THE BLOG
12/30/2014 09:07 am ET Updated Mar 01, 2015

Women in Business Q&A: Eileen Campbell, CMO, IMAX

Eileen Campbell joined IMAX in July 2013 as Chief Marketing Officer. Prior to joining the Company, from 2007 to 2013 Ms. Campbell was the Global Chief Executive Officer for the brand building consulting agency, Millward Brown, and held various other executive positions at Millward Brown from 2000-2007. Prior to that, Ms. Campbell led Angus Reid Group's market research and global expansion divisions. Ms. Campbell was employed at NFO Research from 1979 to 1996, most recently as Senior Vice President. Ms. Campbell is a member of the Council of American Survey Research Organizations.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I'm from a big family of six kids - five girls and one boy. From the beginning, we were told there was nothing we couldn't do and there certainly weren't any lowered expectations about what the girls in the family were capable of achieving. While we were growing up, my mom always worked - she was a bit of a Superwoman - so I never really imagined that I wouldn't have a career. My dad was a journalist and he taught me the value of listening to other people's stories and suspending my own agenda while gathering the facts. That has probably been one of the most important lessons I've taken into my professional life. Everyone has an interesting story and listening lets you see the world through their lens, not just your own.

Maybe it was the big family or an Irish Catholic upbringing, but I was constantly reminded that it wasn't "all about me". Strong leaders have to make decisions that are not always in their own personal, best self-interest. When you understand that, you're more open to compromise, more empathetic to opposing views and clearer about which issues really matter most for you and your organization.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at IMAX?
I have been incredibly fortunate throughout my career in that I have had the opportunity to work with many of the world's greatest brands. While I was the CEO of Millward Brown, we worked with 81 of the world's 100 leading brands. It was the most amazing laboratory of marketing activities and leadership styles one could have ever hoped for. It was also an extraordinarily data-rich environment. I can't imagine a career where I could have learned more from the globe's greatest marketers while being able to measure - both quantitatively and qualitatively - what drove their success! I'm trying to translate that learning into marketing success for IMAX.

My earlier career also gave me a truly global view of business. IMAX operates in 58 countries around the world, and I think I had visited nearly every one of them before I joined the company!

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at IMAX?
The biggest highlight has been assembling and bringing together an amazing team of marketing and communications professionals. I am incredibly impressed with the diversity of talent on our team, some of who were here when I started and some of who are new additions to the team. Their willingness to collaborate to drive Marketing excellence has really helped us up our game.

I'm proud of how we've begun to think increasingly globally about our business. IMAX has become one of the most internationally relevant brands in entertainment. For example, it's a real highlight to see what an amazing job our team in China has done to make us so famous and successful!

Our biggest challenge is how to connect directly with our end customer, the moviegoer. In some ways, we're an ingredient brand like Intel. We're built into other people's products and sold through other people's outlets. Yet we need to build brand love and loyalty with the moviegoer. And we need to do it on a budget that is appropriate for the size of our company, but that pales in comparison to the huge budgets of our studio partners. Simply put, we are always trying to find ways to "punch above our weight".

What advice can you offer women who are looking for a career in marketing?
Well, there is advice I would offer anyone in marketing. Be a student of the craft. Learn to love data. The days of the pure "marketing artiste" are gone. Marketers exist to create financial health for the organization they serve and the sooner we accept that, the better.

For women building their careers, I always say ask for opportunities. If something looks interesting, volunteer to get involved even if it isn't your "real job". You'll be seen as interested and inquisitive and you'll eventually know way more about the business than those who toe the line of specific job responsibilities. Don't rail against organizational politics; rather, learn to understand them and influence them in a positive way. And learn to give and accept feedback. It's a real art, and finding a model that works for you early in your career will make a world of difference. Finally, find the sherpas in your organization. These are the people who really know their way around the company, the industry and who want to help others succeed. They aren't always senior, mentor-types and are often the hidden jewels in the company.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
This might be an unpopular answer, but I don't think there is any such thing as "work-life balance". There is only life balance. For me, work is a huge part of my life - a part that brings me great joy and feeds my personal energy. I work hard and I work a lot, but I also am really comfortable with knowing my personal boundaries and trying to make those clear. Of course I'll deal with an emergency on a weekend or call in from vacation to check in... but if it's not an emergency? I'm OK with being "off-the-clock".

