Katrien Bottez, Executive Creative Director at Happiness Brussels

How did you get the international attention you got?
I was always very focused on the work itself, and on how to become a better creative. Getting international attention was not my aim at all. But being invited for international juries like Cannes Lions is a nice recognition I’m really grateful for. It allowed me to benchmark my work and to think on a global level. The discussions you have with the other jury members and the immersion in creativity is a great source of inspiration. It makes you a better creative.

In what way is Belgian creativity unique?
 To understand what defines Belgian creativity, it’s interesting to understand Belgium as a country. Although there are only 11 million people, we have 3 official languages: Dutch, French, and German. It’s a melting pot of languages and cultures. On top of that, it has a very complicated state structure. I believe this generates different forms of creativity. It can’t be a coincidence that surrealism was big in Belgium. As we are a very diverse country, there’s a need to create ideas that are understandable for a very diverse public. Maybe that’s why Belgian ideas often travel. If they are understandable for everyone in our country, then there’s a big chance people all over the world can relate to them.

From what you observe, what do you think are the main differences between working in Belgium and abroad?
Belgium is a small country, so that implies we are working with limited budgets. Poor production budgets in America are huge for Belgians. We don’t see this as a disadvantage, we use it as a driver to create outstanding and smart ideas. You know you will not have enough budget to cover up that there is not really an idea, to begin with. The processes in Belgium are quite fast, too. As a creative, you can have a lot of ideas produced in one year.

Who inspires you in this industry?
I had the chance to meet so many interesting people’s in juries, in global councils, during talks. To name only one or two would be unfair. The people I work with inspire me every day. And my father. I was quite a shy girl when I was young. When he saw me hesitating he would always say: ‘Be brave and polite’. I still try to follow his advice every day.
Despite the attention you and your work has gotten, do you ever feel visible at work still?
When I started in advertising, there weren’t a lot of female creatives, let alone female creatives in leadership positions. When you don’t see anyone like you around, you start thinking that you don’t really belong.
My former bosses, André Duval and Guillaume Van der Stighelen decided it would be a good idea to have a woman leading the creative department. That was a bold decision back then. They were bold enough to not appoint a clone of themselves: they believed that diversity was key to make a strong agency.
For people who feel invisible professionally, what would be your advice?
Don’t wait to take on a challenge until you are 100% ready for it. You never are. Dare to speak up in a meeting. Be authentic. Look for a good mentor. Do what you do with passion. If you do all that and people around don’t see you, you may not be in a place that fits you. Then quit.
What is the campaign you’re most proud of having worked on?
Blindmeters. It’s a project where we make people think about road safety in a new way, by letting them experience how many meters they really miss while texting and driving. And also Push to Add Drama: a project from a couple of years ago for TNT. We launched this campaign with only a couple of posts. When we woke up the next day the film had been watched for more than 20 million times already.