Riding the crest of a wave is a pretty good feeling. But the bigger lessons can come from falling off and hitting the bottom.
Many a business guru is fond of the ironic value of failure. That’s a notion that the boss of one of the biggest ad groups subscribes to, too.
“I’ve always learned more from failure than success,” Starcom MediaVest Group CEO Laura Desmond tells Beet.TV in this video interview. “At times, when people are on the top of the wave, riding it and feeling like nothing can touch them – those are the points in time when you really have to remember, ‘what was it like to be off that wave?’
“Those times make you humble, keep you hungry and keep you focus on the good and the necessary learning and challenges that go in to staying strong in this industry.”
There’s another kind of wave Desmond is riding, and that is the constantly-changing businesses of advertising and technology. The fusion of the two is up-ending the traditional marketing business, and turning geeks in to kingmakers amongst the creative community.
“This industry ain’t for the faint of heart. It’s a tough business today, (with) lots of different pressures,” Desmond reckons.
“Our work inherently is for people who are young or young at heart. You have to have a constant curiosity about what’s going on in the world. You have to be very comfortable with this notion of … moving at an increasingly faster rate of velocity as we see technology empowerment disrupt business models.”
Back when Desmond got started in the industry, her entrance was a sure thing. It started by being an outlier – the only one in her class to back advertising as a positive force for change.
“It’s a story that starts in my freshman year in college,” Desmond recalls. “One of the assignments was to find a popular brand advertising campaign and argue, ‘Was it good for society or not?’
“Out of 20 people in the class, I was the only person to argue that the campaign for Crest toothpaste was actually good for society because the sales funded the investment and research in to fluoride and better products.”
Out of college, Desmond joined advertising company Leo Burnett, which she recalls as “where it was at”: “Creative (messaging) wasn’t the … only thing … (the strategy of) reaching people at the right time and the right place became as important and – arguably, today, 20 years later, more important than the message itself.”
So what are Desmond’s lessons to tomorrow’s generation of ad industry joiners? “Be humble and listen,” she adds. “That’s mostly what I’ve tried to do.”
Desmond was interviewed in Chicago for Beet.TV by Andy Plesser, executive producer of Beet.TV for the Media Revolutionaries series presented by AOL and Xaxis. You can find more videos from the series here.