Spence Kramer: CEO, J. Walter Thompson Atlanta

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Spence Kramer joined J. Walter Thompson Atlanta as Chief Executive Officer in 2016 to drive strategic direction and growth for the office. An established global business leader with a passion for creativity, he brings 20+ years of client and agency-side executive leadership to J. Walter Thompson. Spence comes to J. Walter Thompson from Crispin Porter + Bogusky. There, he served as the agency’s first ever Global Managing Director, working to improve performance, operations and communications across network’s six offices. He was also a key contributor to the global Infiniti automotive account win for the agency last year. Prior to CP+B, Spence was at Wieden + Kennedy for seven years, first serving as Global Account Director on Nike, where he oversaw teams across seven offices on the brand’s long-standing “Just Do It” campaign and Olympics work, among others. In 2009, he was promoted to Global Account Director on the agency’s Coca-Cola businesses, managing brand and product work for Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Powerade. He also led the agency’s winning pitch for Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

How did you get into the industry? 

I moved to NYC (without a place to stay or a job) the summer after I graduated from college. Six months later, from the couch in my mother’s apartment on the Upper West Side, I got my first job from a Help Wanted ad in the New York Times.  

Any emerging industry trends?

Of course, data and technology and an ever-increasing articulation of reaching people in specific, relevant ways are front of mind. Mostly, though, I still get excited about storytelling. I don’t think that’s going to ever change.  

Any industry opportunities or challenges? 

The biggest opportunity I see is for agencies to answer more and more client objectives… including the need to communicate RIGHT NOW. It’s manifested by – and has resulted in – fewer “marriages” between agency and client and more “first dates” between client and select partners. As for challenges, I’d give the same answer. It’s tough to find a real “account” anymore.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

I’m inspired by the people in the agency. Our push here has been – and will always be – to make employees feel great about being here. I like to say that happy people make great work and great work makes people happy. Another priority here (one that’s part of our collective vision) is the work itself. Creativity fuels growth, so we want to be a GREAT creative agency, not just a profitable one.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

We started an innovation practice here last summer. I’m beyond excited at what that will yield. As agency folks are becoming as interested in making “things” as they are creating ads, we want to set ourselves up for future product development and experimentation. We’re also expanding our in-house production capabilities (see question #3) for quicker-turn, more efficient work.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

We’re starting a coalition among Atlanta advertising agencies to attract and retain the most diverse talent in the industry. Diversity and inclusion are major priorities for JWT and for the industry as a whole, so our focus is on representing our community and our city as well as we can to better our thinking, our business and our clients’ businesses.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

One of my biggest challenges and disappointments is when clients cut budgets through no fault of the agency. In this economic climate – particularly among our government businesses – marketing spend is scrutinized more than ever. When the decision is made to cut from marketing, it has cascading effects on the health of the agency.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

We are a nice, fun and smart group of people. Hopefully, our client partners get the benefits of our thinking and creativity and also enjoy the time they spend with us.

How do you motivate others?

I try to be approachable and honest …sometimes to a fault. I tell people that my door is always open … even though I don’t have an office (let alone a door). I’m a father of a 10-year old and a 9-year old, and I find there are similarities in getting them to be their best and getting our people to be their best. In other words, my measure for both is attitude and effort. If you put in 100 percent at those two things, you have my advocacy.

Career advice to those in your industry?

I tell as many people as I can to embrace your own loves and desires and try to do that for a living. As they say, “do what you love.” If you like to do it on a Saturday (whether it be reading, shopping, gardening, cooking, etc.) you’ll definitely enjoy getting paid for it as your occupation. Also, try to associate yourself with PEOPLE you love and want to be around. You can have the best job in the world but if you’re around a bunch of assholes, it isn’t worth it.