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Bob Jeffrey, Worldwide CEO of JWT

  • Story Highlights
  • "You've got to think about the sound bite of what it is you're trying to do"
  • The ideal CEO: "somebody that really believes in leading by behavior"
  • "I think people want to know that they're going to make a difference"
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- JWT is the largest advertising agency in the United States and the fourth-biggest in the world. With clients ranging from spirit-makers to sports equipment manufacturers, it has stayed cutting-edge in this fiercely competitive, creative and rapidly changing industry. CNN's Todd Benjamin caught up with CEO Bob Jeffrey and began by asking him about the future of advertising.


Bob Jeffrey, CEO of global advertising giant JWT

Jeffrey: I think that historically in the advertising business, we've been very executionally-centric, you know, or I would say very TV-centric, meaning, how does it play itself out in a 30-second TV spot? That's a way of operating that I think we can't do anymore. I think it's much more about an idea that could be delivered in any which way. It could be delivered in the design of the product, it could be delivered in the customer experience for a retail client, it can be delivered online. The opportunities for how you explore that are so much more expansive than they were 10 or 15 years ago.

Benjamin: As an executive, how do you set your strategy?

Jeffrey: I've always been a very mission-focused person. I'm the oldest of seven kids, I have an athletic view of the world, and I think you have to have real clarity and very specific goals both for myself and for my leadership team. I think the most important aspect when setting strategy is when, you know, we're a company of close to 11,000 people around the world. You have to have a simple articulation of what your message is, that when people get up in the morning and they come into the office, they have something that they're ambitious and aspirational about. And yes, a strategy needs to be very thorough and comprehensive, but you've got to think about, more or less, the sound bite of what it is you're trying to do.

Benjamin: If you had to make a composite of what you believe is the ideal CEO, what would it be?

Jeffrey: Number one, somebody that really believes in leading by behavior. I think that another aspect is tenacity. I think that being a CEO is exciting. It's challenging, it's rewarding, but you're always breaking through barriers. You're always getting people to do things that they don't necessarily see in the short term as necessary. So I think that being tenacious, a can-do attitude, not accepting "no" as an answer, but at the same time being very motivational and inspiring.

Benjamin: How do you retain talent?

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Jeffrey: Obviously the most basic thing is making sure people are rewarded with their compensation and incentives, that type of thing. But the more important thing is what I call the humanity aspect of it. Are they getting the recognition? Do they feel that they have a future? Do they feel that they have a career plan? I think it's those intangible things, I always feel we need to be addressing, be on top of.


Benjamin: How do you get people to go beyond what they think they are capable of?

Jeffrey: I think it's easy in business to be negative; it's easy to be very narrowly focused on short-term financial targets. I think you've got to give people a sense of how they can achieve real personal success and achieve personal ambition through the brand that they work for, and how they can be part of really changing something. I think people want to know that they're going to make a difference. It's a fundamental, I think, human aspiration. I think if you can tap into that, that's important. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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