I’m the CEO of J. Walter Thompson, the world’s first global advertising agency. With 200 offices and 10,000 employees around the world, my job is to oversee the direction of the company as it relates to our creative endeavors, strategic partnerships, financials, and our recruiting and hiring practices. In addition to work, my passions range from tennis, to theatre, to spending time with my beautiful children, and participating in various philanthropic events and organizations. I throw myself into everything I do.
How has the shift towards more responsible or politically correct advertising impacted your work?
Marketing and advertising play a huge role in shaping our society. In fact, they were two of the leading factors that steered me into this industry. I don’t know if I see the shift as being more politically correct so much as a reflection of our evolving community. Diverse representations in advertising simply add depth and credibility to our messages and broaden the reach of our campaigns.
Can you give some examples of clients that have adopted a responsible approach and remained authentic/true to themselves, and how they are used creatively to help further their message?
All brands need the combination of human insight and business, but with purpose. Tylenol’s recent work explored how pain can impact people’s daily lives, and how at times overcoming pain leads people to progress, think differently about their future, broaden their horizons or to simply get more fit. The work stayed true to what the brand is about (a pain medication), but gave it a broader social context through a human insight that people could connect to.
Do you believe this helps the brand develop a deeper bond with their audience? Might taking a stance on social/political issues also turn away some potential customers?
The key ingredient is authenticity. If that brand is true to their core values and promotes a positive message, it will create that deeper bond with their audience and foster trust between the brand and the consumer. Add in a strong sense of purpose, and it will ensure that people are loyal and believe in the brand itself. Taking a stance on political and/or social issues depends on the brand’s messages and, again, it goes back to authenticity. Ultimately, yes, you may risk losing some potential customers, but if the message strongly resonates and is relevant to most of your core audience, it’s a small price to pay.
Are there any specific causes your agency as a whole or you yourself hold near and dear? If so, tell us about them.
I am very passionate about my affiliation with Save the Children, an organization that promotes children’s rights and offers support to them in developing countries. For over ten years, I have held various board positions with them and I hope to continue my work there for as long as I possibly can.
As we move towards more socially conscious advertising, are there any campaigns from the past that you think simply wouldn’t get made today?
Thankfully, representations and attitudes have evolved over time. When I look back on campaigns from previous decades, I think of stereotypes of all marginalized people, whether they are racist or sexist or discriminatory against anyone. Those campaigns simply don’t work in today’s society. Consumers are more in tune with a brand’s message and most people won’t tolerate offensive advertisements.
Is there a specific campaign for a good cause you worked on that you’re most proud of? Or a favorite campaign from another?
There are so many social justice campaigns JWT has produced that I am proud of. Most recently, the “Not-So-Beautiful Game” out of the UK raised awareness about the increase in domestic violence during the World Cup tournaments. And “Forbidden Stories” out of our Paris office was work that allowed correspondents in conflict zones to pursue and publish the findings of silenced journalists. Both were very powerful.