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One of the world’s largest global communications groups, Havas is committed to creating a meaningful difference to brands, businesses, and people.

It’s safe to say that Maria Garrido knows what makes brands meaningful. In her position at Havas Group, she has overseen the Meaningful BrandsⓇ for 5 years. Now leading the newly-created Vivendi Brand Marketing team, Maria has a deep understanding of what it takes to build the right, compelling content strategy for a brand to connect meaningfully with today’s consumer.

What attracted you to a career in advertising?

I did not start in advertising. I am a recent recruit having started my career in New York City after graduate school on the client side for 20 years, mostly in marketing for consumer products.

Almost 5 years ago, I did the opposite of what most people do; I went from the client side to the ad agency world. I think I liked the dynamic environment and the fact that I could work across different industries and not just one category all the time. 

Tell us a little about your role at Havas? 

I am in charge of insights for the whole group, so, across creative and media. Which basically means everything that involves Meaningful BrandsⓇ is run out of my team to service and support all of the different new business teams and local client teams. We sell a lot of the Meaningful Brandsâ reports, and studies around the world. While the Vivendi Brand Marketing team also has a rich stream of data sources for culture and intelligence. Leveraging our 360 sources, we have published a broad range of industry reports and deep insights into generations. Watch this space for our exciting new reports!  We’re also in a great position to support everyone with their insight needs, from BETC with Prosumer reports to local offices and global clients to better inform and inspire.   

How does your prior role at Havas X prepare you for your current role at Vivendi?

Havas X is now focused on the Havas startup accelerator based at Station F, which is the biggest startup campus in the world. We accelerate startups across media and advertising tech identifying ways to improve Havas internal processes and also innovate for our clients.

As part of Vivendi, we can now offer our startup partners as well as the entire StationF ecosystem to other entities within the group. We also work directly with the Geek Squad and other innovation teams in the Vivendi group to share best practices.

What is the background of Vivendi Brand Marketing?

When Havas was integrated into Vivendi, we decided to build a bridge across the group with our Havas global insights, intelligence, and content strategy teams, creating added value for the entire organization!

Vivendi Brand Marketing is pioneering new spaces for brand expression. In our challenging world, where brands are struggling to reach their audience and consumers are less receptive to traditional advertising models, we are uniquely positioned as a group to lead in the content marketing space, connecting brands with people in a more meaningful way.

What do you like about having a global role?

I love having a global role! I consider myself multicultural and working with many countries suits me perfectly. I’ve been fortunate in my career to have operational roles in North America, Latin America, and Europe. It’s a great pleasure to take those years of local hands-on experience and apply it now to a strategic global role. You can’t just apply your native market approach to other markets. I’ve learned to find the balance between providing global solutions and respecting local context and specificities. With the Vivendi group, not only do we have the international scale and local aspects but also the uniqueness of each business unit (media, communications, music, films, publishing). It doesn’t get more exciting than that! 

How do you switch off out of the office?

Easily, I have three kids; they don’t give me much of a choice! All joking aside, there is one hobby I do dedicate time to and that is the theatre. I’ve been part of an amateur theater troupe for most of my life. I did my first musical two years ago where I played Miss Hannigan in Annie. I don’t sing, but I had to overcome that fear pretty quickly for the part!

What does your work-life balance look like?

I think you have to find your own balance and respect it. Nobody’s going to do it for you. When I’m at the office, I try to be as productive as I can. When I leave the office, I try not to read emails at 11 pm; instead, I focus on other activities that help me develop other interests. I believe we are all multi-faceted and having outside interests and balance makes us more creative and productive at work.  

How do you inspire others?

It’s important to leave your ego at the door, stay humble. You can have strong opinions about stuff, but sometimes you don’t have all the facts or all the background, and I believe in listening to others before we make a decision. And maybe because I’m a woman, I tend to use the word “we” more than the word “I”. I don’t forget to thank people and try to empower them to grow professionally. “We” contribute to the vision and the results, not just “I”. 

What are you really good at?

Talking, ha ha! And giving presentations. Those are my theater skills coming through.

What are you really bad at?

I’m not very patient. I want things to move more quickly. Culturally speaking, when you’re in a global role you have to adjust your speed to every culture you’re working with. Sometimes I forget to switch the channel and slow down on getting the decision made. That’s what I struggle with, I’m results oriented and want to move fast but sometimes that’s not the way it works.

What’s the best advice you ever received? The worst?

The worst advice I ever received was when I first started out in New York. I was about to expatriate to Latin America and my boss sat me down to give me advice about my future. He said, “Don’t be a squeaky wheel”. By nature, I wasn’t a squeaky wheel to begin with, so I think that was terrible advice. As women, I don’t think we’re very good about asking for promotions or demanding things of others. It’s not about being a squeaky wheel, it’s about having high expectations of others like you do of yourself.  

The best advice I ever received was from a female mentor who said to me, “Say yes to opportunities – even if you don’t see the direct link – because you don’t know where it’s going to take you.”

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