First Mover: Chris Weil

4A's chairman wants to take advertising from the procurement department to the boardroom


Age 47

Day job Chairman, CEO, Momentum Worldwide

New assignment Chairman, 4A’s(two-year term started in June)

Why take on the chairman role at the 4A’s? Aren’t you busy enough?

Well, I’m a huge believer in our industry right now. I think it’s a really exciting time, and I think we are going to see a renaissance, but it’s going to be a different type of business. So if I can give back and help the industry that’s been good to me, I want to take that on.

How is the association keeping relevant?

What we do works. Advertising builds brands and creates demand. Demand drives growth, growth creates jobs, and jobs drive the economy forward. I also believe that going forward that we as an industry need to get out and talk about that differently. If we can truly prove out from an independent standpoint that what we do really drives business, we change the dialogue and move us from the procurement department to the boardroom.

How does your day job inform your chairmanship?

I’ve ridden growth at my agency from two offices to over 50 across the world. I’ve been a CEO and chairman for almost 10 years now and have, for the same amount of time, sat on the board of McCann WorldGroup. So I have an interesting perspective on the agency world, both from a fast-growth company like Momentum and the largest agency in the world.

If you weren’t working in media/advertising, what would you be doing?

I’d probably be working in the tech space. It’s very similar to what I do now, which is creating platforms that create a dialogue with the consumer, break through, build an audience and create engagement. If I wasn’t doing that, I’d probably be running a sailboat charter business from a beach bar.

What’s more important to understand right now: mobile or data?

Mobile, 100 percent. There’s not a lot of brands in the mobile space, but it’s where the consumer is moving.

Convene your dream 4A’s panel. Who, past and present, is on it?

David Ogilvy has to be there, and I think George Lois to spice it up and add a few f-bombs, You also need a guy like Andrew Robertson, because he has scaled creativity and very few people have. Maybe Lee Clow. And I would have someone on the media/content side like Arianna Huffington or Irwin Gotlieb. The moderator is Steve Jobs. He ran a creative business and used agencies to get his message out. So the question he’d ask the panel is, “Why do agencies matter?”

What’s the latest app you’ve seen that has true utility?

A personal one, but one that shows the future of what we’re all trying to do is called BandMate. I’m a big fan of live music, so when I travel it takes my location and searches against my iTunes Library and matches all the live music that’s happening near you—you can set it to five miles, 10 miles and 20 miles from where you’re sitting—to your tastes. That’s linking your location, in real time, to information about something you really care about. That’s the future of our business.

What’s the future of branded content? 

Branded content was an interim expression. To me now, saying branded content is like saying advertising, because it’s all about content and how we insert the brands into that message to add true utility for the customer. That’s our job, all our jobs, going forward.