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McCann Leeds Managing Partner explains why Creative Courage leads the way


Olly Sowden, Managing Partner at McCann Leeds, takes a look back at a year working in Leeds with a consistent focus on Creative Courage. 


Believe it or not, it’s been a year since McCann Leeds and Prolific North teamed up with Channel 4 to launch its first Creative Courage event, and what a year it’s been!

When we first brought those 300 people together to celebrate and inspire courage within the region’s creative sector, we couldn’t have imagined where the next year would take the McCann Leeds team. Five Creative Courage webinars and nine articles later, an expanding client base, a growing team, and of course a global pandemic to contend with, here we are going from strength to strength.

Our team at McCann Leeds first came up with the concept of Creative Courage as we wanted to form a community that used the power of creativity to fuel people, prosperity and optimism in the region, and have the belief and courage to stand up and stand out.

We have been absolutely blown away by the response, feedback and collaboration from the region’s creative community, especially at a time when every business is facing unprecedented challenges.

In some ways, the onset of COVID-19 has inspired more collaboration between businesses, as they not only look to work together to survive the same storm, but have been forced to find new ways to summon creativity in order to break down new, and unforeseen, barriers.

We’ve collaborated with some fantastic people and brands, who have all shared amazing insights into what creative courage means to them. We had James Henderson, Head of Marketing at Aviva, discussing how to get internal buy-in and create short-term KPIs for long-term objectives; Michelle Roberts, Head of Insight at Nestle, talking about why using old creative can sometimes be the best and bravest thing to do; and Gareth Turner, Head of Brand at Weetabix, sharing how creating an internal culture that allows for mistakes can lead to successes. Our own Executive Creative Director, Gavin Shore, even shared his secrets on how to get the best out of creative in tough times.

We’re not stopping there. We are pleased to announce that Sam Dolan, Head of Marketing at Aunt Bessie’s, will be joining us on 26th November to talk about why it’s important to fight for great creative. Everyone is welcome, whether you’re an established marketeer or student looking to sharpen your skills, so make sure you join us.


We also have some exciting plans for the next year and hope to work with our partners to continue to share insights, advice and just great work. We’ve got some amazing guest speakers and authors lined up for our next webinar and blog series, and of course, hope we’re able to see you all in person soon at another live event.

Despite the turbulence, we have seen some fantastic examples of creative courage this year, and I for one am proud to be part of such an inspiring industry and creative community. Wherever the next year takes us, one thing’s for sure – having courage when it comes to creative is the only way to ensure that we can continue to stand up, stand out, and celebrate the fantastic sector in which we work.

To find out more about working with McCann Leeds or how to get involved with their Creative Courage series, please contact or visit

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