I also think vacations really matter and that people should take them. It is a terrible testimonial to the quality of one's team if the place falls apart in your absence. Companies should think of vacation time as a test of leadership skills and succession planning.

Finally, I've largely been lucky enough to do stuff I've loved! I used to spend a lot of time pouring over employee satisfaction data and I never found any correlation between the number of hours people work and how balanced they felt. People could work 20 hours a week and feel they had no work-life balance, while others worked 50 or 60 hours a week and still felt they lived a balanced life. The bigger correlation was simply whether they liked their job. No matter how little you work, if you're doing something you hate, it takes a toll. Conversely, when you love your job, you can create an incredible capacity for work that doesn't crowd out everything else in your life.

Last, but by no means least, pick your employers and your life partners carefully! In both, it is immensely valuable to make sure you are on the same page, understand one another and communicate constantly.

I definitely didn't always get this right, but I learned a lot from my mistakes!

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Clinging to the idea that we have to be perfect at everything. I get very annoyed about the debate over whether women can "have it all". Nobody, regardless of gender, can have it all. Life is about choices and shifting priorities that know no gender distinction.

Beyond that, I think women remain quite uncomfortable assertively asking for what they want at work. Whether it is a raise or a promotion or increased flexibility, clearly asking and confidently asserting why it is right for the business is really key. I've found a lot of qualified women who think they aren't ready for the next step when their male colleagues are inclined to over-estimate their readiness. I think women also feel like "no" is "never"... I was turned down twice for the promotion I most wanted in my life. I just kept coming up with more reasons why it made sense and kept on asking! Eventually, I got to "yes"!

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I have had a lot of amazing mentors in my career. As I said earlier, the common thread is they all thought I could do more than I gave myself credit for. They weren't all easy to work for and some of them were hardly advocates for female employees! But they judged me on my merit and my work and helped me advance my career in immeasurable ways.

On a personal level, corny as it sounds, my parents were the most amazing mentors. My dad was inquisitive with extraordinary story-telling skills. My mom worked full-time, taking on an executive position in her forties, yet managed to raise 6 kids and never missed an event that any of us were in. She was caring but not coddling and she was always clear that she expected us to be self-sufficient and contributing adults. To this day, I see reflections of each of them in almost everything I do!

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
If you dial back a few decades, women in the advertising industry like Mary Wells Lawrence, Charlotte Beers and, more recently, Shelly Lazurus, made marketing services one of the most female-friendly industries in the world. Part of why I joined Millward Brown, which is owned by WPP , was actually Sir Martin Sorrell's reputation for being a promoter of strong female executives.

And the entertainment industry is full of impressive and powerful women like Sue Kroll at Warner Brothers, Amy Pascal at Sony, Donna Langley at Universal and Kathleen Kennedy at Lucasfilms. I'm wowed by their ability to achieve in such a volatile and rapidly changing environment.

Finally, I married into the only family that could make me feel like a female under-achiever! My sisters-in-law, Rebecca & Mary Jane Robertson, are two of the most accomplished women I know. Rebecca is the President and Executive Producer at New York's Park Avenue Armory, an amazing space where New Yorkers can experience the most extraordinary art. Prior to that she led revitalization planning for Lincoln Center and the redevelopment of 42nd Street in NYC. Mary Jane has served as a CFO and on the Board of Directors of publicly traded companies as well as on the board of trustees for the Mayo Performing Arts Center. My husband is no stranger to strong women!

What do you want IMAX to accomplish in the next year?
We have such exciting growth opportunities in our future and I'm thrilled to be a part of such a dynamic company. Personally, I'd like to see us build deeper and more unassailable bonds with consumers. I'd like IMAX to represent in entertainment what Apple does in technology or BMW does in cars. We want to be a brand that is appreciated for our technical superiority but beloved for the joy and magic we bring into people's lives!