Industry Leaders
BBH London
Managing Director

Holly Ripper

As the working world evolves, it becomes increasingly clear that inclusive hiring practices aren't just about meeting quotas; they're a strategic imperative that elevates workplace dynamics, productivity, and employee satisfaction. This understanding is central to the work done by Holly Ripper, Managing Director at BBH London, one of the UK’s leading advertising firms. 

Max Webber, Co-Host of The Interview, met with Holly to talk about everything from her career journey in advertising to the value of breaking down barriers to access and the key habits of the most successful people leaders. 

Holly's Journey

Max: Can we begin with an introduction to yourself and your current role? 

I joined BBH nine years ago to help run the Tesco Turnaround Story. When I interviewed for this job, I knew it was a dream come true. At the time, BBH was making some excellent work: the Three Little Pigs ad for The Guardian, Clowns for Audi, and British Airways’ ‘Don’t Fly!’. When coupled with the chance to help turn around one of Britain’s biggest retailers, it sounded like the best job in the world, and I felt very privileged to be offered the position. We have some wonderful clients here, and we’ve just re-signed Häagen-Dazs after thirty years away from BBH!

Max: What inspired you to pursue a career in the world of advertising? 

It’s a good story! When I was a teenager, I was obsessed with running. It was all I did. Then I went to a girl’s sports camp which was sponsored by Nike, and I was interviewed by some people at the company about women in sport. They brought a whole crew and asked me questions about what I thought. I got to spend a lot of time with the marketing team at Nike, so when it was time for me to go out on work experience I got back in contact with them. At eighteen, I spent a whole summer with the marketing department, attending the launch of NikeTown and visiting their Knockout football tournament at the Millennium Dome with them. It helped me realise that this is what I wanted to do with my life. So after I went to university, I decided to join the industry.

Max: What’s your approach to embedding a sense of inclusion and belonging at BBH?

It’s all about the culture you create. BBH is more than 40 years old, and it’s built on a culture of good and nice which is reflected in everybody who works here. When you have that kind of culture, it pushes everybody to be the best that they can be. It encourages people to care about making the best work, care about each other, and care about the clients. Everyone feels a sense of responsibility to uphold that culture. 

Max: What measures have you taken to introduce more inclusive hiring practices to help widen access to the advertising industry?

It’s fundamental to our business. One of our clients is Tesco, which is one of the biggest employers in the UK, and they have a highly diverse workforce. If we’re going to do work for them, we need to have an understanding of that diversity. We have several initiatives to increase access, such as The Barn, which is our creative program, and Homegrown, our account management strategy and production program. Those are all about bringing people who may not have considered a career in advertising into the industry. But you need to be really careful about where you look: for example, if you just post your job on LinkedIn, you might not find a diversity of candidates. So it’s important to recruit through multiple channels to attract a broader range of applicants. It’s also crucial to have a comprehensive onboarding process which helps people feel welcomed into the business — that’s doubly important when you have a strong culture. When we hire people for a role, we want them to do what they excel at. We talk a lot about “pushing peaks, and cutting off troughs.” It’s okay not to be great at everything: don’t waste time turning weaknesses into strengths, just focus on what you’re good at. 

Max: What’s your approach to creating a welcoming environment on an ongoing basis?

At BBH, we want to ensure people are looked after at all stages of the career cycle. It’s not enough to just do it during the onboarding phase. It goes beyond EDI and deals with anything where your life meets your career, from maternity leave to menopause. We have a clear check-in process which makes sure that people are supported by their teams and managers during those key moments so they can get back on track. 

Max: What are the top traits and habits people leaders need to inspire their teams?

I think you need two things in equal measure: conviction and humility. People need to know what you are doing and where you’re going, but they also want to see that you are open to feedback. As a leader, you need to keep your eyes open and demonstrate that you understand what’s going on in the business. Conviction is reassuring, but you need to make sure it’s balanced with humility to make sure you stay adaptable in this ever-changing world.

Max: Large organisations can be resistant to change. What’s the key to fighting inertia and making sure people stay open to new approaches? 

You need to get people to care fiercely about what they do. I know that’s been the secret to my success. When I look at the people around me who have been successful, they have a real passion for their work, their teams, and their clients. We’re in the business of making ideas happen, and that doesn’t work if you play it safe. To get the best ideas, you need people to be fired up. So make them feel like their voices are heard and help them see the connection between the effort they put in, the work that gets made, and how they are rewarded. 

Max: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career? 

Trust your gut. That can be about people you meet, opportunities that come your way, or the work that you do. If you listen to your instincts and your convictions, you’ll stay on the right track.

Curious to see what the future of training looks like?
Max Webber
Max works closely with people leaders and change-makers in our professional services markets. If you're looking to feature on The Interview, or simply want to learn more about GoodCourse, then get in touch at

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