Nicole “Nikki” Laughlin, President, Havas Chicago

(Nicole “Nikki” Laughlin)

Editor’s Note: They are leaders. They are inspirational. They are mentors. They are visionaries. They are, quite frankly, badasses. They are our 2020 REEL WOMEN. During Women’s History Month, you will be able to meet these incredible personalities in Advertising, Entertainment, Media and Production. Get ready, they are making “Herstory”

One of the agencies we really enjoy covering is Havas Chicago. Of the myriad of reasons why, one can definitely be attributed to the agency’s President and Chief Client Officer, Nicole Laughlin.

She is responsible for delivering the strategic vision of the creative agency. “Nikki” also serves as executive client lead and oversees the agency’s roster of brands, including Citi, Cracker Barrel, Hefty, Ragu, Reynolds Consumer Products, Moen, Michelin and Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

Prior to joining Havas Chicago, Nicole held senior-level positions at renowned agencies, brands and platforms. Most recently, she spent two years in a global marketing role at Facebook, where she was tasked with building the platform’s retail vertical.  

Nicole was previously a Senior Vice President at Leo Burnett and led global marketing teams for Disney and Kellogg’s. She also served as Vice President of Marketing and Brand Development for the leading Midwest supercenter chain, Meijer, and was named one of the Top Women in Grocery by Progressive Grocer.

Nicole earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and German from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and studied in the Executive Education Program at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

She and her family reside in Chicago with their numerous pets, including dogs, horses and a hedgehog.

Let’s hear from Nicole:

What Did You Originally Want to be When You Grow Up? An advertising executive. As a kid, I was exposed to that world, growing up in my family’s business in Italian restaurants and delicatessens. I’d see pizza boxes and photo boards of commercials at my grandma’s house, and the creativity in that was always fascinating to me.

How Did You Get into Advertising? Right place, right time. I landed an interview at Ammirati Puris as they were opening a Chicago office, and there were some great people willing to take a chance on me. I was just fresh out of college with a head full of ideas.

I’m still full of ideas, which is one of the reasons why I joined Havas Chicago. Our focus on relentlessly solving business problems with creativity is a value that resonates with me both personally and professionally.  

Who Were Your Mentors? Constructive Instigators. Really gracious leaders who gave me a shot, pushed me to be fearless, asked “why”, demanded I know the business, asked me to try again and again…and even told me “no” more than I liked, knowing I’d find a way to do it any way.

John Sheehy, Clive Sirkin, Mark Baynes, John Condon, Peter Whitsett. But today that person is Paul Marobella (CEO of Havas Creative North America).

Name Your Biggest Achievement In life, my biggest achievement is raising three really cool little people with an amazing partner. Sometimes they’re relentless little monsters, but I know where they get that from.

ALSO READ: Susan Treacy, Executive Creative Director Energy BBDO

Biggest Disappointment I can’t even say. I edit those from my mind. I don’t have mental storage for that stuff.

Name Your Biggest Pet Peeves Emails that aren’t edited/art directed. A little spacing, bold, underline, and fewer words can go a long way. Be kind to your recipient. We all get too many emails. And if it doesn’t fit in the frame of a phone (no scrolling!), it’s probably better as a conversation.

Predictions for Advertising over the Next Decade I learned so much during my time at Facebook, but one thing in particular I see as an ongoing challenge for marketers and businesses: moving at the speed of the people we seek to serve. That translates to many things – from the customer experience, both physical and digital, all the way to the ads themselves, how they’re concepted and edited, and everything in between.

The businesses that figure this out, or make the fastest strides forward, will win.

Name a Job You Had that Would Surprise People I grew up in restaurants, so I’ve been a waitress, hostess, bussed tables, tended bar – you name it. And still today, if my cousins called me up and needed help, I’d throw on an apron.

But they would never ask me to cook, which is wise. Maybe my first job isn’t so surprising.

My current hobby is probably more surprising. I’m a cowgirl, literally. Some of my favorite people in life are my fellow cowgirls and cowboys. I learn so much from them, and from my horses.

Who Plays You in Your Life Story? Marisa Tomei, but very much in character as Mona Lisa Vito from “My Cousin Vinny.”

What do You Wish You had More Time for? Hang out with my kids. They’re pretty cool little people at the ages of 14, 12 and 9. Ride my horses. Read. I have a hard time sitting still.

Do You Talk to Yourself? I guess so – mostly around these things: As a leader of people, there are times when I need to practice extreme self-management. As a working mom, maintaining balance and perspective is so important. As a constructive instigator, consistently staying in a bold, brave headspace is imperative when leading through change.

What Inspires You to be Creative? Being comfortable with being uncomfortable. Knowing there’s always something new, different and better to uncover. Knowing there’s always more to learn and understand that makes our work and our clients’ business better.