Val DiFebo: CEO of Deutsch NY

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Since 1992, Deutsch New York’s engine has been Val DiFebo. She has been the cornerstone of Deutsch’s unprecedented growth. Val defines the Deutsch culture and spirit, and—through her leadership—has built a powerful company filled with spirited, passionate, business-oriented individuals who are dedicated to accelerating client success rates. A testament to building a strong culture, Advertising Age named Deutsch number two on the Agency A-List in 2014, in addition to naming Deutsch one of the Best Places to Work in 2011 and 2012.

Val was an invaluable part of the team that redefined Deutsch’s integrated multidisciplinary offering, allowing for the creation of high-level, efficient and rapid business solutions that impact a client’s business. A first in the advertising industry, Val has evolved and strengthened Deutsch's media offering by bringing data-driven insights to the forefront of how brands go to market. Integrating the Media Planning/Buying, Communications Planning, and the Data Strategy disciplines—Deutsch delivers impact and business results, and drives incremental value from media investments for clients. Additionally, this new model inspires a value-exchange in which it influences and leads to more innovative creative ideas.  During Val’s tenure at Deutsch, she has worked on brand-building marketing efforts for an array of brands including: Johnson & Johnson (Tylenol & ACUVUE), Sherwin-Williams, PNC Bank, Microsoft, GoDaddy, and IKEA to name a few.

How did you get into the Advertising industry?

I developed an interest in advertising after taking a few classes in behavioral Psychology. My first job out of college was in a media department in a large advertising agency. I was assigned to large packaged goods client, and several iconic brands.

Tell us about Deutsch. What is your vision for the company?

Our most valuable asset is our great people. Attracting and retaining the very best talent is our focus. I have been at Deutsch for 22 years, and have really grown here. I have the tremendous responsibility of leading the NY office and with that comes the desire to lead the company forward. We will continue to develop smart, business-minded solutions for our clients, and create work that is original and shareable.

What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to Deutsch's success?

I was a force behind developing Deutsch’s integrated capabilities; starting in the early 90s establishing digital capabilities, media planning and buying, and data departments, among others. Recently, I took an unprecedented step to elevate our media offering –– understanding the firepower of analytics and communications planning, when tied to data, can provide a bang for our clients bucks. I appointed a data guy to lead an integrated team representing communications planning, media planning/buying, and data strategy/analytics. The results have been tremendous as 80 percent of Deutsch NY’s clients’ utilize the Agency’s media capabilities, and media revenues have grown by double digits in the past two years.

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

Data and creative – marrying the two. The importance of digital and social. They are a huge part of most many advertising campaigns and will continue to be.

Life Motto?

Make every day count. Make a difference every day.

Deutsch's Motto?

Create original, shareable work!

Your greatest success as CEO of Deutsch NY? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?

My greatest success has been galvanizing the agency and creating a unique and highly desirable culture. The most difficult time at Deutsch was dealing with the tragedy of 9/11, to which we had front row seats. I learned a great deal that day about leading people in crisis.

Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?

Aim high, surround yourself with people smarter than you are and be yourself. I grew up in a working class Italian family from the Bronx. I was a natural born leader and my first leadership opportunity was when I became student body president of my high school.

Describe the ideal experience working with Deutsch.

The ideal experience is engaging Deutsch for an open, transparent partnership; one where we are involved impacting business with strategies that lead to outstanding work.

How do you motivate your employees?

By being inclusive and letting them do their jobs. My leadership style is very inclusive and transparent. I have the confidence to hire smart, talented people; I empower and inspire them to perform, and reward them when they do well. Being decisive and having the courage to course correct –– and inspiring other to have the self-confidence to be themselves and do the right thing ¬–– are all traits that I strongly believe in.

One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?

Candied yams. A lemony drink…either herbal tea or water with lemon.

What literature is on your bed stand?

The Book Thief, Proof of Heaven

Role model - business and personal?

My personal role model is my long-time friend, entrepreneur and founder of the non-profit, Hearts of Gold.  My business role model is my client and friend, the Group Company Chairman of Johnson & Johnson, Ashley McEvoy.

Current passion?

My family, especially my 10-year old son, Bryan.

Favorite travel destination?

Europe, particularly Italy and France.

What's next for Deutsch?

GROWTH and continuing to find the best talent! We are on a major growth trajectory for the next 18 months. The New York office just moved into a new space, and with that brings new energy, new opportunities and the next chapter.


Deeply committed to diversity and inclusion efforts, Val helps shape both the culture of the Agency and the future of the industry. Under her leadership Deutsch NY has been honored with Corporate Leadership Awards from Coalition for the Homeless (2013), Live Out Loud (2012), Interpublic Group of Companies (2012), the Advertising Educational Foundation (2011), and the 4A’s MAIP Service Award (2009). The AAF Mosaic Awards and IPG Inclusion Awards have also awarded the Agency’s work. Val also serves on the New York Urban League committee.   

A provocative industry thought leader, The Today Show, CNN, the ANA, 4A’s, and even The Apprentice have all sought out her POV.  She frequently speaks about leadership and creativity at colleges (e.g., NYU Stern School of Business and Harvard), to women leadership networks (e.g., Pandora and IPG), and industry events (e.g., Cannes and Advertising Week). Recently, featured in The New York Times, ‘Corner Office,’ column, Val discussed the importance of being direct and art of front stabbing.
She is a founding director of The Hearts of Gold Foundation, helping the lives of at-risk mothers, and Chair for the Board of Trustees of Buckley Country Day School. Val's philanthropic involvement also includes fundraising for Williams College. Val and her husband Dick live in Douglaston with their son, Bryan, their pride and absolute joy.