Culture editors and chief people officers: 5 agency positions that didn’t exist until recently

coworking Protein

As advertising evolves to fit the digital age, so too does the agency masthead. Job titles in the digital age reflect the brave new world we find ourselves in, for better or worse.

We asked agencies across the board for the most unique and unconventional roles on their rosters that have cropped up in recent years. Here’s what we got:

Chief people officer, RQ
Influencer marketing — essentially paying people with large online followings to flog a brand — has become an increasingly important part of the marketing mix. Now, some agencies are creating roles dedicated to the practice. Los Angeles-based RQ is one of them, with co-founder Caroline Ruddy serving as its “chief people officer.” Ruddy’s primary job, said CEO and co-founder Brian Salzman, is to talk to key people across film, TV, art, fashion and sports, and cultivate and manage the agency’s relationships with them. In fact, the agency has even managed to convince some of its clients, including Google and AirBnb, to also create such roles for themselves, said Salzman.

“The paradigmatic shift in the industry has caused such kind of a role to pop up,” he said. “The epicenter of marketing today has to be relationships as they elevate everything.”

Editor-in-chief, Ready State
Ben Worthen had been a journalist for 13 years when he decided to go to the content-marketing side. After a stint at venture capitalist firm Sequoia Capital, he moved to agency Ready State in 2014, becoming its editor-in-chief in 2014. Today, he manages a team of half a dozen other former journalists like himself, working on everything from strategy to marketing and positioning for clients. Several skills in the journalist’s arsenal are extremely valuable to agencies today, he said, including the ability to dig deeper and being able to effectively channel the voice of the audience.

“I guess my role can be called the ‘chief bullshit detector,’” he said. “Marketers can sometimes be far removed from the way real people actually think and talk, and we help put them in touch with that.”

Entrepreneur-in-residence, MDC Assembly
As Assembly’s entrepreneur-in-residence, Michael Nicholas’ job entails seeking out emerging technologies and startups, managing the agency’s strategic corporate VC fund, building new companies like Born, MDC’s new AI-focused agency and connecting Assembly clients with the right entrepreneurs and startups to fuel their businesses.

“People laugh at my title in ad land, but that’s OK,” he said. “My days are super interesting being both an investor and an entrepreneur – sometimes I feel like a venture guy with an advertising problem, and other days, I feel like an ad man with startup issues. But it’s been super fun, rewarding and very unique experience.”

Culture editor, Chandelier Creative
Alexandre Stipanovich serves as Chandelier’s culture editor, helping to keep the agency’s eclectic culture alive. Chandelier has spaces in New York, Los Angeles and East Hampton and wanted to capitalize on them to create experiences for its staffers as well as provide a stage for artists and influencers to tell their story. Stipanovich, a former brain chemist at Yale Medical School, has programmed a number of talks for the agency’s “Salon Series.” Recent talks have included a screening of David Poritz’s film “Oil & Water,” a panel with design guru Jim Walrod to discuss the history and future of boutique culture and a discussion with Think Olio exploring verbal violence. He also focuses on creating content and developing relationships with new brands.

“The goal was to find somebody who could think differently and more creatively, across platforms on behalf of brands and influencers,” said Lauren Prince, CEO and president of Chandelier. “It’s quickly become such a large offering for us that we’ve brought on even more individuals, including a ‘culture alchemist,’ Jason Harler.”

Data Scientist, Razorfish
As data starts to play a more integral role in marketing, data scientists have popped up in greater numbers at agencies in recent years. Razorfish is no different, although the role is uniquely positioned at the agency in that data scientists work hand in hand with creative and UX teams to inform campaigns and client creative work, instead of working in a silo. The agency has approached the role differently from a recruiting standpoint as well, making big hiring plays from outside of the advertising industry. Kevin Mercurio, one of its data scientists, for example, is a former Harvard physicist and scientist for CERN. Razorfish’s data scientists have also been key to recent client wins with J.M. Smuckers company and Dove’s “Have Your Say” campaign, for instance.

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