Jackie Jantos on the importance of making connections

Jackie Jantos has recently joined Spotify as VP Creative and Brand Strategy. She came from Coca-Cola where she was a Global Creative Director for nearly 7 years. More importantly, she's a new mother! I had the joy of meeting with her last November at her new office at Spotify and was inspired by her strong empathy for people from all walks of life and keen drive to leave a positive impact on the world.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I grew up in Tokyo where my father worked for IBM. He spent most of his time travelling the world meeting with people and I thought that looked like a fantastic job to have.  

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Right now I would invite a swarm of brilliant creative women and Hillary Clinton would be amongst them. 

What single book had the greatest impact on you?
My favorite book and the book that opened my eyes to a different world was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I read it in middle school in Tokyo with an international community so the conversations that were had about that book had an interesting twist to them.

When do you go to bed and when do you get up?
I used to go to bed by 11pm and wake around 6am. I love working before anyone else is awake. However, now that I have a newborn my husband and I are in bed by 9pm, I wake up multiple times in the night and ultimately climb out of bed at 7am. On paper it sounds like I'm getting a lot of sleep but actually it's survival sleep! 

What is your favorite time of the working week?
I love mornings. 

Can you briefly explain your career path to date?
I interned at Ogilvy in the media department, when Ogilvy had a Media Department, and rejoined the agency when I graduated from university. I spent the first seven years of my career at Ogilvy. 

I started as a Creative Coordinator, working for a Creative Director who is still there named David Fowler. David was my first of many great bosses. I sat outside of Steve Hayden's office. He was an institution. I got to overhear and learn a lot just sitting there.

I took my turn at copywriting but quickly realized it wasn’t for me and moved into Business Development where I ultimately led the New York new business team for a few years. Every day was different and I got to learn about different categories and brand challenges, and practise bringing teams together and driving a group toward a common goal. If you’ve ever worked on a pitch you can imagine what it’s like doing that day-in and day-out for years… Hard, exhausting, and ultimately thrilling work. I moved to the account side before leaving Ogilvy. I really grew up there, and David’s beliefs and the smart people there shaped a lot of my foundational education.  

When I left Ogilvy I did a brief stint at McCann and then jumped at the chance to shift gears, move to Atlanta, and join the Global Creative Excellence team at Coca-Cola.

I was at Coke for seven years – leading creative strategy and content for brand Coke. I did a lot of things that I loved including some big global music and sports programs, and some smaller activations. They were some of the most special experiences. Working at Coke is like being a part of a big international family and being able to put even a slight fingerprint on the brand itself is a humbling experience. Plus, Jonathan Mildenhall, my boss, was relentless in his drive for creative brilliance. It was a good challenge.

It was hard for me to leave Coke – there are really always massive opportunities there and you get to collaborate with some of the most exciting creative thinkers around the world. Not to mention the challenge of thinking about a brand that has impact in over 200 countries.

I left for a huge new opportunity – leading brand strategy and creative at Spotify. We have a killer product bringing music to the world. It’s a brand with a long runway, led by a leader with an inspiring vision alongside a creative team that operates in a truly entrepreneurial way. It’s exciting and the work we’re doing is only the beginning.

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome, as it relates to your industry?
My experience at Ogilvy set me up to be who I am today professionally, particularly my first job working for David Fowler. At the time he lived in Austin and wasn't in New York very often. I would sit in for him in a lot of his meetings and I would fill him in on the side as to what happened. I had a similar experience working for Patrick Keyes when I moved into new business. I was always the most junior person sitting in the room – often with advertising legends. Shelly Lazarus would be there. Steve Hayden, John Seifert, Tony Wright, Brian Collins would all be there. And then there was me, a couple years out of school – probably inappropriately dressed and saying God knows what. I’d have to help corral this group of brilliant people into a single direction so that we could proceed to pitch a business. I became really comfortable with asking questions, not being afraid to know there’s a lot I didn’t know, and just being a sponge – always learning.

