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The Marketing Store

Meet the 40 Over 40 honoree: Vanessa Kentris Smith, The Marketing Store

Campaign US celebrates senior leaders on our 40 Over 40 list with deep-dive personal profiles.

How did it feel to see your name on Campaign US’ 40 Over 40 list? 

Honestly, it was pretty shocking; I might have thought the congratulatory email from Campaign was spam. Once I confirmed it was legitimate, I was incredibly humbled. It was a difficult year in a number of ways. I'm grateful my experience and perspective helped bring calm and motivation in an otherwise chaotic year.

Sum up your career in five words. 

Unintentional, connected, rewarding, captivating and fun.

What are three essential qualities of a great leader? 

Intelligence, drive and charisma are certainly important — but I believe qualities that are even more important for a leader to possess are emotional intelligence, honesty and passion. This is a people business; we trade in people’s talent, ideas, knowledge and instinct. I believe understanding what motivates, empowers and unlocks growth in people is more important than anything else. And that relationship, trust and passion must be mutual for people to thrive.

What drives you toward success?

In the early days, my expectations for growth and longevity in this business were actually quite low. I didn’t have a competitive or killer instinct driving me, and I've never been terribly motivated by title, money or accolades; I simply wanted to enjoy my work and the people I worked with. However, that disposition didn’t often yield success. Along the way I ended up with a collection of genuine, kind, supportive mentors who had confidence in me when perhaps I lacked it in myself. My drive for success today comes from a deep sense of responsibility to be that type of mentor and advocate for others. Make it better for those who come after me.

What’s the most creative piece of work you’ve seen recently?

I'm a sucker for funny, and have been a diehard Saturday Night Live fan since pre-K. I love Rocket Mortgage’s Certain Is Better campaign with Tracy Morgan. Taking that “pretty sure” idea and flipping it on its head was brilliant, and funny. I also usually can’t watch Nike’s ads without being hit by a tidal wave of emotion. Dream Crazier was no exception.

What do you love most about advertising?

I love that an idea has the power to motivate people to act. It’s such an enormous responsibility and can be used to drive incredible outcomes. In the last year specifically, it’s been inspiring to see companies’ and brands’ bravery in lending their voices and platforms to drive conversations, social responsibility and change.

What needs to change most about the industry?

We’ve certainly come a long way in representation and equity, but the fact remains in most agencies, a very small and similar group of people are making the decisions, and those are often riddled with conscious and/or unconscious bias.

What advice would you give to someone just entering the industry?

Don’t be afraid to speak up. We want to know your ideas and opinions — that’s why we hired you. If that’s not the vibe you get, you’re in the wrong place or with the wrong leader.

Who is your biggest inspiration? 

From a career perspective, without a doubt my father. He was smart, kind, fun, funny and had this incredible ability to make everyone who came into his orbit feel important — despite routinely calling people by the wrong name. He made a big, positive impact on a lot of people, and he always did the right thing, even if it was hard, no matter what. To him family was everything, and everyone was family.

If we took your team out for a drink, how would they describe you?

If they see this, I suppose they’d say over 40 — and always out for a drink. Where is she; why isn’t she here?

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