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Ad Lib features unscripted conversations with some of the biggest personalities in media and marketing, speaking off the cuff with Ad Age editor Brian Braiker. The goal here is to do away with spin and jargon, and get to know some of the more influential and innovative people in this space — and understand the humans behind the titles.

Ad Lib features unscripted conversations with some of the biggest personalities in media and marketing, speaking off the cuff with Ad Age editor Brian Braiker. The goal here is to do away with spin and jargon, and get to know some of the more influential and innovative people in this space — and understand the humans behind the titles.
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Ad Lib features unscripted conversations with some of the biggest personalities in media and marketing, speaking off the cuff with Ad Age editor Brian Braiker. The goal here is to do away with spin and jargon, and get to know some of the more influential and innovative people in this space — and understand the humans behind the titles.




Jessica Pels, editor-in-chief, Cosmopolitan

In October of last year, at just 32 Jessica Pels was named the youngest-ever editor in chief at Cosmopolitan. Now exactly one year into the gig, web traffic is through the roof, even as single issue print sales continue to decline (just as they do everywhere else). We dig into her web-driven, data-centric approach to content strategy as we discuss where she’s taking the storied glossy.


Barak Moffit, Universal Music Group

A producer, composer and technologist, Barak Moffat heads UMG's content and strategy. UMG's massive catalog includes 40 percent of all of the world's music. He discusses that, and what it means to be creating new commercial opportunities for audio visual content across all of UMG’s labels. Essentially tasked with charting the company's next chapters, he also discusses the rise of voice and smart sneakers, and how UMG thinks about both data and metadata.


Morgan Spurlock, filmmaker, and David Littlejohn, founder of Humanaut

It’s been 15 years since “Super Size Me” came out. Today Spurlock is back with a sequel. With “Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken” Spurlock asks whether fast food has gotten any healthier in the intervening years. As the title suggests he focuses on industrial chicken farming—going so far as to open his own chicken farm to raise birds for a chicken sandwich shop. Along the way, Spurlock teamed up with David Littlejohn, founder and chief creative officer of the small agency Humanaut, to learn...


Mark Penn, chairman and CEO of MDC Partners

Mark Penn, the president and managing partner of Stagwell Group, raised industry eyebrows six months ago when he plonked $100 million into the flailing agency holding company MDC Partners—and became its CEO in the process. Six months in, we take a look at what the polarizing pollster has been up to (both in the agency world and the political sphere), what he’s learned and where he’s taking the holding company.


Jen Wong, COO, reddit

Reddit is on a roll. The self-styled “front page of the internet” is on target to double its ad revenue in the U.S. from $100 million in 2019 to $200 million in 2021, according to eMarketer. This growth is the result of tightening moderation on the platform and building out its advertising business. To discuss Reddit’s evolution, strengths and next steps, chief operating officer Jen Wong joins the “Ad Lib” podcast—and questions host Brian Braiker’s faith in humanity.


Andrew Essex, co-founder and CEO, Plan A

What do you do after writing a book called “The End of Advertising?” If you’re Andrew Essex, you co-found an advertising company. But Plan A, he says, is built on a different model than the traditional holding company. A former journalist and the co-founding CEO of Droga5, Essex brings with him an impressive pedigree. We get into that background, where the industry is going, consultancies, the breakdown of the traditional models and what’s next for Plan A.


Ad lawyer Jeffrey Greenbaum, Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz

With a trade war brewing, there's a lot more focus on products Made in the USA—but don't believe everything you see. There are some cases of marketers blurring the lines when it comes to products actually made here, and the FTC rules enforcing truthful “Made in USA” claims lack teeth. But that could be changing.


Why Ryan Kutscher joined the circus

Ryan Kutscher may have been a noted chef if he didn’t decide to go into advertising. Today he is chief creative officer and founder of Circus Maximus, a New York shop which has won its fair share of Ad Age Small Agency awards over the years. In this Ad Lib podcast, he talks about everything from his early days at Crispin Porter & Bogusky and the creation of “Whopper Freakout” to where he and his agency fit into today’s project-led world.


Kai Devereaux Lawson, advocate, agitator and associate operations director at Essence

An associate operations director at the GroupM shop Essence by day, Lawson writes and podcasts extensively and candidly about diversity and inclusion issues on the side—on the Mixed Company podcast and her own blog. In an industry where young black women are too often unseen and unheard, she’s making a point of speaking up.


