One of Matt Dowshen's favorite pastimes is pedaling uphill on a mountain bike for hours. Still, it doesn't match the challenge of his first overseas agency gig.
In '99, Dowshen, who has spent most of his ad career at WPP Group's JWT, was sent to the shop's Bangkok office as the group client service director on Unilever. He was excited and initially thought it would be a cakewalk. But the cultural adjustments and the responsibilities of managing about 20 people had him "curled up in the fetal position for the first six months," he said.
At the time, mountain biking helped keep him sane. Seven years later, in a phone interview from an April biking expedition in the Moab Desert in Utah, Dowshen explained how the sport he took up while attending Ithaca College as a speech and communications major steadies him. "It clears your mind of clutter," Dowshen explained. "It's incredibly freeing."
The 35-year-old says his international experiences for JWT (three years in Bangkok, followed by three years in São Paulo, Brazil) were good preparation for his newest challenge: being svp, group account director at Interpublic Group's Deutsch in New York. He started May 3 and will run the shop's recently returned Ikea business and its global Novartis assignments. Dowshen becomes one of four group account directors, replacing shop veteran Adam Levine, who joined Time Inc. in April.
His last position at JWT New York was senior partner, director on the Diamond Trading Company account. "It wasn't an easy decision to leave," he said. "I'll always consider JWT my home."
But he was intrigued by Deutsch and its reputation as a high-energy, dynamic shop. "Every person I talked to [there] said, 'I'm excited to come to work in the morning.'"
Good news for Dowshen, a confessed "packaged-goods junkie" who's been excited by ads since a young age. He was a teenager when Listerine introduced its Cool Mint flavor. "I thought, 'Wow, Listerine that actually tastes good,'" he said. "What a great idea."