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How did you discover your passion for advertising and get started in the creative field? In my case, it was through a series of accidents followed by some intention. I knew the more traditional career path of a doctor or lawyer wasn’t for me, but the prospect of languishing in an artist’s garret seemed unrewarding. The newish discipline of strategy in advertising seemed like an excellent middle ground. It was and is challenging in the best way, focused on making things that land in culture. From the very beginning, I focused on emerging audiences shaping the future of the United States.

During your career, you’ve held a number of key innovation and strategy roles. What are some throughlines and learning you’ve gained across these? It’s easy to get excited about innovation and revolutions, and if you’re very, very lucky in your career, you’ll get to work with clients and colleagues who are just as excited (as I have been and continue to be). But, you know what? Revolutions are exciting, logistics not so much. You have to address the practical side first. You have to make sure you have: The right type of human truths. The right type of team on the business with the resourcing figured out, so they have the time to drive change. The right process. The right types of measurement in place, so we can prove how it drives clients’ business. Of course, you need revolutionary ambition, but you need equally revolutionary work on the parts behind the scenes that no one sees.

You joined ad agency the community in 2022 as chief strategy officer, working on campaigns for global brands like Bath & Body Works, Walmart, Verizon, Volkswagen and more. What do you do in this role, and what do you like about it? We talk. A lot.

We see our jobs as unlocking growth for brands, and we do it by finding the most culturally honest creative solution. So, we talk to our clients to see where the heart and promise of the company lie—the real truth, where they’re not lying to themselves. We talk to consumers about their hopes and fears to see where to connect in a way that lands in culture. We talk to experts on the fringes who can provide surprising points of view that can help open up the playing field.

And, of course, we talk with one another inside the agency. Sometimes, it can sound a lot more like arguing, truth be told. But these conversations help us arrive at the problems that need to be solved and the springboards that lead to brilliant solutions.

How do you achieve cultural fluency, developing campaigns that bridge cultures, in your work for the community and its dual market in Latin American and the United States? For us, fluency comes from who we are, in makeup but also in values. The benefit of being at an agency focused on the new mainstream is that we have a team built to bring both diversity and curiosity to the work we do.

We speak to the new mainstream because we are the new mainstream. This is important not only because it’s how a business should be in 2024, but also because it brings the energy we need to be able to do our jobs well.

Curiosity leads to more insightful work, to more interesting uses of new technologies, to work that is as true for the rapidly growing diverse and influential communities as it is for the rest of the people in the United States. And that curiosity breeds the fluency you’re asking about.

How would you sell a client on developing a multicultural campaign, and how does it represent shifting trends in how we understand culture in a digitally connected world? Ideally, the focus is on what’s true. Great work finds something that is true to the brand and connects it to something that is true in culture, to that individual consumer in a moment in time. Culture shifts all the time. It’s less about selling clients on developing multicultural work and more about finding truths that are eternal but particularly pressing.

The growth clients seek will come from the growth in the market. Growth in new platforms. Growth in audiences. Growth in the influence and impact of those audiences. We’re certain that our focus on this era of the new mainstream will breed the growth our clients seek. This kind of work is on the right side of history. So, we’re not selling; we’re just focused on helping clients grow.

We’ve built tools at the community that help us understand people in all their complexity, beyond the traditional hyphens of multicultural marketing’s past. And we can use that understanding to create complex stories that surprise consumers.”

What have been some of your favorite projects that you’ve worked on, and how did they change your perception of what advertising can achieve? I’m particularly proud of our Super Bowl campaign for Verizon. We built a first-of-its-kind effort that bridged AI, a major artist in singer J Balvin and the first Big Game ever on Univision. The work felt fresh because it solved a business problem—demonstrating the value of the Verizon network—using a first-ever Spanish language broadcast on Univision during the Super Bowl, a never-done-before use of AI and a celebrity. The intersection of these three elements drove massive impact with an audience integral to Verizon’s future business health.

Advertising needs to show how the fundamentals that still work, like TV, can be thought of in different ways. This work was a great example of that.

What is one challenge currently facing ad agencies that they need to address to remain relevant? Overall, the value we create is too hard to quantify, so it is therefore hard for clients to value it and pay us accordingly. Many other professional services groups—from law firms to accountants to consultants—can quantify their contribution, either through mitigation of risk or quant models. Therefore, they can charge what they believe they deserve. Creative businesses, like us, often shy away from this, so we wind up negotiating against ourselves. I think it’s fair to say that we believe creativity is the way to unlock value, to be culturally honest. So, the onus is on us to stand up for the value of the work we deliver.

What trends in advertising are you most interested in, and why? Personalization is the great territory to be conquered. When you look at the capabilities of a platform like the data-driven marketing tool Epsilon, I’m fascinated by what doors it opens both strategically and creatively.

We can know so much about people beyond the obvious. We’ve built tools at the community that help us understand people in all their complexity, beyond the traditional hyphens of multicultural marketing’s past. And we can use that understanding to create complex stories that surprise consumers. We’ve only scratched the surface of the role that technology can play in creativity.

Do you have any advice for people just entering the industry today? First, don’t get distracted by the trends of the moment. Fundamentals of marketing matter: insight, positioning and creative briefs. Don’t reinvent the wheel yet.

Second, be a student of the work. It’s the only part that matters. Watch case studies and build on the best. They’re all on YouTube. Aspire that your work lives up to those cases. Write your own case studies before you do the work.

Third, write. If you can’t explain what you’re doing in 25 words on a notecard, you don’t know yet what you’re doing. Work on simplifying everything before you expand. ca

Lee Maicon joined ad agency the community in 2022 as chief strategy officer. With more than 25 years of experience in the industry, he brings together the agency’s strategy offering across the United States and Latin America. born in Mexico and raised between Miami and New York, Maicon has a strong global strategic perspective and cultural understanding. At the community, he leads the strategic offering for all global client partners, including Bath & Body Works, Mondelēz, Netflix, Porsche, Verizon, Volkswagen and more. As part of the executive leadership team, Maicon also helps to build on the community’s business and capability expansion, focusing on being the creative partner for the new mainstream.


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