In this week’s issue of Adweek, we looked at how the concept of hero worship in advertising has evolved. That change, which has seen young talent become more skeptical of iconic and opinionated “gurus,” has been driven by a combination of factors, from the industry’s digital disruption to the quest for better representation in the ranks of leadership.
Another factor has been the changing makeup of the kinds of businesses that are shaping the marketing world, with consultancies being the most potent new players in recent years.
We reached out to Alicia Hatch, CMO of global consultancy Deloitte Digital, to learn about the kind of leaders she admired early in her career and how she responds to today’s rising talent seeking her advice.
Who were your own business heroes/role models when you were starting your career?
Hatch: I started out in the video game industry, working for Microsoft when we were launching the first Xbox. We were the unlikely underdogs going up against Sony and Nintendo, which had dominated the category for decades. Few thought we had the cultural gravitas to win the hearts of the gamers, who were notoriously difficult to influence.
[Former Microsoft chief technology and experience officer] J Allard elevated what would have otherwise been simply a business venture to an epic spiritual quest to create an experience that would have significant cultural impact. He didn’t just want us to win; he wanted us to matter.
J was not the only early leader who was critical to Xbox’s ultimate success, but I remember being fascinated by the distinct influence his leadership had on my motivation and the amount of heart I brought to work. While other leaders commanded a reverence for their power, J’s ability to galvanize us around a bold mission made him the hero I wanted to follow.
How do you feel the concept of hero worship has changed in recent years? Have young professionals become more skeptical of those who came before them, or are they just shifting their focus to heroes who resonate more directly with them?
This industry has always had a tremendous amount of influence over humanity through creativity. In the Mad Men era, media was sold and creative was free, and the heroes of the industry were those who did the deals that made creative possible.
Now that we’ve unbundled creative and media, the creatives are the gods. Creativity always has been, and always will be, the heroic force of this industry. Yet as media platforms have become democratized, the power and influence of creativity are more broadly available, and today we draw inspiration from a more diverse collective of creative heroes across the digital universe.
What kind of outreach or questions do you get from younger professionals, and how do you generally try to respond?
I often get the question, “How do you do it?” I generally hesitate to give a prescriptive answer to that question because I vividly remember looking for people I admired early in my career and trying to copy them, and it never quite worked. Those were their superpowers, not mine.
The influence that an honest, authentic voice has to stir the human spirit cannot be overstated. It wasn’t until I found my own voice that I found my own strengths. Now, I tell those who are starting out to spend as much time looking for inspiration within them as they do around them.