John Lewis-Marketing Executive, Major Ad Agency

In your own words, what is the role of a VETERAN professional in your field? 

Like music, the past 10 years has remade marketing based on socialization of media and content distribution.  Now - people can have direct conversations as they engage with brands/artists and define & customize the user experience.

Thus, brands must exude authenticity - and hold space for their customers in ways never thought possible.  Amazon as one example.  THe trojan horse was books - but vision married to strategy has put them on many playing fields.

Based on this, a good CMO or marketing person must hold a very strong vision, actively engage creativity with strategy and have some guts...real guts.

What is the main responsibility of someone in your role? 

Futurist + Conversationalist

What is the typical path to attaining such a role?

Typically, ad agencies were always the “foot in the door” but now brands want new media experience, SEO, web analytics, and traditional ad agencies are still trying to catch up...although if you have both, even better.  Now it seems the best way is to have an opinion and a blog [kidding, but not really...]

What inspired you to get into the media and entertainment industry? 

To affect popular culture - because in the end, it's all about creating.  Banksy said it best:

"The thing I hate the most about advertising is that it attracts all the bright, creative and ambitious young people, leaving us mainly with the slow and self-obsessed to become our artists."

What inspired you to pursue this area of the industry? 

I like creating.  I like selling.  Marketing is the art of selling creativity.

I also took a class in college where we got to create our own product, brand, and then sell it on campus competing against other groups.  From name and brand creation to revenue generation - the whole process was fueled by competition...it was like a drug to me.  I just kept on going....

What was your “path” to your role? 

NYC ad agencies - Nike - SF startup - Burton Snowboards - Santa Barbara footwear and apparel conglomerate - now creating my own projects.  I agree with Steve Jobs - you can only trace it back, never forward.

What is the most important skill set one needs to excel in this role? 

Visionary + diplomat + ass kicker.

What do you like the most? 

Process.  Like taking a black and white image on an old SLR camera.  Every part of that process involves elements of technical and intuitive creativity.

Also...collaboration [as fuel]. I find energy in working with photographers, artists, designers, and people who just enjoy the art of process filtered through creativity.

Like the least?

Short term thinking that is applied to long term ideas.

I once worked for a CEO of a $300M+ company who would broker ANY deal to move more product.  It was a disaster.  A brand is more than ads and websites  - it's your distribution strategy, your hold music, and the paper you print your letterhead on.  Think it through long term.

What is the best thing someone could do to truly become educated, trained and to understand your industry? 

Look at the brands you love and see how they inspire you or read a marketing book and see what THINKING moves you.  Identify what feels authentic to you and see how the best companies do it.  Also, look at the “glorious mistakes” - thats the best education.  Remember the Newton?  Starbucks selling music and books?  Nike and child labor?  Look at how brands fail and success immediately follows.

 What is the best thing someone could do to get a foot in the door in your industry? 

Find a person you can learn from - and watch what they do.  It's pretty much that simple.  Sometimes that person might be your age, or even much younger.  It doesnt' matter - just be hungry to learn and the rest takes care of itself.

Any parting advice?

When you feel that thing that scares or challenges you, and you get nervous and maybe a bit sweaty....it's called growth.  Do it over and over and over ...  It's hard to push yourself into that zone, but you have to to really feel alive.

Steve Jobs ended the famous Stanford speech with "stay hungry, stay foolish."  I think of that everyday.

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