Whether it’s doing ethnographic research for pasta brand Buitoni or building an integrated awareness campaign for Outshine Fruit Bars, Liz Valentine looks for a brand’s emotional center. Valentine, CEO of Swift, co-founded the agency in 2006 with Chief Creative Officer Alicia McVey so they could have complete control of projects, from ideation to completion. The agency rapidly grew revenue year after year, landing dream clients such as Nike, Starbucks, Adidas, Google and Pandora. In 2014, Swift was acquired by WPP’s Possible.
Valentine, former director of eCommerce and online marketing at lucy activewear and digital strategist for Nike, oversees innovative projects that align with Swift’s values. One of her favorites is the "Made with Code" initiative for Google. The goal was to get teenage girls excited about computer science, so the campaign centered on a site that let them use introductory code to design a dress. Swift was brought on to take the project to the real world. By working with Designers Zac Posen and Maddy Maxey, Swift empowered the girls to turn the designs into dresses affixed with LED lights. The dresses were then displayed at New York Fashion Week.
Another highlight: To launch NBA star James Harden’s signature Adidas shoe, Swift created an Instagram account, @projectHarden, that posted gorgeous, enigmatic GIFs and photos for the three months leading up the release. The kicker? They never showed the shoes. Ultimately the site attracted nearly 30,000 followers and helped make the shoe a must-have for Harden fans.
Valentine also gives her time to several offline initiatives, including Oregon’s Neighbors for Clean Air and Visible, an alliance of creatives supporting groups of people who feel threatened by the Trump administration. Swift also did pro bono design and development work for Period, a nonprofit that provides menstrual products to disadvantaged women.
Inside Swift, Valentine stresses diversity and inclusivity, resulting in a staff that’s 65 percent women overall, with women representing half of the executive and creative teams. The firm provides maternity and paternity leave and prioritizes time off for working parents.
Says a colleague: "Her position as CEO can just as easily be renamed Chief Empathy Officer."