WPP Maestro Executive Leadership Experience

A few weeks ago, I attended WPP’s Executive Leadership course, “Maestro”. I was selected to attend Maestro late last year by the JWT Leadership Committee, made up of our COO, CCO, CFO, and our Head of Talent (that’s a lot of C’s!). I was proud to be selected and looking forward to the opportunity to grow as a leader within both the company, and the network. The experience took place in Norwalk, Connecticut at a retreat nestled back in the woods of Fairfield County in the southern part of the state down by New York City. It’s one of the last stops out of Penn Station and beautiful place. I hadn’t visited the area before so it was a treat.

I don’t wanna bore with all the sordid details of what went on, but I can confirm that there were no secret handshakes or mystic rituals. We spent several days working in small groups on different scenarios, each designed to move us further down the path to becoming a valuable contributor to the process of bringing agency value and trust to the forefront. Here’s a pretty apt description of the experience:

Maestro aims to strengthen the ability of WPP’s best client practitioners to be trusted senior advisors and partners in innovation who are able to build and lead increasingly large, complex relationships. The program enhances problem-solving, fact-based decision making, relationship and people/team leadership skills.

The team they’ve assembled is World Class and the process you go through is transformative. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been able to identify precisely the moment when you feel as though, “this is it, this is something special” and this was definitely one of those times. I’m certain everyone in the program was of sufficient caliber, but I felt like fate had put me in the presence of some of the nicest, smartest, sharpest people I’ve ever been privileged enough to work with. I met, and partnered with, some truly rock-star network advertising talent.

I’ve participated in leadership training before, most notably the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce’s “Leadership Grand Strand” Program. This was similar in content but much more focused and direct in practice. Maestro’s sole focus is on increasing value in the client relationship by demonstrating your ability to build trust and partner. As a person who is increasingly working directly with clients (and accounts!) through more visible efforts on larger projects, I’ve got a responsibility to ensure I’m successfully building that trust and strengthening that relationship and this was the perfect “boot camp” to get it done.

I don’t mean to imply that it was confrontational in its approach, but that it was an honest, professional, at times tough, process. Working through confrontation, managing expectations, establishing rapport, and being empathetic are just facts of life and the sooner you can learn to harness that, the more you’re bringing to the table. I appreciate tremendously the opportunity to get into and explore that headspace.

I could go on and on about how much personal growth you can cram into a week, but suffice to say, I can’t think of a time when I’ve been so personally and professionally challenged to push myself in new (and sometimes uncomfortable) ways. But man, do you come out the other side a better person…

Just like my experience with Leadership Grand Strand, the people I met and became friends with are going to wind up being lifelong friends. We’ve already got a standing Skype meeting every month to catch up and I find myself keenly into what all my fellow Maestros are up to.

Here it is the beginning of February and I’ve already had an experience that I think is going to be difficult to top!

JWT Digital Capabilities Reel


We just finished up a digital capabilities video that was used in some creds pieces and some digital business pitches. It was a fun experience and I appreciated being able to boast a little bit about our capabilities. I think we do amazing things here, I’m proud of the team we’ve assembled at JWT. The work is creative, fun, easy going, collaborative, and something to look back on fondly. Have a look, see what we’ve done!

USMC Mobile Website

This week, ahead of schedule and under budget, my team delivered a hugely successful mobile deployment for the United States Marine Corps. A terrific example of powerful teamwork and collaboration, this project represents a continuation of the increasingly complex work we’re doing in mobile. With a mobile display layer that accommodates a huge array of handsets and screens, this one was a nice sized effort that required tremendous oversight and a lot of planning & strategy.

One of the biggest challenges with this project was leveraging the existing CMS for content, while presenting larger, longer-form experiences in smaller, bite-sized chunks. We needed to build over an existing infrastructure, a way to take content that was originally (and optimally) designed for a desktop experience, reduce it in both size and scope, and wrap it in a mobile display layer that still reflected both the brand and a look & feel consistent with the desktop experience.

