Meet 4 Influential Women in Marketing and Media Who Are Creating a Culture of Change

Bold moves and big swings

Name one industry today that is untouched by the extraordinary pace of progress.

Breakthrough technologies and the consumers who use them are inspiring the next generation of digitally forward businesses to challenge old-guard companies at every turn. The rules for their survival are clear: grow scale, but think nimbly or risk irrelevance. 

Of equal importance is the need to cultivate talent. A global economy calls for myriad points of view, which, in theory, should make gender equality and diversity a no-brainer. But JWT's sexual harassment lawsuit demonstrates that, culturally speaking, agencies are not quite there. They're not alone. Marketers, as well as media and technology companies, also must adjust to 21st century thinking. Some are doing just that, handing the reins to agents of change whose visions of tomorrow are being activated today.

Photos: Mark Mann; Grooming: Ingeborg

In recent months, two legacy companies made key changes at the top. Last November, Michelle Lee joined Condé Nast's Allure, rocking the beauty world by replacing the publication's founding editor. Lee, the former editor in chief and CMO of Nylon magazine, is now in the throes of executing her vision of a digitally savvy brand that also celebrates diversity. Then, in January, DDB North America welcomed Coca-Cola marketing star Wendy Clark, who, as CEO, is charged with reinvigorating the storied agency with fresh talent and major account wins.

Other companies have their leaders and bold plans in place, meanwhile. A+E Networks president, CEO Nancy Dubuc in February launched Viceland, the rule-breaking, edgy network for millennials, which recently struck a VR partnership with Samsung. Dubuc is also busily refreshing A&E, History and Lifetime with top-notch original programming. On Memorial Day, A+E Networks will simulcast an ambitious remake of the television epic Roots.

Of course, not only media and ad agencies are being tested. Brands also are finding their way as they morph into social storytellers. And nowhere has that strategy looked as seamless and become as successful than at General Electric, which makes jet engines and power turbines look cool. GE is on the cutting edge of social marketing thanks to inspired additions like Katrina Craigwell, who in March was promoted to global director of the Marketing Innovation unit for GE Digital overseeing brand, creative, digital marketing and paid media strategy.

These four leaders represent the future of advertising, marketing and media. At a recent roundtable discussion hosted by A+E Networks at its midtown Manhattan headquarters, they shared with Adweek how they are affecting change and positioning their companies for a bright future.

Adweek: The one thing you all have in common is that you are guiding forces of change. I'd like to hear how you found your way.

Wendy Clark: We probably all have a set of beliefs or things that we practice. One of the things that I learned early in my career was never to be above doing anything. That has served me pretty well. My first job after college was as a receptionist in an ad agency. And I love telling that story now, obviously, because I can really look at our agency and say I've done every job. That certainly is something that's guided me.

Katrina Craigwell: At this stage of my career, part of the journey is still the discovery, so I'm figuring out where my passions lie. How do you put PR, social media, advertising and marketing strategy together to help a business?

Nancy Dubuc: I learned very early on when I was a production assistant and you did every job you carried the batteries and you made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. That definitely has served me well as CEO because you do understand every job in the building and you can't be led astray. I'd say on the production side, you also learn to adapt to change quickly. If someone doesn't show up for a shoot or the story does not feel the way you expected, whether it be a news broadcast, whether it be a documentary or whether it be a structured scripted set, that production is always in flux. And it's bringing that set of disciplines to a corporate environment that has been invaluable for me.

Michelle Lee: Looking back for me, it's been my work ethic. I always look back at college as being a really pivotal moment. My family at the time didn't have a lot of money, so I actually worked all through college. I scheduled all of my classes to be at night, and I worked all day. I had always been a really good writer, and I got a job at a weekly newspaper. This was pre- internet, so one of my jobs was writing up movie times in the newspaper. My boss at the time, who became a mentor for me, gave me a shot. She started having me write smaller stories. Within the next year or so, I was writing cover stories. So it really was that moment for me where I just realized that if you work really hard, you can make great things happen.

(L. to r.) Wendy Clark, Katrina Craigwell, Michelle Lee and Nancy DubucPhotos: Mark Mann; Grooming: Ingeborg

Wendy, you've been on both client and agency sides. What is the most important thing that agencies and DDB in particular will need to change to serve clients better?