It's official. Nancy Hill has been named the new president-CEO of the 4As.
I had a chat with her yesterday, and came away thinking that she will bring a decidedly different spin to what has been, by almost all accounts, a pretty staid organization. I admit that in a post on her expected appointment last week, I didn't realize she had tech experience. In fact, she's worked on a raft of tech accounts, and explained to me that it taught her not to separate digital advertising from traditional advertising. "I was never allowed to separate the two because the technology clients wouldn't let you separate the two," she explained. That said, she's obviously thought a lot about the digital divide—not the one that separates the computer-haves from the computer have-nots, but the one that separates the traditional advertising people from the digital ones. The traditional side, she said, focuses on ads as solutions; the digital side focuses on applications as solutions. "I think where the 4As can help is that we can help bring the conversation together." Digital vs. traditional is my personal bailiwick, but we also talked about other topics of concern to the ad populi.
One was the 4As Management Conference, which, Hill admitted, is ranking fairly low on the relevancy scale. "It has been a management conference where agency heads have stood up and talked about what was happening at their own agencies," she observed. After last year's conference, she and some other ad execs got together all by themselves and brainstormed what the conference should be; her thought was that it should "look outside the industry" at other creative industries who have adjusted to change. She'd like to bring in people like Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, who have managed to sustain and grow a partnership through a rapidly-changing landscape in their own business. That doesn't mean they're on the agenda; Hill had to disengage from the project once she was under consideration for the 4As job. I checked out what the 4As Web site has to say about this year's conference, by the way, and it has been renamed the 4As Leadership Conference. It also promises to deliver, "CEOs from major digital companies, a global media agency CEO, a major architect, a Hollywood producer, a venture capitalist, a major package goods advertisers and the legendary Lee Clow, worldwide creative director, TBWA\Chiat\Day." (Hey, I thought Lee recently changed his title to Master of the Dark Arts, or something. No wait, I had that a little wrong.)
Anyway, perhaps we'll soon be able to say goodbye to the 4As conference as we've known it, which is great, as long as it keeps being at high-end resorts and includes many beverages, of course. Some things should never change.
So anyway, we also touched on the industry's sorry record when it comes to diversity and how the 4As could do more to make it, well, less white bread. (My words, not hers.) Hill feels many minorities have trouble picturing themselves in the ad industry, which is among the difficulties in making the industry more diverse. "How can we position the industry as attractive to all constituencies?" she asked. "I think that starts before somebody gets out of school."
And, of course, no interview of an incoming 4As CEO would be complete without talking about Advertising Week, which, although it pales in importance next to the changing media landscape and diversity, somehow seems to lead to the most 4As headlines. Although she applauds the passion that the late Ken Kaess, and Ron Berger will continue to bring to it, it isn't front-and-center for her right now. She confessed, "My perspective on it is cloudy at this point be honest with you." Given the substantive issues facing the ad industry right now, that's not a bad thing.
If you're surprised that you're reading her comments on a blog, so am I. But Hill wanted to communicate with the blogosphere as well as the usual ad media suspects. As none of them have posted any interviews with her yet, do me a favor and remember that you read it on Adverganza first.