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5 Questions with Eric Weisberg, Global Chief Creative Officer, Doner

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Leading up to SMWNYC, we sit down with some of our featured speakers to get a preview of the insights they plan to share in April. Here we talk to Eric Weisberg, Global Chief Creative Officer at Doner, a Detroit-based agency that has partnered with brands like JBL, Netflix, Maserati, and Jeep.

SMW: I read you’re a Cleveland native. Tell us about making the move from New York back to the Midwest.

EW: It’s pretty surreal to be a born-again Midwesterner after 20 years in Manhattan. New York City will always have a special place in my heart, but the soul and resilience of Detroit is infectious. Downtown Detroit is literally rising from the ashes. And unlike the urban sprawl of most of America, the rebirth of Detroit is born from the art, music, and innovation that made this city the birthplace of the industrial revolution. Oh, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to live on a lake, watch the sunset with my family and wake up to birds chirping outside my window. (Except that damn woodpecker. I wish he’d stop making holes in the cedar.)

SMW: How does living in a Midwest city like Detroit change the way you approach the creative process? 

EW: If the last election taught us all anything, it’s that middle America cannot be ignored. I think it has forced us all to recalibrate, but Doner is in a special position to turn that recalibration into opportunities for brands. I’m humbled to oversee our growing micro-network in LA, London, and Cleveland, where we can bring different styles and talents to life for our clients. That said, my home is now Detroit, which means I shop and live like the target on our briefs—and that unquestionably impacts my lens on the world and the work in surprising and refreshing ways.

Beyond those real-world insights, there’s also the benefit of having space to have a world-class studio within our own walls with 25 edit suites, 5 sound rooms, photo studios, kitchens and a production van that lets us make and edit content with speed and efficiency that simply is not possible on the coasts.

SMW: What are some recent efforts of which you’re particularly proud? Why does this work stand out for you?

EW: Our ambition is to reimagine our agency for the post-advertising age. No other agency is bringing together data, cultural insights, production and creativity like we are, and our best work is proof of this.

From our hack of the inauguration for Netflix’s “House of Cards;” to the “Smile Index” for Potbelly that optimized work in real time with the help of neuroscientists at MSU; to our #CordFail campaign for JBL headphones that took on Beats and Bose to become a trending topic; to our #LivingProof campaign for Highmark that turned our agency into a newsroom that has documented over 100 deeply personal medical miracles, across cities, in dozens of media channels.

Yes, we still do great advertising. Yes, we still love TV. But I get crazy excited when our work starts stories that consumers and influencers can participate in.

SMW: When you vet creative talent, what are a couple of the top traits or skills you’re looking for?

EW: Five things: curiosity, ambition, collaboration, diversity and no a-holes. First, and most important, is curiosity. There’s nothing more exciting to me than people who are curious about where the business is going, where media is going and where the world is going. Second is ambition. This is a competitive business and people who are hungry are always the first people to solve the puzzle. Collaboration. This is no longer a business for people who don’t play well with others—if I hear “me, me, me” on an interview, I shut down. I look for diversity in the broadest sense, from passions to skills to race and gender. Diverse teams make better work, period. Better work makes more successful agencies. And lastly, no a-holes. I don’t hire them, and I try my best not to be one.

SMW: What is unique about Doner’s culture? How does this influence the way you use creativity to solve clients’ business challenges?

Doner is a challenger brand that does its best work for challenger brands. We’re established, but not part of the establishment, and you can feel it in everything we do. Doner’s mission is to make Audacious Things for Ambitious Brands, and I don’t believe any agency is in a better position to make that happen. Everyone says they are a “maker culture,” but I don’t know of another agency that backs that up with 25,000 square feet of space dedicated to making things. What I love about Doner more than anything is our fierce humility. As our CEO David DeMuth always says, “We’re a work in progress that’s making progress, and we always will be.”

Don’t miss your chance to hear Eric Weisberg and many other thought leaders in the publishing and branded content space at SMWNYC April 24-27. Claim your pass today.




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