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December 14, 2022 32 mins

Listen in as Deborah Wahl and Elle McCarthy connect the dots between their industries and conduct a real time brainstorm around the future of consumer connection with technology and gaming.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:07):
I think what's interesting when I say gaming has no
edges is that we are beginning to decouple from being
dependent with and kinds of hardware. Mobility overall is being
transformed with all the advancements. One of the reasons I'm
so bullish on e vs is because they become vehicles
that are software platforms. Once you have a software platform,

then you go to autonomous and the world changes. Hello
and welcome to the Future Legends of Advertising podcasts featuring
newly inducted members of the American Advertising Federations Hall of
Achievement and those in the Hall of Fame. In this series,
will compare notes, gain insights, and explore the future of
the advertising industry you never before heard conversations between those

who are shaping it. You'll meet industry icons like Bozoma
st John, Daisy Exposita, La, Deborah Wall, and future ones,
including leaders from the most impactful brands, agencies, and media
platforms in the world. We're your host, Hailey Romer and
Ross Martin. Now lets meet the legends, Debrah. While I

could not be more excited to make this introduction, as
you are such a legend in this industry and I
know people are going to tune in everywhere just to
listen to every last word that you say. If you're
not familiar with Deb, she's one of those marketers who
is always and has always been on the cutting edge,
fearlessly leading brands and those who work for her as

well as her partners, straight into the future. One of
the things that makes Deep so incredible in my mind
is that she's committed to being a lifelong learner, and
there's nothing better than that. Not only does she have
a degree in economics, she has an NBA from Wharton.
She also has a master's degree in the Lotter Institute.
In addition to being the global CMO at General Motors,

Deb spends her time on the boards at Group, on
the board of Trustees of Cranbrook Educational Community, and is
the chair of the m m A Board. Before GM,
Deb was the CMO at McDonald's, where, among other things,
she started Breakfast All Day when I believe to be
a huge customer favorite. And before that, she held senior
marketing leadership roles at the Pulp Group, Chrysler, and Lexus.

Among the many, many honors of recognition that she's had,
Deb is a member of the Automotive Hall of Fame,
and of course, is herself a past Advertising Hall of Achiever.
I think the year was two thousand and one, if
I'm not mistaken. All of that and so much more.
Debra Wall, thank you so much for joining us. We're
incredibly excited to have you. Thank you so much, Hayley.

I'm so excited to be here, and especially to be
celebrating the next generation. That's what makes everything worthwhile in
our industry. So I'm really looking forward to this conversation.
I agree, and I have to tell you we are
also especially excited to have L here today. Anyone who
is mentioned the name L instantly talks about her amazing,

energetic and bright spirit. I mean, anytime you mention the
world L, that's what people light up and say first
about her. L is currently the VP of Brand and
Social Impact for Electronic Arts. I believe L, you're the
first person ever from the world of gaming to be
inducted into the Hull of Achievement. L led eas COVID
nineteen franchise wide campaign encouraging players to stay home and

play together. Since then, she's led a major rebrand, overseeing
EA's new purpose led positioning to expand the positive power
of play and relaunch their charter as an organization built
in service of all players, standing unequivocally against exclusion. L
also runs a council of people dedicated to d e
I Work streams as e S Executive d e I

Sponsor for Marketing. Before EA, L has been at the
forefront of driving innovative work across the agency side, both
in the US and in the UK, including helping to
win the global Forward business and repositioning BBC Radio, and
her work has certainly not gone unnoticed or without recognition.
Al has received countless awards so far in her career,

including Can's i p A s Ffie's Golden Arrows. She
was named to forty under forty Marketing Academy Scholar and
I p A Woman of Tomorrow finalist el McCarthy. It's
so great to have you here. Thank you for joining us,
really really excited to meet you and to spend some
time getting to know you. Thank you so much for
having me, Haley, and thank you to the a F

that this huge and very surprising on a UM to
have received whilst real boarding from Eternity Lea, which was
just lovely, lovely timing. So thank you, UM, welcome to
this podcast. Also welcome to the American Advertising Federation. L You.

