Linda Sawyer: Chairman of Deutsch Inc.

My NativeAdVice:

A lifelong steward of Deutsch Inc., Linda joined the agency over 20 years ago. She has been a key player in helping Deutsch become an industry leader known for its fierce independence and strong culture. Linda oversees Deutsch NY and Deutsch LA, and is keenly focused on attracting best-in-class talent and creating a future-facing business model for Deutsch.

Honored for her outstanding achievement in the industry with a Matrix Award and a place on the top 10 most powerful women list as part of Advertising Age’s “100 Most Influential Women in Advertising,” Linda plays an important role on a number of boards engaged in the future of the industry. She is active as Chairman Emeritus of the Board for the Advertising Educational Foundation (AEF), serves as Director-at-Large for the 4A’s, and sits on the Advisory Board for Women at NBCU, a “think tank” on marketing to women. Frequently quoted in the press, Linda also had a starring role in Seasons 1 and 2 of The Apprentice sharing marketing insights.

How did you get into the advertising industry?

My education in marketing began at the age of 12 years old. My father had a package design firm specializing in cosmetics and fragrances, so I literally grew up reading marketing briefs. I was fascinated by consumer behavior—how the creative fulfilled the strategic challenge enhancing the connection with target audiences. This led me to be a marketing major in business school. I worked at both small and large agencies that gave me a diverse range of experience and training. I've always thought about my career like a portfolio, ensuring each new challenge served a deliberate purpose and a desired learning.

Which campaigns that you have executed are you most proud of and why?

 There has been so much great work over the years, but I will always have a soft spot for IKEA as a defining account for the Agency, for me personally, and for the cultural impact it had. Our Life Stages campaign for IKEA demonstrated how they understood the way consumers lived and how they could meet their needs. One spot featured a couple in their 30s who were buying their first dining room table. The couple consisted of two men debating their different style preferences. It was the first mainstream television spot featuring a gay couple in the early ‘90s. It generated overwhelming press and reinforced IKEA’s image as a progressive, brave company and brand.

How does your firm stay successful in this digital era?

We are a culture that thrives on change and staying ahead of the curve.  We tend to hire people who are adaptable, well rounded, and versatile. Digital natives make up a significant part of our workforce, so organically a digital lens permeates everything we do. But staying successful still boils down to generating big ideas that spark meaningful connections with consumers and naturally, today, digital is fundamental to that process.

What is your opinion on publicly traded advertising companies versus privately owned?

As part of a holding company, we feel that we have the best of both worlds. We can tap into resources that we may need from time to time, while at the same time we are given tremendous autonomy and respect for our strong culture. 

Define creativity.

Creativity is the ability to bring to life a deep consumer insight by telling a brand story in a powerful, emotional and culturally relevant way.

What are the biggest industry trends and how do you capitalize on them?

Since the early '90s we have been a pioneer in integrating multiple disciplines under one roof. We don't work in silos, which helps us deliver big ideas that build our clients’ businesses. 

In order to ensure a robust and compelling offering we continually invest in talent that inform our thinking in all areas of marketing, from digital to data analytics, design to social media and beyond.  

Who is your greatest influence in becoming a successful CEO?

Donny Deutsch has certainly been a mentor and has had a profound impact on my development—he is the reason why I am in this job today. One of Donny's core beliefs is the importance of surrounding yourself with the best team that complements your own skills. Additionally, as a leader he has always possessed a winning mentality. This has influenced my unconditional sense of optimism; and I believe that has had a tremendous influence on Deutsch, as well as my personal and professional life outcomes. 

What is your life motto?

I believe you can achieve great success and gratification in all aspects of your life; surrounding yourself with great, strong people at home and at work and prioritizing those things that are most important, identifying what things will benefit from your direct attention. This will help you to focus on what really matters.

What literature is currently on your desk or Internet browser?

"Writing on the Wall: Social Media The First 2,000 Years" by Tom Standage. Social media is not a new concept, it just takes on a new form today. And my guilty pleasure is reading The New York Post every day, cover to cover on my train ride home.

What's next for Deutsch?

With rapid changes in technology, consumer engagement and competitive framework, we need to be in a continual state of evolution and reinvention to deliver optimized business results for our clients.  And, we have an incredibly dynamic and entrepreneurial culture, which continues to thrive and endure the test of time.