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Sarah Stratford

Books that influenced me

Sarah Stratford is the executive strategy director at ais London. She has worked at the agency for nine years and has been instrumental in helping client O2 establish digital as a central platform to engage customers. She won an IPA Effectiveness Award for her work on O2 Priority Moments. She was also elected to the board of the Marketing Agencies Association (MAA) in 2013 as planning representative.

1. The real Mad Men: The remarkable true story of Madison Avenue's golden age

By Andrew Cracknell, published by Quercus, 2011

An actual 'mad man' lent me this book. He was keen to show me just how poor a reflection of the real thing the TV show actually was. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I was already fairly convinced of this. Having read it I was not disappointed. It served to remind me that we in the agency world should strive to be agents of change – there to challenge the status quo to make businesses more successful.

2. How brands grow: What marketers don't know

By Byron Sharp, published by Oxford University Press, 2010

During the biggest pitch of my career for a piece of business I'd worked on for a long time, I needed some fresh thinking. Cue a book with the subtitle 'what marketers don't know'. It sets out to challenge much of the industry's conventional wisdom and provide a more scientific and logical explanation as to what works and why. We didn't win, but Sharp's book changed for the better the way I think and approach business challenges.

3. Creative mischief

By Dave Trott, published by LOAF Marketing, 2009

Through a series of anecdotes and observations, this book presents lessons, not just in advertising, but in life. One that stuck with me was about creativity not being something you should wait to be asked for: 'if you're creative, create'. It's something that in agency land we forget, even among creatives. It's easy to blame a lack of good briefs, but the simple point Trott makes is that if there aren't great opportunities to be creative then you have to make them.

4. Whatever you think, think the opposite

By Paul Arden, published by Penguin, 2006

This is a collection of thoughts designed to question the way we look at work and ourselves. The point that stood out most for me was more affirming than challenging: any decision we make is our own, therefore it's never wrong, only inevitable. It chimes with something an old boss said to me when I was agonising over a decision, which at the time was a massive gamble but, in hindsight, turned out to be one of the best I ever made.

5. Moneyball: The art of winning an unfair game

By Michael Lewis, published by W. W. Norton & Company, 2004

This is a compelling account of common sense and insight triumphing over convention. It provides a human example of how clever application of data, combined with the courage to challenge the status quo, can transform the fortunes of an organisation. It's inspirational at the same time as feeling very achievable, making it more relevant to the day-to-day business realities we all face.

6. David and Goliath: Underdogs, misfits and the art of battling giants

By Malcolm Gladwell, published by Allen Lane, 2013

What I love about this book is that it makes you think differently. Gladwell sets out to prove that weaknesses are in fact opportunities for success, that underdogs win not through luck or divine justice but because they use their disadvantages to their advantage and change the rules of the game.

This article was first published in ADMAP

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