Mission accomplished. Check out some of the shots below, and make sure you take a look at the website in your mobile device.

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Speaking at Digital Hollywood, Fall 2013, Los Angeles, California

Last week, I participated in my second speaking engagement at Digital Hollywood. I had previously spoken there in May, on a panel there to discuss the USMC Youtube brand page and I suppose I must’ve done okay because they invited me back again. This time, I was on another panel, and once again the topic was Youtube. The topic of my Panel was “The Power of YouTube: Unlocking the Power of Programming, Premium Content and Advertising” and it was part of the “strategic sessions” track. I had a fantastic time and was part of an amazingly talented group of panelists. We discussed YouTube channels, business models for success, curation challenges (which I totally owned… that was my sweet-spot!), and the challenges of creating compelling branded content. I had a blast. As the only “big agency” representative on the panel, I was able to offer some unique insights that I felt were well received. The difficult task at a lot of these panel type affairs is to ensure that you’re offering up a nice balance of compelling insights and participation. You don’t want to dominate the conversation, and you certainly don’t want to be a wallflower. The conversation flowed nicely, the moderator was terrific and kept the talk moving along, and the varied expertise of the participants made for a wonderfully eclectic POV on an issue that, quite frankly, not a lot of people have really successfully wrapped their heads around. I was fortunate that I had a good story to tell and an even better case study in effective use of YouTube, and was able to ultimately tie it all back to the topic. Of course, it’s super easy when you’re repping such great work.

The Power of YouTube: Unlocking the Power of Programming, Premium Content and Advertising
The Strategic Sessions – Let’s Get Started!
Monday, October 21st
10:00 AM – 11:15 AM
Digital Hollywood – October 21 – 24th
Michael Chiang, VP of Platforms, Break Media
Jeff Small, Director of Creative Technology / JWT Atlanta
Michelle Sullivan, VP, Digital, Kids & Family, National Geographic
Evan Bregman, Director of Digital Media, Electus
Alex Jacobs, Vice President of Social, Digitas
Paul Snow, Manager, TV and Film Content Partnerships, YouTube
Sharalyn Hartwell, Executive Director, Magid Generational Strategies™, Moderator

Adweek 2013

Amy Schumer from AdWeek 2013 in NYC at (if memory serves) the Gotham Comedy Club.
Amy Schumer from AdWeek 2013 in NYC at (if memory serves) the Gotham Comedy Club.

I recently attended Adweek 2013 in NYC. I was up to support our CCO, Perry Fair, who was speaking on a panel about our SXSW effort earlier this year, WALTER. I saw tons of great panels, met a boatload of nice people, and had a great experience. I think it’s fair to say that “Data is the new Social” and by that I mean, every conversation was about data. Security, storage, analytics, mining, leveraging. You name it and there’s a “buzzverb” associated with it.

I’ve been talking for a while about what I think I like to call a “data education” among the more traditional (non-digital, or “digitally challenged”) folks, account management teams, creative teams, etc. I think there’s a real opportunity to begin to institute a broader awareness of what digital means with respect to data and why there’s never a wrong time to begin looking at strategies that take advantage and leverage data opportunities. I love the idea of “dog whistle” terms, and using them as springboards for conversation. I would even propose moving upstream and rather than focus on things like, “testing”, and “analytics”, I would latch on to phrases like, “what if?” or “how could we?” which lend themselves to talking about measurement, accountability, and proving hypotheses. Once you begin having those conversations, the world opens up!

So everyone at Adweek was jumping on that bandwagon and I think the realization was that data and advertising are all grown up. It’s no longer a conversation happening in the nerdier corners of the agency. The stuff we’re creating is helping shape our understanding of their audience’s consumption habit, channel preferences, and it helps you locate that elusive sweet spot where your context means everything.

