The Martin Agency has elevated Jerry Hoak to chief creative officer. He takes over for Danny Robinson, who was promoted to CEO. The move will not be immediate, but during the transition period, Robinson will act as CEO/CCO.
Hoak is currently an executive creative director at the agency. He joined Martin in 2016 as svp, group creative director, working across multiple accounts and on new business.
During his eight-year tenure at Martin, Hoak has been a major contributor to agency growth, winning 18 new business pitches, with a nearly 90% win rate. He has led pitch teams that won signature clients including DoorDash, AB InBev, Carmax, Google and Papa Johns.
Hoak said he learned a great deal from Robinson and Karen Costello, who is now at Deutsch LA, that helped him take on his new role.
“Coming up with Karen and Danny, and just watching them lead with service and empathy and charisma has been a great learning curve for me,” Hoak told Adweek, adding that he learned drive and ambition from David Droga and Kristen Cavallo, who recently transitioned from Martin to MullenLowe. “I am hoping that I can combine the drive and the unrelenting ambition, but also with the empathy and making sure that we keep this culture as special as it is.”
Hoak has also been integral to Martin’s creative surge in recent years with activations and campaigns including Buffalo Wild Wings’ Jewel Stool, Door Dash’s #OpenForDelivery and Busch Light’s “Head for the Mountains” Super Bowl spot starring Kenny G. He was also an early adopter of the agency’s Cultural Impact Lab.
“What [his hiring] is really going to allow me to do is execute this job without worrying that the job I’m leaving isn’t in good hands. It was a really easy and obvious choice for me,” Robinson told Adweek.
Hoak began his career at Ogilvy as an art director, but also held positions at Taxi and Droga5 before joining Martin. At Droga5, his Titanium Lion winning work for Prudential’s Challenge Lab, which helped people imagine their future so they could plan accordingly, was featured on “Freakanomics” and led him to be named “One of the 24 Most Creative People in Advertising” by Business Insider. And his work for Android’s “Be Together, Not the Same” campaign, including films “Rock Paper Scissors” and “Friends Furever,” became internet sensations.
“It really makes me happy when the right things happen to good people,” said David Droga, CEO of Accenture Song who hired Hoak at Droga5. “Jerry is a wonderful talent and an even better human.”
Taking the work to the next level
While Hoak thinks the work coming from Martin is very good, he thinks it’s not quite where it needs to be yet.
“I still don’t think we have the reputation on the global stage that we need, from a creative standpoint. We’re very well known and people envy us, but we haven’t had the big home runs that the entire industry is constantly talking about. And that’s where I want us was to get,” said Hoak.
He does believe that all the pieces are in place to get to the top, including ecds Ashley Marshall and Jordi Martinez, along with a highly talented batch of group creative directors. Plus, he thinks the agency’s talent for design should be more widely recognized, as it is now an integral part of the creative process.
Hoak has ties to the Richmond area, where Martin is located, having graduated from VCU Brandcenter in 2005, and he is also an adjunct professor at VCU Brandcenter. He remembers back in his student days, Brandcenter shared a coffee shop with the agency and he got to hear gossip, but more importantly he learned about how now deceased president and creative icon Mike Hughes was equal parts about the work and the people.
As a childhood cancer survivor, Hoak has an appreciation that there’s only so much time to get things done, and he wants to maximize his time in the CCO role.
“There’s only so much time to do great work and if I’m going to like dedicate my life, which I almost lost, to this business, I want good shit to come out of it. There’s so much invisible work out there, and I don’t want that to contribute to that,” said Hoak.
Robinson is glad that Martin promotes leaders who understand the agency’s culture, but he lauds Hoak for being able to keep an outside perspective on the agency and the work.
“He’s able to see what we need to do to get better and grow, and that’s a really important thing to be able to do as a creative leader … I couldn’t be more thrilled to have him as a partner,” said Robinson.
Hoak will report to Robinson, who was just named CEO of The Martin Agency, taking the leadership responsibilities from Cavallo, who led the agency for the past six years and was named global CEO of sister agency MullenLowe Group in November 2022.
Being promoted from CCO to CEO isn’t the norm in the agency world, but Robinson’s elevation seems natural at a creative agency such as Martin.
“Business solving is innovation and reimagination, and that’s the definition of creativity. Leaders of companies need to be able to reinvent and reimagine and create, and that’s what the job of a creative is, so why shouldn’t a creative be the person running the company?” said Robinson.