Susan Betteridge

Cues and Views

Ad agency owner and CCO Susan Betteridge, in brief.

Susan Betteridge

Home: Chicago, IL.  Age: Forty(ish).  Profession: Advertising creative.  Organization: Pahnke Chicago.  Title: Chief Creative Officer & Partner.  Pronouns: She/Her/Hers.  Significant other: My wife and biggest fan, Julie Scott Betteridge.  Alma mater: Michigan State University.

Current project: I opened my own independent, startup advertising agency, Pahnke Chicago, in early 2020, right before the pandemic.  It was beyond a tough time to open an agency, but here we are, three years later, with a solid retainer client and growing client project work.  Latest contribution to others: Serving on the Executive Board of Directors for Center on Halsted, the most comprehensive LBTQ+ community center in the Midwest.  Also, serving on the Board of Directors for Common Threads, Chef Art Smith’s charity dedicated to teaching children the value of preparing nutritious foods.  What’s been your big (or biggest leap)? Quitting my stable agency to job to start my own.  Hobbies: Skiing, chasing toddlers, lounging at our lake house in Michigan, yoga.  Recent travel or adventure: A trip to Vietnam and Cambodia, as well as heli-skiing in Alaska.  Upcoming travel or adventure: Taking my girls to Italy for a summer, soon!  Recently viewed and recommended: Everything, Everywhere, All at Once.  All the feels, all the crazy.

What one word would your closest friend use to describe you? Passionate.  How do you define an ideal business relationship? Honest, open and respectful.  What is your greatest joy? I love words and writing.  Expressing our thoughts through words is a privilege and a passion.  What is your guilty pleasure? Ramen noodles.  What occupation, other than your own, do you most admire? Teachers.  What ingredient is essential to your perfect vacation? My people.  Usually my wife and my daughters, but sometimes a friend I haven’t connected with in years. 

What was your first paying job? Picking asparagus by hand in the fields of West Michigan. What’s prominently featured on your home or office wall? A canvas print of Madonna circa 1984.  She was my muse back then and is still an inspiration today as she continues to reinvent herself and create relevancy.  What’s the best advice you received growing up? My dad always said, “You can do anything you put your mind to” and I have taken that to heart at every turn.  What’s the best advice you received in your career? You are only as good as the people you hire. What is your go-to source of creative inspiration? I still like flipping through the pages of Communication Arts.  Give me an advertising or design annual and I will always walk away inspired. 

What change are you working on to effect in your profession or field?

Years ago, the 3% Movement shed light on the fact that only 3% of creative directors in the advertising industry were women.  This created a long overdue sea change that I was proud to be a part of.  I advocated for diverse voices in the room, used my position and privilege to promote more female creative leaders and told a few old white men that they were painfully out of touch. 

What change would you like to see in the world? Equity for women in the workplace.  Whether it's pay gaps or the fact that we still haven’t had a woman president, patriarchy is alive and well. What message do you want to send out into the world? Be kind to people.  No matter what message you have to deliver, it can be said with diplomacy and respect.  What mega-trend most excites you? AI tech.  What mega-trend most concerns you? AI tech.

What title would you choose for the movie about your life? La Vita è Bella (Life is Beautiful).  Who would you like to spend an evening with, in heaven? My dad. He died suddenly when I was 19 and I only began to scratch the surface of what he had to share.  As a kid, what did you first want to be when you grew up? An author or a veterinarian.  I loved animals more than people and, most days, I still do.  How would you choose to spend tomorrow, if you knew it was your last day on earth? With my family, skiing fresh powder in the Alps.  

Personal motto: Be better.  A better mom, a better mentor, a better friend, a better human.  Favorite quote: “Pressure is a privilege” (Billie Jean King).

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