This Musician Found a Community of Fans on Reddit. Now, He Leads Brand Strategy for the Platform

A campaign is similar to a song, according to Will Cady

Cady didn’t hesitate when he saw an opportunity to tap into that tight-knit community of Reddit users. Rachelle Hadley
Headshot of Sara Jerde

As a musician, Will Cady knows just how hard it can be to attract an audience. But on Reddit, Cady found himself a thriving community of fans who not only listened to and shared his music, but even went so far as to find him a new venue in 2013 when show plans fell apart at the last minute—a movement of online support that proved to be a “transformative experience,” he said.

That’s why Cady didn’t hesitate when he saw an opportunity to tap into that tight-knit community of Reddit users. But this time, it was on behalf of brands.

An accomplished bass player, Cady graduated from Boston’s Berklee College of Music and became a professional musician, songwriting and touring across the country. He went on to teach music, then shifted into music publishing before scoring a gig at Reddit.

Cady launched the social platform’s Los Angeles brand partnerships office, rising up through the ranks to his current role as head of brand strategy. He currently oversees campaigns and manages about 10 strategists spread throughout the company’s L.A., New York, Chicago and San Francisco offices.

“A campaign is structured not that differently [from] a song,” Cady said, pointing out that in both, there’s “a beginning, a middle, an end and primary themes. You want to introduce those themes and evolve those themes and close on a perfect, authentic cadence.”

Working with marketers like Amazon, Sony and Toyota, Cady adds a creative flourish to each campaign. For McDonald’s, Cady and team created an 8-bit game for Reddit’s gamers that promoted a new Big Mac deal. “We help these brands know their story going into this next paradigm, the idea of how to foster community and how to build trust,” Cady said.

It’s just like music, Cady explained. As a bass player, you have to be aware of the other players in the room, constantly thinking about what you can do to make them better. The same is true for Reddit’s sales team and what they can offer brands, he explained. “We’re providing the backbone,” Cady said. “What can we do to make them sound good?”

Big Mistake

“I used to think my job was to have an idea and push it through, and then I learned my job is to identify the idea and clear a path for it,” Cady said.

Lesson Learned

Listen first. Instead of going into a project with a firm idea on what he wanted to see, Cady said he realized he needed to instead hear everyone else out, then provide the resources necessary to make it happen in the larger “ecosystem.”

How He Got the Gig

Cady is creative, but strategic. With his extensive background in musical training, he can be creative on the spot—and he combined his skills to pivot whenever necessary.

Pro Tip

“Reinvent old clichés,” Cady said. “They’re still being used for a reason. There’s huge opportunity in bringing a fresh perspective to an old cliché.”

This story first appeared in the Jan. 14, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@SaraJerde Sara Jerde is publishing editor at Adweek, where she covers traditional and digital publishers’ business models. She also oversees political coverage ahead of the 2020 election.