Posted 22 November 2023
Interview by Frankie Mari
Mention Bhrena Marino

Why TBWA’s Bhrena Marino thinks working in strategy is like being a detective

Those of us who enjoy a good detective drama know that there are often many layers to figuring out the unknown. For TBWA’s Bhrena Marino, she sees her role on a level with that of Sherlock Holmes – or more specifically, Sherlock’s trusty sidekick, Watson. In her words, “there’s always a mystery to be solved,” as she spends her days researching, analysing data and interviewing people to get to the bottom of briefs for brands including Adidas and McVities. Bhrena speaks to us about her path into strategy, getting inspiration from her Brazilian roots and how to make your application stand out from the rest.

Bhrena Marino

Bhrena Marino

Job Title

Junior Strategist, TBWA\London



Selected Clients

McVities, Mini Cheddars, Ovarian Cancer World, Adidas

Place of Study

MA Marketing, Accademia di Comunicazione, 2020-2021
BA Graphic Design, NABA/Milan, 2015-2020

Social Media


What I do

How would you describe what you do at TBWA?
Imagine detectives – Sherlock Holmes, or a character from Agatha Christie’s books. Junior strategists are like detectives and there’s always a mystery to be solved.

In our case, these are business problems. We do a lot of research, analyse data, interview people, hope for the “aha” moment and seek to get to where others haven’t been before. The only difference is that, unlike in the world of mysteries, in strategy we know there isn’t just one way of solving a problem – there are many, and I’m still learning my ways.

It’s worth mentioning that a junior strategist is more like Watson than Sherlock Holmes – which is still a great mission! We learn the most by supporting the senior folks and we get to be helpful by doing things only a junior strategist would have time for (like spending a non-disclosed number of hours on Twitter or TikTok searching for “trends”).

“Junior strategists are like detectives and there’s always a mystery to be solved.”

What recent project are you most proud of?
A recent project that I'm proud of was our work on the iconic Mini Cheddar‘s brand [video shown below]. We successfully proposed and tailored a TikTok ad to promote the brand and it resulted in impressive results.

But there are so many other little moments of pride – like when I got a thumbs up from a senior strategist on my first creative brief (hugs to Michael!), when I briefed a creative team for the first time, when my research helped shape the overall strategic thinking of a project and when I contributed to a case study that won a Gold Effie – the Oscars for strategists.

In fact, I think junior strategists deserve Effie awards just for themselves, maybe with new categories like ‘Best Social Listening’, ‘Best Reddit Finding’, ’Most Interesting Rabbit-hole Research’ and more!

How I got here

What kind of skills are needed to do your role? Would you say you need any specific training to do what you do?
You need to know how to do good desk research (using Google, social listening, trend reports and more), simplify your findings and share your recommendations, analyse and interpret data, as well as build strategic presentations and present them to the wider team.

Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s much training out there for these things. When it comes to presenting, Mark Pollard always shares some good tips on his Instagram account – but you could use school or personal projects to train any of the above.

Also, there are definitely some things from your personal life that could be transferable to strategy. For instance, ten years living in Italy and mainly working as a babysitter definitely made me see the value in thinking long term, solving problems and being both flexible and empathic – all of which are extremely valuable in strategy.

“Living in Italy and working as a babysitter made me see the value in problem-solving and thinking long term.”

My Desktop

Bhrena’s “desk research”, a desktop full of important files

How did you land the job?
I was lucky enough to know that I wanted this job since my first year of uni, so I worked backwards from there to understand how I could get it. In Italy, things are a bit different, so the most effective option was to start a master's program that would help me land my first internship. After that, things were a bit easier.

I would advise anyone who wants to enter this world to reach out to as many people as they can on LinkedIn and get as much information as possible about the job and the role. Don’t be afraid to email recruiters and the talent managers of the agencies you would like to work with too, even if they’re not currently recruiting. Also, if you’re about to start a master’s, consider those that will help you find an internship.

And finally, I’d work a lot on being memorable and authentic in your CV, presentation letter and interviews. This is what I wrote in my presentation letter that helped me land the interview with TBWA:

An example of what Bhrena wrote in her presentation letter for TBWA\London

“Be memorable and authentic in your CV, presentation letter and interviews.”

What was your journey like when you were first starting out? Did you find your feet quickly?
It was quite challenging at the start. I had been trying to get this role for so long, and did so much research through industry blogs and podcasts, that I thought I had all the knowledge needed to do the job. When reality hit me hard in the face, I felt like Alice in Wonderland, falling into a horrible hole of self-doubt. Luckily, I found people who could support me and remind me that I was actually doing a decent job.

It’s actually surreal when I look back to those painful moments of growth and realise how much I’ve learnt. I could do the very same things today with my eyes closed. I guess discomfort is indeed part of growth – but do remember that most people don’t know what you’re going through, so please let them know if you're struggling and they can give you some support.

Bhrena holding a Gold Effie award (the Oscars for strategists)

If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work, what would they be and why?
BBC’s Deeply Human podcast is a great one to listen to as it gives you a snapshot of human behaviours.

YouGov has a daily newsletter that gives you a great sense of the nation: how they feel and think beside Twitter trends and news headlines.

And of course, my home country, Brazil. There is so much good stuff in my culture, music and advertisements, so I’m always keeping an eye on it and using its references at work. Call it Brazil domination… ish. An example is a small project I did in my master's where I transformed Helvetica into Euvética, a Brazilian and more fun version of the Swiss font.

“There is so much good stuff in Brazilian culture, music and advertisements, so I’m always keeping an eye on it and using its references at work.”

Bhrena marino strategist creativelivesinprogress 08

Bhrena’s creative project from her master's course, turning the font Helvetica into Euvética

Bhrena marino strategist creativelivesinprogress 10

What has been your biggest challenge along the way?
Accepting that it is fine to keep learning and to make mistakes. Ultimately, we all want to be great at what we do, but the reality is that we’re all learning – and this is a long, long, long journey with lots of long-awaited ups and way-too-frequent downs.

In my less confident moments, I try to think of the times when creatives came to chat with me about their ideas, or even recruit me to work with them! That's been priceless. I also remind myself of what TBWA’s CEO said about me:

Kind words about Bhrena from TBWA’s chief executive, Larissa Vince

What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
Think long term and save or invest as much as you can. Don’t get in the habit of matching other people’s lifestyles – the creative industry loves a good pub after work, so that can be a problem if you’re not careful with how and when you spend your money.

My advice

What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t carry the world on your shoulders. It’s okay to learn and make mistakes.

What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar career?
Learn the basics of strategy to build your confidence. Essential books to read are Mark Pollard’s Strategy Is Your Words and How Not to Plan by Les Binet and Sarah Carter. Also, reach out to junior or midweight strategists for advice, as they still remember how difficult it can be to enter and navigate this world.

Don't forget to be proud of yourself, your background and everything you’ve done in the past. All these things not only make you valuable but also bring a fresh perspective to the table. So don’t give up! Try interviewing for other positions as well and move departments in the future if necessary.

Interview by Frankie Mari
Mention Bhrena Marino