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‘Writer, mother, ECD’: Inside the World of Hilary Badger

Hilary Badger is a talented writer, mother and Executive Creative Director at Ogilvy Melbourne. With over 20 years of experience in the creative advertising industry, Hilary has worked with countless clients including BMW, Belong, Myer and the Australian and Victorian Governments. She has inspired many young minds through AWARD school, the Aunties, Copy School and more. Hilary is also a best-selling children's author, with more than thirty titles published in Australia and multiple overseas markets. In this exclusive Mavens interview, we dive into Hilary's journey to ECD, her experiences touring schools and writers' festivals and the challenges she faces as a mother and senior woman leader.

Can you tell us about your pathway into the creative advertising industry?

At one time I was very committed to being a solicitor, but as I got further into law school I realised either it was too dry or I was too flippant, or maybe both. But by then I’d come so far with it, I didn’t want to let all that HECS money disappear down the drain. So I enrolled in RMIT’s creative advertising course, whilst forcing myself through Melbourne Uni’s summer semester too. You did 2 weeks of 9-to-5 lectures, then the exam the following week. The law school didn’t offer its full syllabus over summer, just things like Insurance Law and Maritime Law. Somehow I survived all that, graduated from both courses in the same year, and now here I am.

What was it going from agency life to touring schools and writers' festivals as a children's author?

One was always a lovely break from the other.

During Children’s Book Week, I would take annual leave from advertising and tour festivals and primary schools, where the kids would always want a hug (but you can’t, of course). They were mostly at the age where they weren’t concerned about being cool and would say completely genuine things like, “Today is the best day of my life.”

But there were some odd experiences, too. Like when I visited a religious school which had an aversion to magic, and they wanted to check that nothing I planned to say was fantastical. Which, you know, was tricky for a fiction writer. By the time Children’s Book Week was over every year, I’d usually be well ready to get back to adland, where magical thinking was embraced and occasional hugs permitted.

What are some of the challenges you've faced as a woman in a senior position in the creative industry?

Over the years, until now, I’ve mostly been the only woman in the room at my level, with no precedent for someone like me being there. And so many ‘blah’ things have happened. Like arriving at a new job to find there was nowhere to express breast milk. Or regularly being told I was included on projects not because my skills were a good fit but because of “optics”. It’s hard to believe people still say that quiet bit out loud. But they definitely do, without shame or even awareness of it being a problem. Apart from that, it’s just been the same time crunch that all working women face.

No-one knows deadline pressure like a mother rushing home from a pitch to prep dinner for those most mercurial of clients, children.

I am so lucky to have incredible support from my own parents. I’ve made it all sound tough, and sometimes it has been. But also, I’ve had so much fun and met so many awesome people who just get it.

What do you consider to be your superpower as a creative leader?

The combination of drive and empathy. It’s important to aim high, but be human about it. My dogged belief in the value of different voices in the conversation, which I will cling to and elevate now that the world’s finally catching up. Also, my ability to get up very early in the morning.

You can connect with Hilary on LinkedIn here.


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