Former Amazon sales exec Jeremi Gorman is bringing new energy to Snapchat
With pink hair, dark lipstick and a nose piercing, Snap’s chief business officer Jeremi Gorman embraces an alternative reality: “I’ve never felt more badass in my life,” she says. Gorman, in fact, is not so punk rock in appearance; the badassery was on her phone thanks to her favorite Snapchat filter.
Augmented reality aside, Snap does need a badass to help the company move forward after a turbulent year of executive turnover, stagnant user growth and relentless competition from Facebook. Gorman, 41, brings not only energy to Snapchat but also 20 years of experience in marketing and sales, including the expertise of Amazon, the new member of the ad industry’s triopoly.
Snap announced Gorman’s hire in October 2018 alongside Jared Grusd as the company’s new chief strategy officer. Their roles would replace Imran Khan, the banking executive who helped take Snap public and decided to leave for his own e-commerce venture. Khan’s exit was not necessarily concerning. He dutifully led Snap’s business growth and transitioned the platform to programmatic advertising. Now, Gorman can build a new era for Snap, advertisers say.
Gorman was a multi-sport athlete growing up, on varsity tennis, softball and soccer. These days, she embraces her athleticism on vacations, hang gliding in Rio, zip lining in the Swiss Alps and hiking the Inca Trail. And she brings that energy and confidence into her professional life, which helped her earn three promotions in her seven years at Amazon, where she most recently served as head of global field sales. That enthusiasm has earned her respect across the marketing industry.
WPP chief client officer Lindsay Pattinson says Gorman stood out when she was at Amazon, in part, because she was a woman. “But also a woman who was very skilled and comfortable in media, technology and data, and a woman who was brave, confident and really happy to get on stage, be on panels and get out there. I think she’s a fantastic role model,” Pattinson says.
Gorman, a Los Angeles native, fell in love with advertising while working part-time at a lifestyle magazine in L.A. called Buzz. Part of her job included opening deliveries such as the art for the magazine’s back cover, which was always a campaign for Absolut.
“Every time [I would open the box], I was like, ‘Holy cow, this is incredibly inspiring advertising.’ It made me realize that it can be additive, not interruptive to a life,” Gorman says.
After graduating from UCLA with a bachelor’s in sociology in 1999, Gorman worked in the marketing department of Monster.com. Her team created campaigns to convince people to upload their résumés to Monster. These ranged from branded beach balls at college football games to the ultimate internship competition, where one winner interned at the Athens Olympics.
Gorman left Monster after six years to pursue sales at Variety magazine. What she thought would just be a “short stint” to learn the sales side and then go back to marketing ended up landing her a job at Yahoo and then Amazon and now Snap.
“I was an athlete my whole life growing up and this side has a lot more competition in it and that drives me. I think leading teams and those sorts of things on the sales side felt a lot more natural to me. I never went back,” Gorman says.
At Yahoo, Gorman entranced agencies and clients. Wendy Aldrich, evp, managing partner at Universal McCann, said she met Gorman about a decade back while she was at OMD, working with Visa.
“Even back then, I knew she was the best in the business. Yahoo was our number one partner on the business I worked on because of Jeremi’s unique approach to salesmanship. What has made her so successful is her consultative nature, her authenticity and her emotional intelligence. She is a rare bird in a sea of sameness,” Aldrich says.
Natalie Polanger, director of strategy at Hearts and Sciences, also first met Gorman while working on Visa’s business. She said her agency often thought of Gorman when they received client requests.
“She has a longer-term vision for brand rather than a short-term ‘let me get this on a media plan.’ She thinks about how things are going to evolve in the future,” Polanger says.
In 2012, Gorman joined Amazon as head of entertainment advertising sales, and it was in that role where she first learned about Snapchat. The young app had begun to attract interest from her own clients and eventually attracted their big branding budgets. She downloaded the app in October 2014, the day Snapchat ran its first ad, a 20-second trailer for Universal Pictures’ “Ouija.”
As someone in her late 30s at the time, Gorman was not an “avid user but certainly an avid respecter” of Snapchat, she says. Gorman admired CEO Evan Spiegel and his team’s “fortitude to stick with vertical video in a world where vertical video was not common or vertical ads were not common,” she says.
Gorman’s admiration in Snap increased when a friend and her teenage daughters stayed at her home in L.A. for two weeks one summer. While she was driving the two girls down the PCH to Malibu, they were both in the back seat of her convertible taking selfies. At first, she was annoyed.
“I was like, ‘Girls, please enjoy this with your eyes.’ But they showed me what they were doing, with the filters and how many degrees it is. [The 17-year-old] was like, ‘I’m not taking selfies for vanity. I’m taking selfies to share that this is my experience,’” Gorman says.
Gorman loves experiences. Her interview with Snap came shortly after an annual vacation with some college friends, where this time they visited a dude ranch and learned how to fly fish. Her final interviewer, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, had asked her what the hardest part of that experience was. She replied, “Holding the rod and the Coors Light.” He laughed.
Since joining Snap, Gorman’s Snapchat game is “getting good,” she says. She makes stickers and adds GIFs. She recently snapped the back of her car, which was overflowing with three suitcases due to her busy travel schedule for Snap. Though she loves travel, one benefit of her new gig is she’s now based out of her hometown. There are many reasons why Gorman loves L.A.; one of them is the beach.
Gorman says, “I try to go into the ocean every single week, even when it’s cold, just to remind myself of how big the world is and how small I am. I float in the ocean, and there’s so much going on underneath me that I’ll never know about and it gives me this sense of calm and peace.”
In April, Gorman is going to the Philippines and waterfall rappelling. This time, unlike her other vacations, she’ll have her Spectacles and is sure to be snapping.
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