I think Haley and I remember very vividly the moment
that you were voted in. Um, it was real. It
was of course, when we saw your nomination, it was like,
oh my god, this is a whole new dimension of
the Advertising Hall of Achievement. And when she gets in,

like that's just the beginning of what she's going to
do here with us. So we were very excited about
you being part of this community. And I really would
love to start our conversation with some hopefully worse of
wisdom from Deborah, and if I could bring you back
to that moment, Deborah, where you were inducted into the
Hall of Achievement for your work for a year under

and now knowing that that's about to happen for L,
can you provide some words of wisdom for L as
she's about to take that stage. L, you know when
I would say to you, as first, enjoy every second
of this moment, because um, it signals the impact that
you've already had and only gives an idea of what

you should be achieving going forward. And part of I
think what our industry and our jobs do is allow
us to have the leverage and the position to make
an impact, and it's up to each of us to
decide what to do with that. I think the second
thing is I go back and I remember the people
that were part of my class, the most amazing group,

and it's like any school group, You're now friends forever,
You'll be connected forever. Um. What I love about the
a E F is everyone that is all dominated. Almost
everyone goes on to achieve incredible things. I mean, there's
still part of my peer group today. UM. When I
see the leadership around in the industry at the highest levels,

most of them were part of the wholl of achievement.
And so I would say, UM, you know, use that
to the most good and leverage those relationships. Now a
whole new world is open to you. UM. And I
I don't even think I at all realized what that
meant at that time, and I wish I had taken
more advantage of that group. And that's why I love

what the a F is doing with it now to
make sure that we stay more connected so that there's
you know, some good platforms and all that. And I
can't wait to see what you're going to be doing
over the next decade or so. So L, you're meeting
Debora for the first time, She's Deborah freaking wall Like
what that feel? I'm embarrassing her and nobody can really

see this. So just imagine everybody turning reund on this call.
But L, what's it like for you to meet somebody
who's done so much already in this industry and she's
nowhere near that. I mean, it's honestly a bit out
of body. Um. I it's also quite funny timing, and
I have to try and not get into it. But

like I talk about the case study of what you
did at McDonald's like often and in particularly actually I'm like,
it's in a deck that I've got right now, UM
to sell into some senior stakeholders, this idea of how
business investment can impact brand. UM. It's it's just such

a tangible example, like some of the product overhaul. And
I think you know, when you don't when people aren't
close to what marketing is, it can sound like it's
kind of the superficial end product where you like to
talk about the good things that happen. UM. But when
when I think about the tenure of a CMO like

you and what you've achieved in all of these different roles.
It's when you're really impacting product and like impacting products
for the greater good, right, Like this is like children's
nutrition that we're talking about, like family nutrition. Um. And
so I mean I'm a I'm a big fan of
your work, UM, and I've loved sort of refreshing my

mind on like what your entire career trajectory is because
I use the work in my case studies every day.
And so it's amazing to meet you the peasant. And
it was just also wonderful to have to go back
and watch that video from two thousand and one UM
and think about you know, what you had achieved and
like how the industry was talking about you when you

were at the momentum in your career that I'm at
in mind. UM. So yeah, it's it's amazing. Well, I'm
so excited to hear that you're already looking at because
I think that's where people underestimate our industry. I have
so many people in the many companies I've been to
it like oh, you're telling the stories. I'm like, no,
it's so much more. And the impact of strong marketing.

It's a competitive advantage for every company that we go to.
It completely can change the business trajectory and growth if
we understand that and see that. And I'm so excited
for you to hear that you've already identified that you've
had that insight already took me a lot longer, and
you know can act on it because it's incredible the

impact that strong strategic brand work can do and change
completely the trajectory of companies and where growth goes. So
that makes me super excited. And I have never ever
before thought about what some of my work being used
as a case study. I really haven't, like, just never
crossed my mind. So that's very exciting. We can talk
a lot more about, you know, all the people that

made a difference in making that happen, because that's the
other part about marketing leadership. You've gotta you have to
move mountains and move individuals. Zebra. I want to stick
on that for a second because you bring up a
really important point. Now, both of you have incredible track
records of leading teams who told you in such high
regard and also teams that really deliver on what you

set out to do. From a marketing perspective, So can
you talk a little bit about how you think about impact?
Every time I've gone into the organization, I think the
fun of it is to really look for the ways
that each of us can make an impact, and that's
by solid work identifying you know, where is value that's
hasn't been identified, where can we create more growth? But

