What Agency Leaders Are Grateful For This Thanksgiving

Insiders tell Adweek they're grateful for the ability to affect change

Plenty of people complain about the problems in the advertising industry, but now is the time to look at the positives. Our industry not only moves culture and produces daily bits of entertainment, it is also a great source of fun and enjoyment, not to mention gainful employment.

The Thanksgiving holiday should be a time when we think about all we’re thankful for in the industry and how we fit into its many layers. Adweek talked with a batch of advertising professionals to find out what they are grateful for. Some thanked their co-workers and family, while others looked at the industry through an optimistic lens, focusing on how advertising and marketing can make a difference for consumers, society and the world.

Thankful for positive changes

As the holidays approach, leaders use this time of the year to remember the positive impact the industry can have on the world in myriad ways, including representation internally and externally.

“We have the power to build a diverse workforce that produces inclusive work that ultimately consumers and customers get to experience,” said Gabriela Neves, partner, Factory360.

Diego Barragan, design director at The Working Assembly, has lived that experience firsthand. “As someone who started out working in the industry in a time without much access or a network, it’s been inspiring to see the role that creatives can continue to play in making a bigger impact on larger cultural conversations and opening doors for others,” he told Adweek.

Even as progress in DEI has been slower than advocates would like, the industry is filled with people who never give up in the eyes of Courtney Cotrupe, CEO at Partners + Napier. “It’s an industry of believers—people who believe in the power of people and the power of brands to create change,” said Cotrupe, adding, “We’re also an industry that brings hope to clients—for a better way, and for the change they’re looking for.”

The industry has given those who want to dedicate their talents for change an actual platform to do so, said Keisha Townsend Taitt, chief inclusion officer at GSD&M. Her agency helped bring awareness to and ultimately end the tampon tax in Texas with its “Bloody Mary Misogyny” campaign. “I’m grateful to be a part of an agency that stands for more than just making good ads,” said Taitt.

The president at agency Elephant, Cara DiNorcia, is grateful for a team that inspires her daily, but also for being a part of an industry that prides itself on facing complex challenges through reinvention.

“Our world feels very heavy and more difficult than ever today, and we’re constantly having to embrace a tremendous amount of change … in order to stay relevant. We thrive on using these tensions, fueling our creativity and solutions for clients and consumers. It’s this warrior mentality that keeps me invested in what we do,” said DiNorcia.

Thankful for the joy of adland

People may grumble about the day-to-day of working at an agency. Long hours, tight deadlines, dealing with client demands are all cause for complaints, but it’s an industry that entertains people, one that (hopefully) brings joy.

“I’m thankful for play. It feels like we’re finally inviting it back into advertising in a broader way that neutralizes the self-importance of an industry that took itself too seriously for too long. I’m grateful that I get to work (play) with some real weirdos. The days are never boring and even when it’s challenging, it’s funny as hell,” said Natalia Fredericks, creative director at Party Land.

Advertising has allowed others to unlock a different way of thinking in their professional and personal lives. Jen Hruska, chief strategy officer at McGarrah Jessee, cites how advertising has empowered her to “be a proud nonlinear logic leaper,” to “hunt for the truth and shine a light on it … immerse herself in new categories and challenges,” and “get paid to have a POV.”

Ultimately this business is the “toy department of the business world,” according to Mike Barrett, co-founder and chief strategy officer at Supernatural. Despite the stress, Barrett recognizes he makes a living playing with ideas, words, design, pictures and technology.

Some are thankful to be in a creative industry, working the process and coming up with work that matters.

“The day-to-day chasing of creative excitement—one where the Wednesday afternoon nonsense ideas that excite us one day and die the next can be as much a part of our creative fulfillment, and arguably more important, than whatever runs on the Super Bowl or is anointed on a stage in France,” said Josh Fell, chief creative officer at Anomaly LA.

Anson Sowby, co-founder and CEO at Battery, is thankful to end the Zoom happy hours, Teams town halls and WebEx parties that came with the pandemic, and thankful to see his coworkers again, “even the smelly ones, the messy ones, and especially the crazy ones,” he said.

One respondent was even thankful for being laid off several years ago, because it helped land him in his current position.

“As unfortunate as it is, it gives you the opportunity to reconsider what you value and prioritize in this industry,” said Gordy Sang, co-founder and co-CCO of Quality Meats. “Plus, it can give you a nice kick in the tuchus to do things better.”

Thankful for the team and clients

Having coworkers you like and teammates you can count on is something everyone should be thankful for, and many praised their officemates.

Glenn Dady, CEO at TRG, joined The Richards Group 43 years ago, and he’s still thankful for the talented and dedicated teammates he works with every day, along with “a bunch of remarkable clients who treat us as true partners, who challenge us to own their business problems as if they were our own.”

Having co-workers who solve problems through art, craft and true human insights is at the top of Fitzco CEO Evan Levy’s list, as well as the families and friends who tolerate the craziness of their jobs. “I’m thankful comedy in advertising has made a comeback, and I’m thankful I resisted the urge to let ChatGPT write this for me,” said Levy.

Dooley Tombras, president of Tombras, is thankful for the people he works with, along with clients and the communities they serve, while Kate Higgins, chief growth officer of Opinionated, said she surrounds herself with people who inspire her.

Higgins relayed that over the past year, she and her wife slowly fought back from a near-fatal car accident, so she is grateful that Opinionated brought her on.

“They took a chance bringing a stranger into their fold. They respect me and listen to my ‘other’ point of view, as I do them,” Higgins said. “I love the partnership we’ve formed. It’s been so refreshing.”

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