Media All-Star: Shane Ankeney

Creative agency veteran drives Initiative's performance-based model

In many ways, Initiative couldn't have a better salesman for performance-based compensation than Shane Ankeney.

Before joining Initiative in May 2009, Ankeney had spent his entire 19-year career at creative agencies that marketers long ago had stopped paying on a commission basis. Commission pay remains the norm at media shops–including Initiative–but with Ankeney as U.S. managing director in charge of planning, research, and new business, the tide is now beginning to turn.

Two accounts won on Ankeney's watch in the past year–USAA and Hasbro–bought into Initiative's shift toward getting paid less up front, with the opportunity to make more if it meets certain agreed-upon metrics. The performance-focused approach also is believed to be integral to the agency's pending bid for Bayer's $335 million U.S. account.

Ankeney, an Ohio native who entered the business as an assistant research analyst at JWT in Chicago, personifies the new breed of talent at Initiative, and as head of all East Coast accounts, he also has hired some unusual suspects. Case in point: Tej Desai, former vp of global marketing at New Video, who joined in May as a group business director on Hasbro. Before New Video, he worked in U.S. marketing at 20th Century Fox.

Beyond the intricacies of his job, Ankeney has engendered passion and loyalty among his team–including insights and strategy leader Sarah Power and digital and innovations chief Dave Rosner–by nurturing them, and when the situation calls for it, finding ways to inject a little humor into the process. The latter skill traces back to his years on the creative side of the business, when he worked at TBWAChiatDay, Doner, and Carmichael Lynch. Former TBWACD colleague Suzanne Powers recalls a tense day in the early 2000s after a big pitch. Recognizing fatigue and stress all around him, Ankeney jumped up on his desk and belted out Britney Spears' "Oops! . . . I Did It Again."

Asked recently about the stunt, Ankeney explains that he considers himself "head cheerleader" above all else. "A little levity, a little lightheartedness–that's definitely a style of mine," says Ankeney. But above all, Hasbro's Ira Hernowitz cites Ankeney's strategic smarts and collaborative thinking. "We love people who have a holistic view of the business," says Hernowitz, svp of marketing for North America. "Shane's a strategic thinker. He understands the business from all sides."