Cynthia Davies joined CBX in May of this year as Vice President and Head of Client Services in our New York office. A Brit born in Argentina, Cynthia brings a literal world of experience with her, having also lived in Italy, Brazil, and the UK. Her prior work stops include Landor, Pearlfisher, and Safari Sundays, where, on the back of her work on the global Pepsi/Beyonce campaign, Business Insider named her one of the 30 Most Creative Women in Advertising. We sat down with the (relatively) new mom for five questions, to talk branding, life, and her transition to CBX.
You were the GM at Safari Sundays. What made you decide to join CBX running client teams?
I grew up in client services, so in many ways it’s a return to my roots. I’m naturally curious about how things work on a bigger scale, versus simply getting something done. For me, it’s never just about the project on the table, but thinking holistically about a client’s business—what’s the situational context, what are the external challenges, how can we be better consultants and experts to help push them toward success?
One of the most creative women in advertising is a pretty nice honor! How does that impact what you bring to CBX?
[laughing] Well, I actually hate to talk about it—personal accolades make me a little shy, and I don’t believe work should be attributed to one team member, as that’s not the reality of how it gets done. As for what we’re doing, we’re really looking at two areas. First, we want to have a nimble framework and inject a dose of agility into our approach. And second, it’s all about empathy. I have a lot of global branding experience, and that perspective—different needs, cultures, language, expectation—is crucial in client services. It’s how I think about managing people and building relationships—when to challenge, when to defend…and how to connect the most interesting pieces together to make the magic happen.
How did you get into branding to begin with?
I studied communications and sociology in university and ended up interning in a PR firm after graduation. But I’ve always been really into design, how it affects people’s behavior—everything from brands to interiors to public spaces. Design was my way in, and early on I fell in love with packaging and the role it plays—the most intimate relationship a consumer has with a brand. Packaging was my first love in branding but I like when we’re looking holistically at the challenge and telling the whole story – what do you stand for, how do you behave, and what does that look like across all touchpoints?
Has becoming a mother for the first time impacted how you approach work or your team?
I’ve always been passionate about making sure people have a healthy balance of work and home—it doesn’t matter if you have kids or not, everyone has a right to leave on
time. People are fundamentally better at their job when they have time away to recharge and clear their minds. I’ve always felt that way, but I feel even stronger about it now.
Looking ahead, are there any industry trends you feel are paramount and/or interesting to watch?
From the brand side, we see a serious shift with consumers wanting to buy into smaller, more purposeful brands, and that’s affecting a lot of the companies we work with. We’re seeing more willingness on the part of bigger players to look toward smaller brands for inspiration, with their focus now to grow through acquisition rather than innovation. It’s waking up some of the bigger companies who realize they have to take a look at themselves and reevaluate what they stand for and how they communicate this. And, on our side, the whole agency model has been shaken up over the past few years. Competition is no longer linear – we’re competing with independent consultants, freelancers, in-house studios. It’s forced us to elevate our game. I believe there’s room for everybody, but we can’t take things for granted, and loyalty is not what it used to be. So our mentality isn’t quite paranoia, but it’s pushing us to up our game, to think creatively, and to continue to be the best partners we can be.