Global Chief Marketing Officer, VMLY&R
At the region’s largest advertising agency, Beth Wade pushes VMLY&R toward its future by drawing on figures from her past.
A product of the Kansas City area, Wade says she was influenced early in life by extended family, including a pair of grandmothers who she says were both instrumental in her upbringing and helping her become the person she is today: Global Chief Marketing Officer for a company with nearly $2 billion in annual revenue.
Both of those women, Wade says, “were ahead of their times in their own unique ways. My grandmothers worked while raising families, one as a schoolteacher, one as a farmer. Their work ethic—combined with their love for their families—has influenced generations and is something I hold near to my heart every day. They taught me that hard work was essential, while at the same time, it is ever so important to stay fully engaged with the people you love and value—be it family, friends, or colleagues.”
Wade earned a business degree from Mizzou, focused on marketing. The allure of that field? “Simply put, the creativity,” she says. “While all the business classes were requisite, marketing was where I felt the most inspired. Creating ways for brands to reach their consumers based on quantifiable and qualitative insights appealed to my entrepreneurial and creative side. I truly enjoyed thinking of campaigns that would grow businesses through engaging experiences.”
That’s the arsenal she carried into her career, which followed anything but a straight line. It took her to some big-name operations, including Applebee’s, Einstein Brothers, and Sprint Corp., and each stop added to her understanding of sector-specific marketing challenges before she made her way to VML a little more than 20 years ago. In her time there, she has represented clients like Hill’s Pet Nutrition and its parent, Colgate-Palmolive, but needed only four years to crash the leadership ranks as Managing Director of Client Services, overseeing the firm’s account management and new business efforts throughout North America.
Her path to the top did not unfold by chance—she was intentional about it.
“Becoming a part of the executive leadership team at VMLY&R was something I aspired to since first joining the agency,” she says. “I was inspired by mentors and executives who were running a successful business but also did it with such care for the individuals on their teams. It was easy to observe how much they enjoyed their roles and the people they worked with each day.” More than 20 years later, she says, “I’m lucky to work alongside extremely intelligent and talented colleagues who have become dear friends. It’s a gift.”
That she’s been able to achieve those personal and professional goals is a testament to her ability to navigate a sector beset by rapid change.
“The world of advertising and marketing is evolving at lightning-fast speed,” she says. “Honestly, that’s what I enjoy most about it. The most important thing for an advertising and marketing partner to be is relevant, so we work hard to stay laser-focused on what’s happening now and what’s likely to be happening next.”
That, she notes, spans a wide array of delivery methods and channels: powerful technology, data-driven marketing, social, commerce, and everything in between.
“At the end of the day, clients are really trying to do the same thing they were trying to do 25 years ago—creatively market their product or brand to build purpose and value,” Wade says. “There are just many more avenues to create brand connections now. Our challenge is to help our clients build experiences with the right audiences at the right time, understanding the path to purchase is no longer linear.”
Among this year’s C-Suite award winners, Wade may have the longest runway to retirement and acknowledges that “there is much more for me to do! But when the time comes for me to move into another phase of my life, I would hope to have inspired others to embrace the unknown, demonstrated how to be a trusted partner and mentor, and created an environment that thrives with positive energy.”
Part of that task must include setting up a new generation of leaders for the years to come. To that end, she encourages those who would take her path to “focus on building strong connections in all aspects of your life, and never take opportunities which are presented to you for granted.”