David Droga, founder & creative chairman, Droga5

The industry’s collective mind was blown when David Droga announced in April that his namesake agency, Droga5, would be acquired by Accenture Interactive. The consultants are coming for the creatives, the narrative went. Not so fast, says Droga. Here, he discusses the three-year journey toward acquisition—and what comes next.


Lindsey Slaby, founder, Sunday Dinner

Lindsey Slaby is a one woman three ring circus: In one ring is her brand consultancy, Sunday Dinner, which coaches clients through various stages of organizational transformation. The second ring is networking on steroids, be it on her invite-only Slack channel or through the invite-only brainstorming dinners that gave Sunday Dinner its name. The third ring is, well, just any old conversation with her, like this one, which can ricochet into myriad directions at any moment.


Laurent Ezekiel, chief marketing and growth officer, WPP

Laurent Ezekiel has his work cut out for him: The Publicis vet joined WPP in May to serve as its first CMO and growth officer. It’s a new position at the world’s largest advertising holding company, which was the worst performing agency holding company in 2018. He discusses how WPP aims to dig out of its hole and explains what his new boss, WPP CEO Mark Read, means when he talks about becoming a “creative transformation company.”


David Fischer, CEO and publisher, Highsnobiety

David Fischer started Highsnobiety in 2005 as personal blog dedicated to his passion for sneaker culture and fashion. Today it is a multi-pronged media brand, a magazine that prints twice a year and a creative agency. With 500 million social media impressions, and nine million unique visitors a month, Highsnobiety is about to enter a new phase: The company is partnering with Prada this month for a limited edition product launch this month as it rolls out its new commerce business.


Rob Reilly, Global Creative Chairman, McCann Worldgroup

In an industry with no shortage of Negative Nancies, Rob Reilly is a perpetual, evangelical optimist. But he wasn’t always: He once had an employer require him to take a year’s worth of classes to learn how to be more respectful of others. Reilly credits that work—among other things—with why he’s having such a good run now: The Global Creative Chairman for McCann Worldgroup since 2014, Reilly and his team picked up network of the year for the first time in the agency’s history.


Richard Edelman, president and CEO, Edelman

According to a global survey of more than 25,000 respondents, consumer trust in brands is down across the board — and expectations of social responsibility from brands is up. That is the core takeaway from the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report, released last week. Richard Edelman joins the podcast to discuss this crisis of brand trust and opportunities for companies. We talk about what his clients increasingly want from him as he evolves his own business—the largest PR firm in the...


Bradley Johnson, director of data analytics, Ad Age Datacenter

If you want to see what’s driving ad spending, just look for the net gains. Bradley Johnson joins us to break down the most interesting findings in our annual Leading National Advertisers report, out this week (hint, FANG has developed a big bite). We also dive into Datacenter’s 2019 agency rankings to draw some big and small conclusions about the state of the industry in 2019.


Nick Kelly, Anheuser-Busch

What happens when Big Football meets Big Beer? Until now active pro athletes could not appear in beer ads during games. The head of sports marketing for Anheuser-Busch discusses what a rules change means for Bud Light, and dishes on the brewer’s overall sports marketing strategy.


Avi Dan, CEO, Avidan Strategies

An advertising vet who started his own search consultancy in 2007 Avi Dan brings with him close to 4 decades of experience. As the rest of the agency world packs for Cannes, he breaks down how the festival has changed over the years, and who he thinks win big. We take a 30,000 foot view of the entire landscape, from consultancies in the agency space, the in-housing trend, data and creativity, and more. Avi also gets a little personal and describes his life growing up in Tel Aviv and his...


Linda Yaccarino & Josh Feldman, NBCUniversal

Depending on whom you ask, this is either the worst time to be in TV, or the most exciting. Count Linda Yaccarino and Josh Feldman among the hopeful. The two share the company’s moves to modernize measurement across the industry, and NBC’s plans to launch an ad supported streaming over the top service next year--to do battle with the Netflixes and Hulus of the world. They also explain why Cannes is going through something of a renaissance.


Bhavana Smith, chief client officer

Usually when you hear about consultancies in the marketing and advertising space these days, it’s in the context of them luring talent away from agencies or making full blown acquisitions. But last year when MediaCom was looking to hire a new chief client officer, it went right into the lion’s den. In hiring Bhavana Smith, a six-and-a-half year Accenture vet, the WPP media network is seeking to burnish its digital transformation capabilities—and take a page from the consultancy playbook.