As one of the only female agency owners in the industry (women make up just 3% of agency leadership), Libby Brockhoff is the CEO and founder of AdAge’s 2014 “Small Agency of the Year”, Odysseus Arms. She has crafted advertising strategies for Silicon Valley darlings like Facebook, Microsoft, and YouTube, and directed the re-framing of the transgender narrative as the creative visionary behind the launch of Caitlyn Jenner’s on-air image. She also activated Amnesty International supporters to help Obama’s Arms Trade Treaty pass in the United Nations, and served as a Cannes panelist for the 2017 Festival of Creativity. Libby is an ad executive to be reckoned with — and one to be learned from.
My first job ever was… Torture. I was a bookkeeper. I have never been so lost in a job; I knew nothing about finances, which categories each expense went into or how to keep track of all of it. I even spelled “paid” as “payed” on all of the invoices. Yeah… definitely didn’t belong in the world of numbers.
I decided to run my own company because… People need independent firecrackers in this industry. Indie operators are far more passionate about business because we don’t have the safety of shareholder backing. This danger keeps things exciting.
My boldest move to date was… I have two answers for this. First, shattering the stereotypes of the transgender community. We helped launched Caitlyn Jenner’s identity on E!. It was one of those projects that actually led to significant change, inspired people to be themselves or change their perspective on the transgender journey. The second would be our work for Amnesty International asking Obama to finally close Guantanamo Bay.
I surprise people when I tell them… That I’m running a Jack Russell Research laboratory in my backyard. I have three at the moment: two puppies and a senior. All while I’m trying to punch above my weight and build a creative mecca in ad land. If you’ve ever had a Jack Russell Terrier, you know what I mean when I say there’s a lot to study there.
My best advice to people starting out is… Save every client contact, agency client or people you think align with your creative ideas and are changing the world. Yes, every single one of them. Connections are your best step forward.They can help nurture any kind of project you’ve got going on and build community in industry. Also, be nice to everyone. You never know who you will be working for or begging for freelance from one day.
Being a female executive in advertising is… Relevant. There couldn’t be a better time to be in my position. We’re finally talking about diversity in advertising and pushing for a more inclusive field. Plus, women have the majority of purchasing power in the US. That means not only do we bring the emotion to brands on the ad side, but we’re the ones buying from them on the consumer side. We’ve come far from the Madison Street male-dominated world of advertising, but we’ve got so much further to go.
“There couldn’t be a better time to be in my position. We’re finally talking about diversity in advertising and pushing for a more inclusive field.”
My best advice from a mentor was… If you want to be good at something, you have to try it 100 times. It’s proven advice I got from one of my teachers in school. When I started Odysseus Arms, I had a big piece of paper with a hundred different clients I could call to build our business. Spoiler alert: it worked.
Mentorship matters because… It’s all about access. Access to opportunity, access to guidance, access to another perspective, and access to connections. I think mentorship is the kind of thing that puts in you in the right place at the right time, and builds support in an industry that pushes you so hard. The funny thing is as a mentor, you get the same thing from the relationship. I highly recommend giving it a go.
Work/life balance is… The balance for me is that of an artist: life informs my work. So, if I’m not working, I’m absorbing information and ideas like a sponge. I think of it less as a balance and more of a give and take. My life and my work are partners that help each other progress.
I love my job because… I love people. I’m constantly meeting people from every walk of life, learning from them and about them. It’s what helps me make work that has the potential to change people’s mindsets and influence the future. People are my fuel!
I stay inspired by… 12 year olds and their Youtube channels. Young people keep me inspired because they’re always creating, always building, and have a finger on the pulse of this world.
The future excites me because… Artificial intelligence is mysterious at the moment. It’s basically big data that talks and reasons with you. Welcoming AI into the creative world is going to be a fascinating step for communicators.
My next step is… Diversifying the ad industry for real. I was inspired by the Stockholm Open project to recreate the same model in San Francisco, and am working on getting a group of agencies together to bring awareness about advertising to minorities in our city.