I think what I've learned through my trajectory is the
storytelling is important because it inspires lots and lots of people,
and then from there on you can't just leave it
to that. It's actually our impact day to day with
people on an individual basis, convincing people at a very

personal level that this is meaningful or something worthwhile for
them to put their efforts into. And I always say
that big change never happens without enormous, enormous work and
personal um uh, personal time, personal effort, because I think
a lot of people who don't achieve that change don't

actually understand they have to go the next level and
do all the negotiations and really be in it with everyone.
So that's what I try to teach. I mean, I
think from when I worked at Master, we were that
was wanting plus two years ago, and we were trying
to change it from sort of a wannabe Toyota and
Honda to something unique and differentiated, and we arrived on

the spirit of a sport Solva sports car and Mazda
Zoom Zoom. And I remember being in a meeting in
Japan with the leaders of Europe, the US, and Japan
and putting forth this vision, this beacon that we called
it then, and convincing all of them to invest billions
of dollars to change the entire product lineup to go

in this direction because they would and they were motivated by,
you know, the story and the impact and and then
the personal touch and the impact it would have on them.
So I think that's why our industry is more unique
than finance, than manufacturing, than engineering, that any tech than

any of the others, because it combines those efforts and
we realize, um, the impact of the individual connection UM.
And that's how I've done That's how we did All
day Breakfast, That's how we're changing General Motors right now
to be a leader in the evy world and transformed
the world so that there's massive change. And so I think,

you know, in any industry, I guess that you go
in now, you'll have so many of those opportunities, and
of course where you are, you touch so many lives
in so many different ways. It could be truly transformative.
It's interesting because you know, I joined the gaming industry
in a moment where the inflection point of all of

these other industries is is kind of coming together. And
so you've got web three, and you've got tech platforms,
and you've got entertainment platforms, and you've got the creator economy,
and you've got I guess you know, five G cloud,
Like all of these things are happening at the same time,
and it means it fundaments really like everyone has to

ask themselves the question like what industry are we in?
And Debora, you'll be familiar with that question, right because
the automotive industry is also going are we an automotive
or are we in mobility? Or are we in um
I guess like electric and energy at large? Right? Um. So,

you know, all a lot of industries are facing into
the same challenges right now where we're asking the question
of what industry are we in? But there's you know,
gaming is a really interesting conundrum within that mix because
we behave like a subculture as an industry, and there
is an identity associated with gaming and gamers that has

in in past times being quite limited. Right, there's stereotypes
attached to who games are, but the truth is everyone plays.
There's this really interesting opportunity too, like lead the future
of entertainment as entertainment itself becomes disrupted, and to therefore
expand who we're speaking to, who gets to play, who

we're building for, who we're creating for, and who we're
centering as the game creators to make this new entertainment
space for everyone. So you know, my, my work and
the shift that we're dreaming, it has to sort of,
you know, really articulate the jeopardy of of not being
the leader um and our CEO is the person who's

doing a brilliant job of that and talking about how
we need to be positioning ourselves to enable fans to watch,
play and create and this is about entertainment, but we also,
you know, we have to make sure that we're staying
really close to the fact that it is the studios
who are making this entertainment and they have their heritage

in deep, deep game creation. And so as we start
talking about entertainment and watch play create making sure that
the studios are I'm part of that future. I'm here
to build that future. And it doesn't feel like we're
playing one thing off against another thing. So this is
not like entertainment versus gaming. This is not d I

versus gamers. This is something bigger and so I think, Deborah,
what I hear and what you're saying is in helping
businesses to prepare for these big macro shifts. We have
to set these big visions, but ultimately the impact and
the ability to deliver against them will be through one
to one connection. It's both about saying what the actual

fans and the players want individually, but it's also your
impact in the business, in your individual conversations with your stakeholders,
and knowing that actually, we need to be talking to
anyone who touches E. S G in any shaped form,
but we also need to talk to all the studio leaders.
I'm we need to talk to the game developers like.
This doesn't just happen at a senior level either, because

that's how a movement is created. So to enable the
macro you have to focus on the individual um and
sometimes by focusing on the individual, there's like vision that
you're setting up here gets a bit more messy and
a bit more complicated, but you have to like take
it back three steps to move it forward for and
so knowing that that's the deep work that you have

to enable to cross your team, I think that's that's
where I'm at, Like, I know that that's the deep work,
and every day there as there's successes in it and
there are failures in it, and you know, we do
take the steps back to take the steps forward. Yeah,
So a moment ago you asked that question, what industry
are we even in? And then Debora earlier this year,

