The Young Ones

In case you weren’t paying attention in history class, life is full of examples of what creative minds can accomplish while those minds are still young. John D. Rockefeller built his first oil refinery when he was 24. When The Great Gatsby was published in 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald was all of 29. Albert Einstein had hit the ripe old age of 26 when he decided to redefine the laws of the universe with E=MC2. And when bicycle-shop owner Wilbur Wright lifted off in the world’s first mechanically-powered aircraft from a North Carolina beach in 1903, he was 36. (Brother Orville, watching from the dunes, was 32.)

For those of us busy leading life’s second half, these anecdotes are perhaps more dispiriting than inspiring. And yet, there’s no denying that there are opportunities for all of us that stem from the innovations of those rare few wunderkinds with the original ideas. Perhaps no place is this maxim more applicable than in the business world — and this magazine’s world, especially. Sure, it takes a quick mind to make the numbers work in a Wall Street accounting firm (especially these days). But few realms of capitalism are more dependent on creative thinking, risk taking and personal flair than those of advertising, marketing and the media.

Creative thinking…like that of Calle and Pelle Sjönell, ad shop BBH’s sibling duo of creative directors who are melding the worlds of traditional brand building and interactive social media into a new advertising paradigm. Risk taking…like that of Neeraj Khemlani, who left a stellar career in TV journalism to revolutionize Web-based storytelling for Yahoo. Inspired leadership…like that of Antonio Bertone, the skateboarding CMO educated in Boston’s dance clubs who’s fearless trailblazing transformed Puma from a sneaker into a lifestyle brand.

They, and the seven others who join them in this AdweekMedia spotlight, aren’t just under-the-radar success stories; most of them are under 40 years old, too. In case that makes you feel a little behind the curve, it might help to remember one other example from the history  books. Colonel Harlan Sanders started franchising Kentucky Fried Chicken (and building a considerable personal fortune) at age 65. It’s proof that you’re never too old to innovate — just like these 10 executives prove that you’re never too young, either.

–Robert Klara

Contents:

MICHELLE MYERS: The Self-Styled Publisher

JASON ASH: The Ironman of Marketing

ALEXIS BRUNNER: Animal Magnetism

TIFFANY KOSEL: Old Navy’s Young Gun

ERIK SEIDEL: A Marketer on a Roll

IAN SCHAFER: Social Media Butterfly

NEERAJ KHEMLANI: Blending Old and New School

LISA NAMEROW: Tuned In to Growth

CALLE AND PELLE SJONELL: The Wonder Boys

ANTONIO BERTONE: The Secret to Puma’s Pounce

THE SELF-STYLED PUBLISHER

How Michelle Myers made People StyleWatch a must-have item

Lucia Moses, Mediaweek

(Photo by Aaron Kotowski)

Michelle Myers still remembers the drubbing she got as a tenderfoot journalism grad trying to land a sales job at Us magazine. “You have no experience,” the publisher had sniffed. “Why would I want to hire you?” Myers replied: “Just give me a chance.”

That took plenty of backbone, but it taught the young sales exec that persistence pays. As it turns out for Myers, persistence would pay twice. In 2007, she took over as publisher of People StyleWatch. Five years out of its launch, the shopping magazine — which featured little more than glossy shots of products and celebrities — was still regarded dubiously by skeptics who questioned why it was needed in a market already clogged with celeb rags. “There was a lot of resistance at first,” Myers recalls. “The biggest [objection] was, ‘if I’m buying People, do I really need StyleWatch?'”