WUMC: Diverse Professionals in Marketing

This year on October 21st, WFoA had the honor of sponsoring the annual Wharton Undergraduate Marketing Conference (WUMC), an all-day endeavor dedicated to giving students a peek behind the curtains of the marketing industry. WFoA Global Advisory Board member Barry Wacksman, EVP and Global Chief Strategy Officer at R/GA, kicked off the event with an inspirational presentation on his firm’s highly-successful campaign collaborations with Beats by Dre. After lunch, the conference regrouped for an hour-long panel, “Diverse Professionals in Marketing,” hosted by WFoA Executive Director Catharine Hays. Three exceptional speakers were invited from our network: Candice Kersh (top lawyer in advertising & media), Ryan Pearson (Digital Marketing Associate at BlackRock) and Loren Grossman (CXO of Annalect). Each shared their unique career experiences and discussed the development of marketing in the past, present and future. ‘Evolution’ was the outstanding theme: the evolution of the professional, as well as the evolution of the industry itself in the height of a digital age.

Key Takeaways:

  • The advertising and marketing field is being disruptive and transformed by technology, opening a highly diverse set of career opportunities
  • Creativity and analytics go hand-in-hand to create new and improved relationships between brands and people.
  • Firms are seeking candidates with a broad range of majors, far beyond marketing.

Accolades were abundant across the panel. Kersh was the first lawyer ever listed among Folio Magazine’s Top Women in Media and Advertising Age ‘Women to Watch’. Pearson recently won 2 awards at the Cannes Lions 2016, nicknamed the “Oscars of advertising,” while working with 360i. Grossman has collected a number of marketing awards as well—Echo, Effie, Clio, Cannes Lion and I-COM, to name a few—and remains a frequent speaker at industry events. With their expertise in mind, Catharine asked these diverse representatives from the fields of advertising law, design and strategy, and marketing analytics for their thoughts on the evolution of the marketing industry as a whole.

Grossman’s response was: the future is now. He spoke about his beginnings working in direct response, and how advanced technology has since increased the immediacy, accessibility and impact of well-worn methods. “As things become digital, they become measurable, and as they become measurable, they become direct, and that’s a good thing for everybody.” Grossman cited his Penn degree in Comparative Literature as something that helped him understand how to takes things apart and put them back together. By developing skills in piecing together and applying data solutions, Grossman seeks to improve communication with the consumer in order to increase personalization of the consumer experience, which is key to successful marketing. Over time, digitization will only help brands reach farther and larger audiences.

Pearson, too, highlighted the necessity of personalization. With a political science degree, he originally made his way through policy work, research and organizing unions before discovering user experience (UX). He spent time at agencies like 360i and RAPP as a UX designer prior to his current position at BlackRock, and his experience in the field has cemented his belief in establishing quality communication—not just between brands and consumers, but ideally, between brands and people. Possessing curiosity for people and the ability to empathize is essential for a marketing professional. “If we can gain a super deep level of empathy,” Pearson explained, “then we can actually communicate our products in the best way possible.” He expressed his hopes to set a UX foundation for BlackRock in the future.

For Kersh, the evolution of the industry is the perpetual stumbling block that keeps her work relevant. Innovative ideas are more likely to outrun old laws, which is where she helps creatives, ensuring that their campaigns will survive, legally, in the marketplace. Kersh reflected on her academic roots in business, law and film production, and encouraged students to embrace unconventional career paths and to not forgo their passions. “The one great skill you really need no matter what you decide […] is creativity,” she said. “Exercising that muscle is probably the best thing you can do.”

When prompted for the best way to stay current, all three guests agreed on the importance of being aware. Kersh isolated popular culture as a place to locate trends, while Pearson suggested staying on top of new innovations. In addition to alertness, Pearson and Grossman advocated being proactive; test new ideas, and always learn from your mistakes.

Near the end, students in the audience were given the opportunity to pose questions to the panel. Here is an overview of their answers:

How do you balance messages across a variety of channels while keeping the messages consistent?

Kersh: Fragmentation is always there, but creative storytelling can help overcome it.
Pearson: In a team, there is usually a strategy person who specializes in this kind of balancing.
Grossman: As long as the data is applied correctly within its context, balancing shouldn’t be an issue. Every “touch” of the brand matters.
Exec. Dir. Hays: It’s not only about what the brand does, but ultimately how the brand connects with people that defines a successful message.

How do you address innovation in the field when the law hasn’t seen it before?

Kersh: It is very hard to be innovative if you don’t take risks, but when the law has not caught up with the innovation, the risk level of companies must be considered.
Exec. Dir. Hays: The idea is not outright rejection, but a compromise.

How do you bring a creative outlet into your work when it is so data-driven?

Pearson: I try not to design for myself when I design for work.
Grossman: Don’t separate right brain, left brain, and data from creativity. Although companies may be becoming more data-driven, they are also becoming more creative with data.

What activities do you do outside of work that foster creativity?

Kersh: I keep up with pop culture.
Pearson: I try to absorb as much creative information as I can, whether it be art, music, etc.
Grossman: I’m just curious all the time. A wealth of information is easily accessible through the internet.
Exec. Dir. Hays: At WFoA, we try to be as multidisciplinary as possible, as diverse as possible. Surround yourself with diverse people, and remember to unplug now and then to clear the clutter and open up your creativity again.

By Gloria Yuen
English, SAS ‘18