Creative Lives Podcast — W+K planner, Ayo Fagbemi on politics and finding purpose in your work
On the podcast this week, we meet planner and strategist Ayo Fagbemi. Graduating with a BA in politics and international relations, Ayo found his way to advertising after being handpicked to join W+K’s creative incubator programme, The Kennedys last year. Spending four months learning the ropes, he was later offered an internship and hired as a full-time strategist earlier this year. He talks about pushing brands to create positive change, how his interest in politics influences his approach to work; and why it can be beneficial to replenish commercial work with passion projects.
Planner and Strategist, Wieden+Kennedy (2018)
Editor, DISS (2015–present)
Founder and CEO, Thyme is Limited (2016–present)
Campaigner, New Internationalist (2017)
Content Writer, Radar Radio (2017)
Digital Marketing Intern, The Simplifiers (2017)
Intern, House of Commons (2015)
BA Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham (2014–2017)
Currently a strategist at Wieden+Kennedy, first, Ayo starts by telling us about working in the agency, and what it means to be a young person in industry: “One of the challenges I have as a young person is being seen just as the mind for a particular age bracket. In reality, to be a really good strategist and cater to different brands, you have to understand all the different sides of life.”
Driven by a strong sense of purpose, Ayo is also the Youth Delegate for the Tottenham Labour Party. Focused on finding new ways to engage young people, it’s a pursuit that has inspired not only his approach to work at the agency, but also his view on the industry as a whole: “Working in advertising allows me to understand the bigger picture. It’s about making sure the stuff you do in your work place doesn’t affect the world in a negative way. As much as we’re providing a service, we’re also providing your thoughts and the way in which you see the world.
“People’s attitudes are changing and naturally, brands have to respond to that. They have to be more sustainable and better at communicating ideas in a more tolerant way. Now, it’s important not just to accept that – but to push them forward.”
“In my job, I’m trying to find a purpose for brands, but outside of work, and as a person – what’s the purpose that drives you?”
Thinking back to his time at school and later university, for Ayo, an insatiable interest in people was clear from the very start. A politics and international relations graduate from Nottingham University, from music and T-Shirts to making his own magazine, he has always been a staunch advocate for pursuing passion projects alongside his work. Today, in addition to his work at the agency he is also working with three music artists, DELLON, Aanya Martin and Kam Bu & Pullen.
“A lot of the younger people in this industry aren’t comfortable doing just one thing. I’m Gen-Z, I don’t want to be put in a box! That’s the beauty of it” he tells us, “I can do one thing outside of work but I can bring that breadth of knowledge and skills into what I do in the agency.”
An image from the event Ayo organised for Tottenham Young Labour, with David Lammy MP, Linda Maitland from Grime4Corbyn, and David Vujanic, from Copa 90.
Ayo’s first jobs at Oxfam and the New Internationalist solidified a desire to connect with others about real world issues. For him, understanding a broad cross-section of society is integral to produce meaningful work that can communicate to all: “In reality, to be a really good strategist and cater to different brands, you have to understand all the different sides of life.”
Finally, Ayo shares his advice for someone looking to follow a similar path. As well as reaching out to people you admire, and going in with the right intentions, for Ayo, seeking out advice and mentorship is also beneficial – something he knows first hand from having Superimpose's Ollie Olanipekun as his own mentor. But it's a system that works both ways, as he explains: “Older people in industry should also try and find those younger people. It's so important to give back and provide a legacy. Even if no one helped you [when you were starting out] be that person who makes a change and helps other people.”