This story was first published on AdWeek.
The irony of singling out the individual accomplishments of Will Wiseman at PHD U.S is that he’s fixated on creating a group approach to solving brand problems. In short, he believes in the power of a sharing economy that’s less top-down and more bottom-up.
Will cultivated this approach in his last job as U.S. head of strategy at UM and has applied it daily since becoming president of strategy and planning at PHD U.S. last October. The early returns have been encouraging. The agency has won four of five pitches since Will and new U.S. CEO Nathan Brown joined the Omnicom shop, including Kohler, Converse and global media planning on S.C. Johnson. Collectively, those companies spend more than $1 billion in media annually.
Beyond the wins, however, is a drive to create a new, millennial-friendly culture that works both in pairs and groups as large as 80, and forges insights quicker, often within three days. This “collaboration of hungry minds,” as Will describes it, stands apart from the old competition of individual ideas that many agencies foster to crack client briefs. And by using this process, the U.S. leader believes that he’ll gain a deeper understanding of the 200 staffers in the four offices he oversees. The agency’s top accounts include GSK, Google and Gap.
“The best way to inspire people is to give them an opportunity that tells them you believe in them,” says Will, who earlier in his career was a consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers and a strategic planner at Ogilvy & Mather. “Put a challenge and responsibility that they might think is a little bit bigger than them in their hands and show them that you’re 100 percent comfortable with that and that they have 100 percent of your support to attempt—win or lose.”
So, why has success come so quickly for Will at PHD U.S? It helps that Nathan also came from UM, and they partnered there as well under former U.S. president Sarah Personette. The pair had already embraced the collective approach to tackling briefs and didn’t miss a beat once they reunited. In fact, they’re so close that at one point they thought about launching a business together. (Only half-jokingly, Nathan describes Will as his “work wife.”)
More specifically, Nathan says Will is a great listener who’s accessible, empathetic and humble. “He’s probably one of the smartest guys that you’ll ever meet, but he’ll never make you feel that way,” Nathan explains.
Sarah Personette, who’s now head of global business marketing at Facebook, echoes that sentiment. “He’s a knowledge sharer,” she says, “not a knowledge hoarder.”
And that fits perfectly with his mandate at PHD U.S.
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