Bob Jeffrey: My Life In Media

'In this day of Tivo, we are forced to be stealthy in the way we convince people to spend time with our brands'

Monday 29 April 2013 06:37

So what inspired you to embark on a career in the media?

Initially it was a love of pop culture and its changing nature. But I remember once, though, standing in the Sistine Chapel in Rome, looking at the ceiling and the architecture. I thought at that moment that we of this century will leave our media and graphic design to tell to future anthropologists the stories of who we were. The thought of being part of that seeded what has become my career.

When you were 15 years old, which newspaper did your family get, and did you read it?

The Providence (Rhode Island) Journal. Yes.

And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

Bonanza, Mission: Impossible, The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, The Fugitive.

Describe your job

Relentless, challenging, full of surprises.

What media do you turn to first thing in the morning?

Newspapers: Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Financial Times.

Do you consult any media sources during the working day?

I turn to the internet. Blogs like the Huffington Post, and of course Yahoo and Google.

What is the best thing about your job?

Nothing brings me more satisfaction than doing great work and having it recognised. It is one thing to know that we have great ideas and creative work, but having it recognised as such brings the satisfaction to an entirely new level. Another great feeling is winning a new account or piece of business. The process, cost and sacrifices made from senior executives to the women and men who work 24 hours a day perfecting our presentations ... all these things paying off in the end is a terrific high. The celebration of accomplishing colossal goals as a team is tremendously rewarding.

This job also allows me to spend a great deal of time in our offices all over the globe. I am as equally fascinated by the similarities in consumer behaviour worldwide as I am in the unique differences to which our local offices speak. Formulating the message from our global brands to local markets is a challenge which I find extremely captivating.

And the worst?

Being on the road constantly has its downside. Also, the petty politics which crop up never stop disappointing me.

How do you feel you influence the media?

By creating interesting and entertaining ideas which invite our audiences to spend time thinking about our clients. In this day of Tivo and shorter attention spans of audiences, we are forced to be innovative and stealthy in the way we convince audiences to spend time with our brands. Our work for the Diamond Trading Company not only created attention-getting advertising but also invented new product.

What's the proudest achievement in your working life?

The arc of my career is something I'm proud of, although I try not to think of it so much ... coming from a large blue-collar, working-class Italian-American family and working at Prime Drug in Providence to being in the position I'm in now is on one level perplexing and, on another, satisfying.

What is your Sunday paper? And do you have a favourite magazine?

New York Times. The New Yorker magazine.

And what's your most embarrassing moment?

Finding myself and a client both named one of the top 100 eligible New York "Bachelors of the Year" by Gotham magazine.

At home, what do you tune in to?

The Sopranos.

Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire

I would like to help JWT to become the kind of fearlessly creative and innovative global entity that has uniform standards of high quality output. I hope that through the years I assemble the creative pioneers which make this happen in a way which can be admired for decades to come.

If you didn't work in the media what would you do?

I'd be a guide for extreme wilderness adventures.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

Bill Bernbach [named top person of the century by the American adland bible Advertising Age]. He taught me the importance of creating an environment where people can do great work.

The CV

1987 After working as an account executive at DDB and then Chiat/Day he co-founds the agency Goldsmith/Jeffrey. The agency became highly regarded for its creative work on accounts such as ESPN, JP Morgan, and Bergdorf Goodman Men.

1996 Goldsmith/Jeffrey is acquired by Lowe and Partners. As executive vice president, managing director at Lowe, Jeffrey established the agency's first West Coast operation and attracted Sun Microsystems, Eddie Bauer and Charles Schwab as clients.

1998 Jeffrey joins JWT as its New York president.

2001 He is appointed JWT's president of North America where he oversees the transformation of JWT from a traditional ad agency to a fully integrated brand communications company.

2004 Becomes worldwide CEO.

2005 Takes on the additional title of chairman.

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