 
As Co-Executive Creative Director of Wunderman Thompson Canada, Cass brings 18 years of integrated agency experience, and a wealth of global brand leadership. She currently leads a cross functional creative team tasked with a mission to create meaningful experiences between brands and consumers through data-rich creativity, technology and innovation on the GSK business across North America.
 
Cass has had the honour of participating in multiple award juries, including LIA, Effies, CMAs, Clios, and Shots Europe.
 
She’s an active supporter for women in the advertising and tech industries, and currently sits on the Tea, WPP GSK Creative Council and the WT Health Council.
 

Health Check

When was the last time you did a health check? I’m not talking about an annual check-up with your General Practitioner; I mean an assessment on health when it comes to our industry, your agency and yourself. I’d like to say it’s a monthly occurrence for me, but I think that would be a stretch. However, 2020 was the year that got me back to my routine of ‘checking on health’. It’s an obvious, but understated relationship: your health, your agency’s health and our industry’s health are all interconnected. If we’re ‘healthy’ employees, then we perform better, our agencies perform better – and of course, the industry performs better. If only there was a supplement for all this ;-) In honour of World Health Day, I thought I’d share my take on the three health checks we should be doing on a regular basis.
 
The health of yourself:
In my 18+ years in the business, I’ve never seen a greater focus on our health than this past year. While physically, we’ve had to protect ourselves against Covid, mentally, we’ve had to protect ourselves too.  Our work from home reality has certainly been a trip. I’ll be the first to admit that Zoom/TEAMS fatigue is real. I’ve been relying a lot on some of my leadership teammates to help combat it. Weekly check ins, texts, or even funny GIFs through email.  I’ve also been on top of my team (they’d likely say annoyingly so), to encourage them to take care of themselves. If you need a break, talk to your manager. Take time away from the computer in the evening. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries. They make us better. In this business we’ve always said, time away from the business is what drives creativity. I’d say now more than ever. If you haven’t been doing so, start checking in on your health weekly.
 
The health of your agency:
I’m not just referring to new business wins or client budgets. I’m also referring to the people. I believe that’s how you measure the real health of an agency. Burnt out, tired, and overworked gets us nowhere.  Last year, when the uncertainty of Covid hit, we put award show entries on hold and used the money to prioritize our people. I’ve never been more proud to work for an organization. Gone are the days of paying lip service to mental health. If you’re not putting people and their health at the centre of your agency, what are you doing? Something that I’ve been doing to encourage agency health includes 3x weekly creative touch-bases to round out our day. We use the time to chat about different projects and work, agency admin, and mostly – to see each other’s faces and connect. I’ve also been working extra hard to challenge teams in new ways, with new briefs and new business opportunities. A few weeks on something fresh goes a long way. Finally, the health of any agency is nothing without encouraging time off – both wellness days and vacation days. Use them, use them, use them.
 
The health of our industry:
We know that Covid is affecting our industry. We’ve seen a considerable drop in advertising spend across regions and no doubt consumer behaviour has shifted. On the flip side, digital consumption is up, social platforms and gaming have grown ever more popular, and content is now everyday life. But when it comes to the health of our industry, let’s reflect on the less obvious. I’ve always believed in the power of action. And I live each day in the agency world with one intention: Be the change you want to see. Don’t like something. Speak up. You’d be amazed at how one action can encourage another. The 3% Conference started because this industry’s health lacked when it came to female representation. DE&I initiatives are now front and centre, because this industry’s health lacks when it comes to diversity and inclusion. There are so many more opportunities to spearhead change and growth in this industry. As leaders, it’s our job to be open minded and set-aside personal biases to create safe spaces for those new ideas to be shared and presented. It takes a lot of courage for someone to speak up. So let’s provide the environment for people to come forward to initiate the change they wish to see and be. If we all took on one small thing, imagine the transformational possibilities.
 
All in all, it comes full circle. The health of our industry is the cumulative effect of checking on your own health and your agency’s health - often. When we’re stronger individually, we’re stronger together. And no matter the brand, agency or network you represent, we’re all is this together. Forward march.