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Diligence, DOOH and Diversity: An Interview with Nancy Hill

Nancy Hill

From small town to Midtown Manhattan, Nancy Hill has made quite the name for herself. Having entered the advertising industry following her mother’s detection of a job vacancy while reading the local newspaper, Nancy has propelled to her current position as President and CEO of the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

Nancy studied Sociology and Psychology in university, believing she would one day become a social worker. Instead, she moved to Baltimore and dabbled in a variety of agency tasks as a Traffic Coordinator. Her first management job came from her willingness to work on a piece of business unappealing to the rest of her team as it spanned just three markets and was composed solely of radio and out-of-home media. This campaign was for Bell Atlantic Mobile, now Verizon Media – a prestigious account any employee would be proud to work on. She continued to work with them for ten years.

“My early lessons from working with OOH included how to think concisely and get a point across quickly, which have stuck with me ever since,” says Nancy. “The locations and creative of digital out-of-home in particular have the ability to capture viewers’ attention and make them stare. Though this can be irritating for New Yorkers making their way through Times Square, it is welcomed in transit and in the elevator up to the office. I am struck by DOOH every day and do not think there is another medium that can claim such ‘stare power’.”

With regards to media as a whole, the most dramatic change Nancy has witnessed relates to agency structure. “Today, creatively driven and successful agencies don’t have siloes. As the media landscape has become more fragmented, colleagues rely on each other more than before to assess situations from a 30,000 foot level and determine the best way to move forward.”

Another noticeable change has been the palette to paint with when it comes to new media. Nancy spent her first twenty years in advertising working with radio, print, OOH and TV. These days, it seems a new type of media or technology pops up on a regular basis.

While reflecting on the most rewarding aspects of working in advertising, Nancy holds two phrases near and dear to her heart: I did that and I was there when. “I take great pride when pointing to a campaign I’ve worked on that helped a business grow and while recalling my presence at an agency or working with a specific person when a memorable event occurred. These moments remind us how much the ad business is built on points in time when people come together to do something phenomenal.”

Speaking of amazing accomplishments, Nancy has an impressive amount under her belt. Some noteworthy mentions include being named one of Advertising Age’s 100 Most Influential Women in Advertising History and a Woman of Distinction by both the Arthritis Foundation and Girl Scouts. Such distinctions go hand-in-hand with Nancy’s advocacy for women and diversity in the ad industry.

“Anyone in the industry who doesn’t think it’s a problem has their head in the sand,” states Nancy. “We have a tendency to recycle the same people and until we make a concerted effort to look at the way we’re hiring, we’re not going to break the cycle. Maybe we could hire somebody with retail instead of automotive experience to bring a different perspective. Let’s make it less about expediency and more about the long-term health of our space.”

A woman of leadership and moral influence, Nancy is guided by the early stages of her life and career. “Growing up in a small town, your sense of morality and integrity is given, not something you have to learn. I had a boss who told me I would never be successful in advertising because I was too honest and I’ve spent my career proving him wrong.”

About Nancy

Nancy Hill, as President and Chief Executive Officer of the 4A’s since 2008, has guided the association’s transformation to provide leadership, advocacy and guidance to the advertising community on issues such as patent trolling, online privacy and interest-based advertising, compensation and talent. She has personally led the 4A’s work on diversity including recruitment, talent development and media buying guidelines.

A veteran of agencies across the country, she began her career in advertising in 1983 at  Doner/Baltimore, where she spent 10 years. This was followed by work at TBWA\Chiat\Day in both St. Louis and Los Angeles, before moving to San Francisco to lead Goldberg Moser O’Neill, which became Hill Holliday in 2001. After that, she joined BBDO where she was executive vice president and managing director for New York, overseeing several of the agency’s largest accounts. Her most recent position  prior to joining the 4A’s was Chief Executive Officer of Lowe New York .

In April 2013, Nancy was recognized by AWNY (Advertising Women of New York) with its Changing the Game Award. She was named one of Advertising Age’s 100 Most Influential Women in Advertising History and was honored as a Woman to Watch by Ad Age. Both the Arthritis Foundation and the Girl Scouts named her as a Woman of Distinction. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Miami Ad School and led the launch of its San Francisco campus.

Currently, she serves on the Board of Directors of The Partnership at, The Ad Council, The National Advertising Review Council, TORCH, The Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), Advertising Self­ Regulatory Council, Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) and The Marcus Graham Project. She is also a Trustee of the University of Mount Union in Ohio and is an active member of the Board of People Helping People, an organization that builds schools and sponsors children for further education in Otavalo, Ecuador, where she has had a home for several years.