Walter Geer III has been named executive creative director of experience design for VMLY&R. He leaves his post as svp and group creative director at TBWA\Worldhealth, a role he held for one-and-a-half years.
Geer will be based in New York at the WPP shop, and continue his upward arc in the health sector working in the high-growth group, reporting to Eric Looney, chief experience design officer. The agency’s health practice had over $100 million in 2019 revenue. Geer will also work closely with VMLY&R New York chief executive and co-CCO Jason Xenopoulos.
In addition to VMLY&R’s health practice, Geer will contribute to customer experiences for the likes of Dell, Campbell Snacks, Pfizer and New Balance.
“Walt is one of our industry’s most impactful leaders, and we are thrilled that he is joining the agency at a time of momentum for our healthcare practice,” Xenopoulos said. “The creatively minded craft he brings to experience design and innovation will fortify our efforts to build the most robust connected healthcare communications practice in the industry.”
A 20-year veteran in digital advertising at brands like Google, Viacom, The New York Times and MySpace, Geer holds six U.S. patents for digital ad formats. Before landing at TBWA\Worldhealth, he was vp and creative director at Verve and vp of product strategy for Gannett’s PointRoll.
According to Geer, the conversations that led to him joining VMLY&R started well before the pandemic, and he’s looking forward to exploring the health category even more in his new role.
“I never thought that I would have such a passion for working on health,” he said. “I didn’t even touch [the category] until I started at TBWA. What I love is that we’re impacting people’s lives on a daily basis.”
“Since the moment he arrived at TBWA\WorldHealth, Walt has been a gale-force wind of positive change: in our agency, the industry, and culture,” added Jonathan Isaacs, CCO of TBWA\Worldhealth. “His heart, hustle and super-connecting skills helped us level up as humans. We are grateful for everything he’s contributed and can’t wait to see what he does for his next act.”
In addition to his work on TBWA\Worldhealth client brands, Geer created #BlackHealthNow. This storytelling platform revealed the unconscious bias that leads doctors and nurses to approach and treat Black patients differently, with sometimes fatal results. Creatives Bryan Gaffin and Wallye Halloway also contributed to the project.
In addition to his advocacy in the health space, Geer is a well-known and respected leader, pushing for greater diversity, inclusion and equity in advertising. A vibrant voice on social platforms like LinkedIn, where a conversation about ageism caught fire in January, Geer and fellow Black creative leader Ron Lewis, vp and creative director at McCann Health, launched Diverse Creatives, a platform highlighting over 1,400 industry talent of color.
“I have always felt the need to [talk about] or get things off my chest that I feel are important,” said Geer, also noting that he is among a very small group of Black ECDs at major agencies, which includes R/GA’s Shannon Washington, Geoff Edwards of Gale Partners and Piper Hickman at McCann Worldgroup.
“While these are sad numbers, it’s a positive day for Black people because we are slowly making our way to the table,” he said. “Unfortunately, not fast enough.”
Leaving TBWA is perhaps a bittersweet moment. “It was the best job that I’ve had in my career, working with some of the smartest and most humble people,” said Geer. “And they understand the importance of diversity and inclusion, and they’re making significant changes in that space.”
In his new role, Geer is looking forward to bringing his experience, perspective and passion to transform the health space.
“There’s growth in the category through innovation,” he said. “The health space is seven to 10 years behind brands in CPG, entertainment and the like. I want to create new things for [health] brands, and in a way that allows them to feel safe, comfortable and confident with doing new things.
“We also need to bring in talent that doesn’t necessarily look like what’s been there for years,” he added. “That means having people like me, tapping into people that aren’t necessarily from the health space to create opportunities that are impactful and meaningful.”