Outside of AdvertisingWeek, the highlight for me was “Stand-Up Live” at the Gotham Comedy Club (love that name!) featuring Amy Schumer. I’m a HUGE fan of her show on Comedy Central and her recent appearances on the Comedy Central Friars Club Roasts. We were fortunate enough to get some tickets and were able to get into the show, which was a feat unto itself. The place is SMALL, I think there were barely 200 people in there, and I was about 20 feet away for one of the best stand-up shows I’ve ever seen.

I love these trips. A lot of times you genuinely learn things and anytime you can couple that with the reassurance that your head’s in the right place, and you’re having the right conversations about the right topics.

Pennzoil Fuel Calculator

How do you demonstrate the value of switching to Pennzoil? How do you take a bunch of car data, mash it up with fuel efficiency formulas and communicate (effectively and in an engaging way!) why you should switch to Pennzoil? How do you show, in a tangible way, what those savings represent?

This week, my team launched a Pennzoil Fuel Calculator on Pennzoil.com. I was once again completely blown away by the work my Creative Technology group did on such a fantastic jQuery parallax calculator experience. The Pennzoil Creative team knocked it out of the park with their design work and guidance, and we were able to pick up on their vision and make it a reality. I personally enjoyed watching what happens when you sit creative down at the desk next to developers and get out of the way. Remember, the cleanest lines of communication are the shortest. Put the guy (or gal!) building it next to the guy (or gal!) whose idea it is to build it, and you get sweet, sweet results.

SXSW 2013 and Walter

Last month, I had one of the most amazing experiences of my professional career. I was a participant in WALTER. The first startup agency for startups. We spent 5 days from start to finish, introductions and pitches to go-to-market campaign, hellos to goodbyes.

Then poof, it was over.

In those five days we met over a dozen startups, put together a brand strategy, developed a creative brief, and put together a fantastic 60-second spot. We also ate barbecue, stood in some lines, and listened to some great bands. It was a hack-a-thon for advertising, and we killed it. I’m so proud to have participated in it and it’ll remain one of the greatest experiences of my advertising career.

Media Mentions:
JWT Launches ‘Walter,’ a Pop-Up Agency for Startups at SXSW

JWT LAUNCHES POP-UP AGENCY THAT WILL ONLY WORK DURING SXSW

Why JWT’s “Walter” Will Work

JWT Pops Up As “Walter” At SXSW

JWT is Launching a Pop-Up Agency During SXSW

JWT’s WALTER Announces Plotter as Winner of Startup Brand Campaign

Xbox Branded Destination Experience

We recently launched the United States Marine Corps Branded Destination Experience (BDE) on Xbox Live. A first of its kind experience on Xbox that utilizes the newest feature of the Xbox User Interface, built in Internet Explorer 9 capabilities. Working closely with Microsoft engineers, we were able to begin building this groundbreaking Xbox experience early enough to be able to take advantage of the new feature immediately at launch, capitalizing on the equity of the buzz around the newest features of the UI. This also allowed us to begin to capture lead information on the Xbox, putting us squarely in our audiences’ lives and putting a fantastically appropriate, contextually relevant opportunity for our primary Call to Action, putting those hand-raisers in front of recruiters.

United States Marine Corps YouTube Brand Channel

We recently launched another great experience, the USMC Youtube brand channel. It’s another great idea with some terrific functionality. We had a problem to solve, and it was a content curation problem. We had all the content, but how to subjectively appeal to the broad audience that comes to the United States Marine Corps’ Youtube Brand Channel? That was the challenge. The solution? A “Pandora-esque” quick-like-thumbs-up content tagging and smart recommendation engine. We took all our content, and cross referenced it within YouTube then layered a “smart playlist builder” algorithm over it to create the first of its kind YouTube Brand Channel functionality. As you can see by the case study video above, it got quite the reception, with a 1500% jump in engagement within the first month.

Media Mentions:
Marines Launch New Pandora-inspired YouTube Brand Channel

UPDATE: As of March 21, 2014 this has made it’s way to the National Addy Award. On February 19th, 2014, it won Gold at the Atlanta Addys, and on March 21, 2014 it was the District 7 Addy Award Winner, advancing to the National Addy Awards.