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Fast Chat: Joyce King Thomas on Her Return to McCann Worldgroup

Why the former N.Y. CCO left retirement

Photo: Chase Heilman

Next month Joyce King Thomas returns to McCann Worldgroup as president of a new unit called McCann ExtraBoldCondensed, an agency created specifically for MasterCard, one of Worldgroup’s largest global clients. The former chief creative officer of McCann Erickson New York knows that client well; she was a co-creator of the marketer’s long-running “Priceless” campaign in 1997. But she says her new role allows her to become even more deeply involved with MasterCard as she builds a new business around it. After the announcement this week, King Thomas took time to chat with Adweek about what she’s been up to and what she plans to do in her new role.

Adweek: What have you been doing since leaving McCann?
King Thomas: I wanted to try different things. I had been all output and no input for so long. One of the first things I did was I joined Longreads and worked with Mark Armstrong (founder of the site, which collects and curates long-form journalism for online reading). We convinced Virgin Atlantic to be their first brand partner and now we’ve moved to subscription service and that’s been great because I got to see firsthand how you build and sustain a social community. The other thing I did was I joined the Leadership Collective founded by Rick Boyko (former Ogilvy & Mather North American CCO and director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Adcenter), which is about helping companies get more creative. I also joined the board of a nonprofit called Nurse Family Partnership, which helps disadvantaged women learn how to become moms. What’s interesting is that they have these fantastic results and I learned that’s the big thing in the nonprofit world. You need to have quantifiable results.

Have you been creating any advertising since leaving McCann?
I’ve worked with some clients. My latest one is an Italian jewelry company, Dodo, a division of Pomellato, which is a retailer who wanted to resonate more in the U.S. I’ve been doing everything for them. I’ve written their new e-commerce site, which isn’t done yet, and even helped them come up with ideas for store windows. It was so much fun and reminded me of what I love to do: figuring out what a brand is and making sure that comes through in every little thing, including the store windows.

What’s it like to be going back to McCann Worldgroup?
It feels good. I have a ton of friends there and I’ve received an amazing welcome back. It’s a really different job from the one I had, which I didn’t want to do again. I’ll be focusing on every little thing about the MasterCard work and the business and be completely up to speed on business activity and all their communications around the world. We’ll be troubleshooting if there’s an issue or finding some great opportunity. If that’s in Dubai we’ll bring that idea to New York.

Is this a more expanded global role for you on MasterCard than what you previously did as CCO at McCann New York?
I’ve always worked on the account globally and know a lot of MasterCard people around the world. That’s how I know (MasterCard CMO) Alfredo Gangotena. I knew him when he was in Italy. But this is even more immersive and covers everything across media teams, digital, events. This will be a new level of involvement. Before I saw scripts and ideas from around the world, but at that point it may have been more about managing the process around the world and this is now more about maximizing the process around the world.

Who reached out to bring you back to Worldgroup?
There have been discussions for awhile. It was Luca (Lindner, president of the Americas, Middle East and Africa) and Harris (Diamond, the newly named CEO of McCann Worldgroup). I’ve known Luca for a long time from the McCann board. He’s warm, decisive and has a great sense of humor. I got to know and respect Harris quickly. He’ll be great for McCann.

What’s morale like at McCann these days?

It’s on the upswing. I’ve seen photographs of the new offices and they’re fantastic. My impression is people are hopeful, but I haven’t been in that [McCann New York headquarters] building for some time. I can just presume from seeing things like social media. People are excited about where the agency is going and feel like it’s going in a good direction.

There have been a lot of changes at McCann over the past couple of years. What do people need to know about its historical culture?

McCann is best when it looks outward at clients and looks at the industry and marketing instead of so much internal gazing and reaction. The best agencies really do things when they look outward and respond to clients with great ideas. That’s what we do. It’s not about breaking anything.

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