What motivates you?
I like to believe that what we do as marketers can have a positive impact on the world. I've always felt really good about the contribution that the brands and the companies that I've worked for have made to real communities and people. I grew up in an international community and I love working with brands that have an impact on the whole world. Being at Spotify is so interesting because the ambition that Daniel has, to help more people listen to more music everyday, is hugely important and a wonderful thing. Who can argue that music doesn't make everyone's life richer? 

What advice would you give to your children at the start of their career?
In some ways I think people put a lot of pressure on themselves to figure out what it is they want to do and how they get into specific roles. For me, I thought marketing and communications was really interesting. I applied for an internship in a related field and then I just started. You have to be willing to put in the work that could expose you to a whole host of other possibilities that you probably can't imagine from the outside. The longer you contemplate what it is you want to do, and who want to be, you're wasting time getting real experience discovering if that's true or not. Just start somewhere. Doing something. And work hard at it.  

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I’m really proud of the last program that I lead at Coke called Small World Machines. It was an experience created to connect people in India and Pakistan together to share a little moment and say hello. 

Leading the project and leading teams on the ground in India and Pakistan helped me come closer to what that conflict has meant in people’s lives. 

We created an experience in real time connecting people through technology between Delhi and Lahore. From shipping tech into both countries, to getting the sort of broadband access required to connect real time, to working with local authorities, to working through security risks for teams on the ground, to clearing final work amidst political strife. I don’t know many people who can say their work was shared with the US Secretary of State before it was released. Pulling it off, alongside local Coke teams and a Leo Burnett team that had so much heart, was nothing short of magic. There were actual tears when I got to wave through a Coke machine in Delhi to the team members I’d never even met on the ground in Lahore. There they were waving back. 

The impact that the experience and content had on real people, and the phone calls and emails I received from Coca-Cola employees around the world telling me how proud they were of the program, was extraordinary.

What do you believe has been the key to your success?
I spend a lot of time talking with people that I don't necessarily need to interact with every day. Being open to meeting with people, learning about new challenges, figuring out how you might help them, asking for help from them, has been hypercritical to my success. It’s extraordinarily rare the person who achieves something great in isolation. We need each other to grow, to create and to succeed.  

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Someone once used the expression, “Be hard on ideas; be gentle on people.” I think trying to understand and empathize with other people is important. It’s also something that – as a marketer – makes you better at what you do. At the end of the day, you’re either genuinely meaningful to real people or you’re not. The minute you forget that we're all just human is the minute you do the wrong thing, behave the wrong way, or just don't achieve anything because you're not really meaningful to anyone.

What do you believe are the personality traits of great leaders?
Great leaders have clarity of vision and the ability to communicate that vision in a way that encourages and motivates a group of people to act. Some of the best leaders I've worked with have displayed incredible empathy for the people they are trying to lead. I believe it's really important for leaders to be connected to the people who are part of the journey. 

What do you believe to be the secret to rising to the top?
The more people you collaborate with to do killer work and the more people you build truer relationships with, the more likely it is that opportunities land in your lap. Most of my opportunities have come from colleagues I’ve worked closely with, and relationships that I have built and nurtured over time.

Always keep your eyes open and always interact with as many people as possible. It doesn't have to be the depressing business networking type thing. But open your eyes to people within your organization who you think could be interesting mentors and go ask them some interesting questions, or for help.

People don't often realize how much people in positions of authority want to help other people, and how nice it can be as a break in their day to just pause and do that.

Who do you turn to when the going gets tough?
There are a handful of mentors I'm close with. These are former colleagues, close friends and my husband. I turn to people who know me really well, know what motivates me and are willing to be honest with me.

What's next?
I'm extremely excited to see Spotify and the music industry grow. There is so much opportunity. I’m totally focused on moving this brand and its mission forward with our incredible team.


 As told to Caroline Hugall at Spotify New York on Thursday 13th November 2014.