OW Spotlight Hilary Forrester

Apsley '91

Residential Marketing & Advertising

Tell us about yourself – just a few sentences to introduce yourself. 

I’m originally from Hampshire but have lived in London since I graduated, most recently on a houseboat on the Thames. However, last year, I swapped the view of the water for desert, as I’m now based in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, working for a PIF-funded Giga project, heading up the residential marketing for The Red Sea Development Company. 

What inspired you to work in Marketing? 

I actually started in advertising on the graduate scheme of a London agency. I always paid more attention to the TV adverts than the programmes, as I found the process of convincing someone to part from their hard-earned money fascinating. However, despite working on some great accounts in both London and Sydney, after a while I realised, I wanted to work across all channels-to-market for a brand, rather than just their advertising, so decided to move client-side.   

How did you get to where you are today? 

I began at Land Securities, the UK’s largest property company, supporting their retail development programme, including city-centre developments in Bristol, Cardiff, and Exeter… I became very familiar with Chieveley Services! After which, I wanted to broaden my experience, so moved to their competitor, British Land, where I headed up their office and residential development marketing. I still look at ‘The Cheesegrater’, remembering an event I held on its 48th floor whilst it was still under construction, including Boris Johnson as the keynote speaker and a live broadcast by BBC Weather. It required crazy logistics and many journeys scaling the building in an open hoist – agh! I was at British Land for nine years and was incredibly grateful to have kept my job throughout the financial crisis – they were tough times in real estate.  

But when things picked up, I was approached to be the Marketing Director of Battersea Power Station. It was a fantastic opportunity, and I remain proud of what my team and I delivered. However, I was more than happy to move to the relative calm of Knight Frank, as their Residential Marketing Director. There I further honed my skills in marketing extraordinary property and understanding the many cultural nuances of different international HNW and UHNW buyers. I also enjoyed focusing on creating digital content, which was gaining importance, and gently challenging the ‘because we’ve always done it this way’ mindset. 

From there, I had a luxury marketing consultancy running in the background before receiving a surprising call mid-lockdown asking me to lead the marketing of some of the most stunning and sustainable branded beach residences in the world, currently being built on the pristine west coast of Saudi Arabia. Adventure beckoned! I have a wonderful Saudi team and have had nothing but smiles and a warm welcome since I arrived; so many perceptions of KSA are now out date, and weirdly I’ve found that the British and Saudi sense of humour is identical, which makes thing fun. And it’s a dream role, working in a business with over forty nationalities and some extraordinarily talented individuals. And luckily, I love the heat – next week’s high is 45 degrees! 

What advice would you give to students/young OWs who would like to join the Marketing Industry? 

Take your time to choose whether you want to be agency or client-side as it’ll determine so much about your working day. If you decide to be client-side, select your sector with care and find your sweet spot; the more specialist your knowledge becomes, the more valuable it is. For example, I’ve always loved beautiful buildings (one of the reasons I was adamant I wanted to attend Wellington!), and I enjoy the challenge of creating marketing for people who are hard to impress as it must be flawless.  

Also, it’s worth putting in the effort so that your first job is somewhere credible, as it’ll act a springboard to set up your career. I saw friends compromise and then struggle, as it took years to finally be somewhere that opened doors for them. On that note, be thoughtful about your job moves. There is nothing wrong with being agile, but ensure each new role makes sense, essentially ‘curating’ your CV. This way, future employers can see exactly how you’ve enhanced your experience and level of responsibility, increasing your value. 

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given? 

It’s simple and covers all areas of life. There will always be wealthier, more successful, better looking and more popular people than you. And there will always be people with less money, and are less successful, less good-looking, and less popular. Therefore, plough your own furrow and focus on being your best – comparing yourself to others is pointless. Oh, and I also love one from my darling Mum – ‘Aim for the stars, and you might just hit a tall tree!’ 

What are your career highlights? 

As a 22-year-old Account Executive, watching my first ad air on TV whilst sat in my shared house in Putney (with six girls who remain my best friends) was so exiting. Having played a part in selling it into my client and making it happen, gave me enormous satisfaction and the confidence to know that I was on the right track with my career. Since then, there have been many great moments, but giving creatives at the top of their game the space to excel, seeing the output of my work and peoples’ reaction to it, and (hopefully!) its positive effect on sales, continues to cement how much I love what I do.  

Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years? 

I’ve had the good fortune to be employed by some great companies on extraordinary projects, and I’ve worked hard. Therefore, whilst my future career is very likely to continue to include marketing, I’m thinking perhaps after my time in the Middle East I might look at a change in direction that is less corporate… who knows?! 

Do you have a fond memory from your time at Wellington that you would like to share or perhaps a particular teacher that really stood out? 

Anyone taught English by Dr Gwyn would agree he was a legend. Certainly, a character… I remember him having a thing about the railways of the Welsh mining industry(?!) But he was the one who inspired me to read English at Uni, somehow managed to get a class-full of cynical jocks to debate great works of literature – how did he do that?! 

I love watching rugby, still do, so being on Bigside with the other Apsley girls, wrapped up in our Wellington scarves on a crisp autumn afternoon watching the First XV, (usually winning!), remains a lovely memory of our school.  

Thanks to Hilary Forrester (Ap 91)  for this spotlight piece.