Name one industry today that is untouched by the extraordinary pace of progress.
Breakthrough technologies and the consumers who use them are inspiring the next generation of digitally forward businesses to challenge old-guard companies at every turn. The rules for their survival are clear: grow scale, but think nimbly or risk irrelevance.
Of equal importance is the need to cultivate talent. A global economy calls for myriad points of view, which, in theory, should make gender equality and diversity a no-brainer. But JWT’s sexual harassment lawsuit demonstrates that, culturally speaking, agencies are not quite there. They’re not alone. Marketers, as well as media and technology companies, also must adjust to 21st century thinking. Some are doing just that, handing the reins to agents of change whose visions of tomorrow are being activated today.
In recent months, two legacy companies made key changes at the top. Last November, Michelle Lee joined Condé Nast’s Allure, rocking the beauty world by replacing the publication’s founding editor. Lee, the former editor in chief and CMO of Nylon magazine, is now in the throes of executing her vision of a digitally savvy brand that also celebrates diversity. Then, in January, DDB North America welcomed Coca-Cola marketing star Wendy Clark, who, as CEO, is charged with reinvigorating the storied agency with fresh talent and major account wins.
Other companies have their leaders and bold plans in place, meanwhile. A+E Networks president, CEO Nancy Dubuc in February launched Viceland, the rule-breaking, edgy network for millennials, which recently struck a VR partnership with Samsung. Dubuc is also busily refreshing A&E, History and Lifetime with top-notch original programming. On Memorial Day, A+E Networks will simulcast an ambitious remake of the television epic Roots.
Of course, not only media and ad agencies are being tested. Brands also are finding their way as they morph into social storytellers. And nowhere has that strategy looked as seamless and become as successful than at General Electric, which makes jet engines and power turbines look cool. GE is on the cutting edge of social marketing thanks to inspired additions like Katrina Craigwell, who in March was promoted to global director of the Marketing Innovation unit for GE Digital overseeing brand, creative, digital marketing and paid media strategy.
These four leaders represent the future of advertising, marketing and media. At a recent roundtable discussion hosted by A+E Networks at its midtown Manhattan headquarters, they shared with Adweek how they are affecting change and positioning their companies for a bright future.