Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The Road to Madfest: Tamara Sword wants to find out where we go from here

Ahead of Mad//Fest London 2021, official media partner NDA is chatting to some of the brilliant line-up of speakers before they step on to the stage (for real) at the industry’s first big in-person event in the UK in over a year. Today we hear from day one chair Tamara Sword, Founder and Managing Director of ThoughtLDR.

You’re chairing day 1. Tell us, who are you most excited about speaking to at Madfest and why?

I don’t think I’m allowed to have favourites but I’m pretty stoked to have Sir Martin Sorrell kicking off the day and Facebook’s Baroness Nicola Mendelsohn wrapping it up. We’ve also got the brilliant Rory Sutherland, who is to Adland what David Attenborough is to a bunch of chimps in the wild.

He always holds a mirror up to the industry so I’m looking forward to hearing what he’s made of some of the brand responses to the pandemic and the massive changes we’ve seen in consumer behaviour. 

What questions can we expect?

The theme for this year’s MAD//Fest is “Where do we go from here.” It feels like the right question at the right time. Right now, everyone is wrestling with what the future holds – not theoretically future gazing about the next five or ten years – but actually sweating over what next month will look like.

My job on the day is really to push the audience to come up with some hardball questions for the speakers. One thing I can promise is that any questions mentioning “the new normal” will go straight in the bin.  

What has kept you smiling in your working life during the last year’s turbulence?

Juggling kids and Zoom – if you didn’t laugh, you’d probably cry. But parent or not, I feel like we’ve all brought more of ourselves to work. It’s been good to get to know my team and our clients that bit better – and that’s something I hope we carry forward.

What positive impacts on long-term consumer behavioural shifts will the pandemic have?

Probably the biggest shift and the one least likely to reset is more remote ways of working. The daily grind of the commute, the headphones to concentrate, the perennial lemsip on the desk – we now know that this isn’t the only recipe for productivity or great results.

Remote – for those whose jobs can be done remotely, it could reshape how we plan our cities, where people choose to live, the type of houses we build and the clothes we wear. Fundamentally, it will transform how people balance the professional and the personal in their lives.

What technology, innovation or market development are you most excited about for the year ahead?

I’m a big kid when it comes to tech. So running an agency that works with tech companies is like working in a sweet shop. But right now, I’m focusing on tech that lets us join the dots that bit better, integrating all the different tools and platforms we adopted last year. Ideally the technology that connects us should become almost invisible.

That’s the key to successful remote working – not feeling remote in the first place.