CHICAGO — Embrace failure.
It’s often possible to learn more from mistakes and pitfalls than from victories. That’s the advice of Laura Desmond, CEO of Starcom MediaVest Group in this deep-dive interview with Beet.TV about her strategy and approach to her career in the advertising business over the last few decades.
“I’ve learned more from failure than success. When you are on top of the wave, riding it and feeling like nothing can touch you, those are the points in time you have to remember what is it like to be off the wave, in the valley, unsure of what to do,” she says. “Those times make you hungry and keep you focused on the goal and the necessary challenges of staying in front.”
Desmond joined Publicis in 1987 and has worked her way up since, holding a wide range of posts before becoming CEO of Starcom MediaVest Group. She’s grown the business at Starcom MediaVest Group more than 70% since assuming the CEO post in 2008 as one of the agency’s youngest top executives. Last year alone, the media agency managed $52.14 billion media dollars, up 11% over the previous year. She has led work for iconic brands including Procter & Gamble, Samsung, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Mars, Mondelez, Kellogg’s, Honda, Walmart, and Kraft Foods, and helmed partnerships with Google, AOL, Facebook, Twitter and others.
Reaching the position she has now came through taking chances, and trying on new roles. “My career was never governed by what I wanted to be, but by what I wanted to do,” she tells us. That’s why she’s taken the opportunities that came her way over the years, such as the chance to work in London, to work with the General Motors client, to run a new business in Latin America, and to lead MediaVest in New York, among others.
Her career focus has been on building and rebuilding, especially given the rapid chances in the media landscape. “I kept chasing and pursuing challenges and opportunities and took chances outside my comfort zone,” she said. As such, each of those experiences made her more comfortable with change, and in turn with leading for clients and pushing boundaries. That shaped her philosophy of embracing failure as much as success.
This post is part of Beet.TV’s “Media Revolutionaries“, a 50-part series of interviews with key innovators and leaders in the media, technology and advertising industries, sponsored by Xaxis and Microsoft. Xaxis is a unit of WPP.
Desmond was interviewed by Beet.TV in Chicago.