Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Digital Women: Valerie Bernstein, Advantage Unified Commerce – “Courage is contagious”

Valerie Bernstein is Executive Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at commerce agency Advantage Unified Commerce (AUC). In a two-decade-long career, Val has worked on campaigns including Dove’s Real Beauty, the launch of the Axe Detailer, Garnier’s Beauty Responsibly, and People Magazine’s “People Love People”.

What is the biggest opportunity for women in your sector of the digital industry today?

I live every day deep in the world of commerce and it’s a rapidly shifting landscape. Keeping pace is the true opportunity, though certainly not limited to women. So perhaps it’s really about allowing ourselves to change; to silence the critical voice that tells us we’re only experts at one topic and instead embrace we can be experts at multiple topics, and at a process or approach.

That our knowledge is transferrable and additive and can adapt to a new conversation. Courage like that is contagious and if we can give more of it to each other, we’re unstoppable.

What is the biggest challenge to you as a woman in the digital industry and how are you overcoming it?

Truly this answer could shift depending on the week. But at the dawn of 2023, it’s trying to create space for creativity. It’s so easy to get pulled into our repetitive work tasks, the operational needs of the business, and lots of meetings. And more meetings. I recently heard a great framing around ‘Maker Days’ vs. ‘Manager Days.’

This simple notion of giving yourself time in the week to think creatively and let the brain fizz with time to think. Less emphasis in those moments on the right answer and more on just exploring what could be. I want to be able to think about what we can reinvent for our agency, how we can break new ground in social commerce, or follow my curiosity into an innovative approach for a client. Here’s to more maker Days and less burnout.

What support structures and organisations are most important and effective to you as a woman in the digital industry?

I find myself trying to create new support structures recently. Most of the formal industry organisations feel like they offer a warm but generic experience and I feel my thinking expands faster when I cast a wider net, although someone can challenge me on that.

My greatest recharge comes from connecting with other women in marketing and beyond. That peer-to-peer network, whether formalised in a membership group like Chief or simply making a commitment to have a new conversation each week is empowering. I had to start small – mentally signing up for two conversations each week. I’ve re-engaged with former colleagues, sought out women whom I’ve read about, or met at an industry event. Each conversation has led to a suggestion to meet this other person. Every time I get perspective, new grains of knowledge, and always an emotional boost.

What is the biggest misconception about women and by women in the digital industry?

Can we just finally torch all the clichés?

I am loathed to even give oxygen to the misconceptions anymore. I don’t know a woman in the digital industry who isn’t running the world in her own way every day.