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?

Clark: Anyone who chooses marketing or advertising for a career has to be comfortable with change. I think the most profound is the currency of business being speed. In order to conduct business to meet the expectations of any of your constituents, your customers, your consumers, your employees, your regulators, no matter who they are, you all have to be able to move with speed. But we can't do that at the cost of quality of the storytelling and the output and the work we create.

Katrina, what has been the catalyst of change at GE?

Craigwell: At GE, we seek to be as innovative in our marketing as we are in our jet engines, and so when we think about how we market and present a brand in 2016, it means that we do have to be ready for new platforms, ready for new formats. One of the most disruptive parts of the ecosystem has been the creator networks and the new talent that has risen as a function of Instagram, as a function of Snapchat, as a function of YouTube. 

Michelle, you recently joined Allure after having been editor in chief and CMO of Nylon. How will you help Allure better compete with digitally forward sites like Into the Gloss?

Lee: At Nylon I was in charge of all editorial and also all native advertising. Previous to that, I had owned my own agency. Being a business owner makes you a better editor, in my opinion. Going in, Allure was still very much a print-centric place, and I told everyone, We're not print editors. Don't call yourself a magazine editor you're a brand editor. It's exciting to think about what's happening in digital, in social, in video, and honestly, it's exciting to think about native advertising.

Will there be an e-commerce play?

I do think so. From a consumer experience and a user experience, if you're watching a tutorial on how to do a certain hairstyle or a makeup look, you do want to figure out and buy those things instantly. It's less for me about a business reason and more about the actual user experience.

It's one thing convincing clients, customers and audiences that your company's transforming. Can anyone point to when you've had to get your team behind a big cultural shift?

Dubuc: We've evolved Bio channel to FYI. We've evolved H2 to Viceland. And those aren't just programming decisions. Those are decisions that impact ad sales, finance, legal, distribution, certainly partnerships, not to mention programming and marketing and trafficking and ops and everything. And it's one thing to say we're going to take a brand and pivot its programming and launch shows that are slightly younger or slightly this or slightly that. It's a completely different level of change to say we're going to take a network, we're going to go out to the affiliates, and we're going to completely convert it and focus on a different audience in a different way being more digital first. That's a lot of change in a short period of time.

Nancy, you often talk about taking big swings. Which of your legacy networks this year will undergo the biggest change?

Dubuc: A&E probably this year has the biggest change. A lot of that is in reaction to 10, 11 consecutive years of growth, which is almost unheard of in terms of sustainability in linear TV. They had some huge shows that are naturally and organically in decline. In the reality space, there's a show called 60 Days In, and in the spirit of the cultural movement around prison reform, there are some wardens who are working with volunteers that are actually going into prisons for 60 days and the inmates don't know they're not convicted felons. So you get a very unique experience and a very unique point of view of what that's like.

GE's latest VR experience of a wind farm in Dali, China was produced in partnership with Secret Location.

Katrina and Wendy, can you speak to creating a culture of change?

Craigwell: We are fortunate in a couple of respects. We have visionary leadership. [Vice chair] Beth Comstock's mandate, her mantra, her m.o. is innovation and change. Linda Boff, our CMO, gives our teams their cover to be able to do the things that we do. And then there's a certain aspect of relentlessness to it. When I first got to GE, one of the early videos that we shot had us taking drones with specially rigged cameras through factories in healthcare and aviation. So the idea of calling up a factory that has to do the very important job of actually getting a gas turbine out to a customer and saying, Hey, if you don't mind, we're just going to fly a drone camera across the floor. Four years ago, that was certainly a harder sell. It was our job to make sure that we communicated the benefit to our business partners. Now the phone calls are much easier.  We've been able to kind of amass a library of content.

Clark: Culture, to me, is this amorphous thing you can't just put it on your checklist. You can't be like, oh, on Thursday I'll address culture. It is a thousand actions, it's a thousand different thoughts and ideas, it's the sum total of everything that comes out of our agency, everything that comes into our agency, our clients, our people. We've done a few things already. We've hired some people and we will continue to hire some people. We're doing some structural, internal changes that are going to need to take place. We won a pitch (Time Warner Cable, followed by Fiat Chrysler's Jeep and Alfa Romeo brands) that was good. We have 2,000 associates in North America, and I want to get out and meet all of the associates, hear them. This is, to me, a playbook around what we're starting to call the resurgence of an icon. DDB is an iconic brand, and our job, those of us who carry that brand today, is to hand it off to the next generation, to leave it better than we found it.

What's the secret to positioning your brand for the next generation while preserving its core?

Lee: The very first issue that I worked on at Allure happened to be our 25th anniversary issue, so it was a very poignant time to come in and to look back at the past 25 years and to really celebrate it but then to also think about where do we want to be 25 years from now? We want to speak to our core, but we do want to open ourselves up to a new audience. We're great at recommending products and telling everyone these are the best ingredients, but I want to see more people. Beauty is such a personal thing that whether you're a tech entrepreneur, you're a ballerina, you're an athlete, everyone has a different beauty story.

Katrina, GE is all about jet engines and power plants. How is using social platforms like Snapchat helping transform the GE brand?

Craigwell: It was this notion of, GE is fairly widely known, maybe not so understood. How do we think about the next generation of talent? How do we think about the next generation of people who are going to buy our machines but also buy our digital services? The types of folks who are making those decisions are present on digital—they're on LinkedIn, they're on Twitter, they're telling stories and conceiving stories in all of those ways. Snapchat may be more where we reach our future employees and talent, and Facebook might be a little bit broader where we reach our shareholders. 

Which platforms and technologies are you all experimenting with?

Lee: When you think about reading a magazine, everyone typically has their cellphone on, too, so we've been looking at other technology that helps to bridge those two worlds. I really would love to do, at some point this year, a tutorial issue where on various pages through the issue you're able to then surface the video that shows exactly how to do that.

FKA twigs graces Allure's May cover, on stands April 24.

Dubuc: VR is clearly a tailor-made product for History, whether it be historical sites, historical battles or world monuments being experienced in that way. We're making an investment in the company that will be public in the spring [live-event VR technology company Voke]. We'll be one-third owner of the company. We're very active in using data as a selling tool. I wouldn't say it's new; it's really a digitally minded way of selling and targeting audiences. I wouldn't say that we're creating new technology, but we're constantly looking for what's around the corner, what's being served up and how do we apply our content offerings, and how do we supply and provide our clients with opportunities to utilize that kind of technology vis-à-vis our brands. 

Trying out new technologies comes with big risks. How comfortable are you with that? 

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