General Motors filed for a patent in gaming. General Motors
Debora wall E A L. McCarthy like they've never met,
but their industries seem to be inching closer together, especially
in a vehicle autonomous vehicle world. Can you, Debora, and
then I'll talk about where it is that you guys

are going to eventually meet anyway and what that might
look like. Okay, so you guys are giving me chills
right now because I'm listening to what L's explaining and
I'm already having hundreds of ideas. So I think I
start in the beginning that mobility overall is being transformed,
um with all the advancements. One of the reasons I'm

so bullish on e vs is because, um, they become
vehicles that are software platforms. Once you have a software platform,
then you go to autonomous and the world changes. And well,
we have a lot of doubters. Anyone who's actually driven um,
these vehicles and Ross, I assume you have, and um

and Hayley, I don't know if you have yet, and
l if not, we've got to get you in, but
you're probably already there, I would imagine. But if when
you drive these vehicles and start having these experiences, you
start seeing a future that's incredible, better, exciting and in amazing.
So then when I take it to the next level
about AVIS autonomous vehicles, now it does become a separate

platform for different kind of entertainment, usability, everything. And my
UM one point is, I don't know if anyone's been
in the hummer. We have something called the WTF mode
pots to freedom of course, and this is sort of
what gave us these ideas because when you get in
and you turn on WTF mode, it starts being almost

like a game. Like your seat starts to rumble because
we have haptic signals in the seat. They moved the seat,
the seat starts to rumble, the noise and the screen changes.
You've got rock music going like Dada, and all of
a sudden, the car if you let off the break,
it accelerates like G four's down and straight away and

it's the most incredible experience. I think all of us
were like, this is amazing. Our our engineering team, the
Hummer created this, and it created a whole different level
of experience inside the vehicle that we think. Again, if
you imagine what else team is doing. They're trying to
create all that but just with a screen or maybe
in virtual reality. But when you combine all that together

really becomes unbelievable. So um, I think that's important. And
then the second part is we do believe that you
have to do all this, but develop it now for
an inclusive world and not just for the guys or
not just for one segment, and God forbid, we fall
in the trap of all of this. That Automotive was

for many years saying, well, gee, if you create a
card that appeals to women like, men won't buy it. Well,
right now, we have Buick our brand that is more
than women as customers, and it's doing great and growing
like crazy, and we just signed a deal with Hello
Sunshine with Reese Witherspoon and doing more and more, and

so I think it shows that, you know, really taking
on all those myths in all of these categories is
also a critical part of the work that we're doing
now because the more people that we bring into this, obviously,
the more growth there is when you build new categories,
the more business opportunities, the more jobs you create, the
more opportunities overall. So you know, I think as we

look to that we have to be aware of unintended
consequences and purposefully develop it and developed for to prove
to people that there are I love what you said, oh,
that there's a lot of different people in gaming as
there are in driving and everything else. So absolutely, I
think that's um, I mean, wow, what an amazing experience

to hey e building. I love it too, And I'm
also just firing with so many ideas hearing you talk.
I think the thing that is um interesting, sort of
coming back to the question like where these was can version.
I think when I think about gaming, I think it
really it has no edges when you start thinking about
it as the as the pinnacle of the next sort

of full front of entertainment, it has no edges. I'd say,
you know, mobility kind of has no edges too, because
it takes you out from if I think about like
what E. A was doing forty years ago. You know,
we were making things in boxes to be sold on
the shelves of Walmart that people had to experience by
plugging into another box that lived in their living room.
And you know, there's a truth that consoles are still

super important. And it's taken me, taking me like six
months a yet my hand sort appears five. We actually
finally got on the aftermarket, brought it home yesterday. Um,
so you know consoles are still important. Um, but they
know what has been what widely pegged as the final
console revolution, like the previous gen um has been and gone.

And obviously there will still be consoles, right so, like
the Switch will continue to develop and the PS five
and the Xbox will continue to put out product. But
I think what's interesting when I say gaming has no
edges is that we are beginning to decouple from being
dependent on certain kinds of hardware, and when I think
about what hardware did, hardware created a barrier to entry

for some groups. So when we're accessing play through either
these very expensive game of pecs or through consoles which
are attached to UM, I guess like a more stereotypical
view of what gamer is, that's often where you end
up with a more limited audience for play. And mobile

has opened it up, but the things that will really
open it up is like these new nascent opportunities. There's
a lot of talk at the moment about the metaverse.
I'm doing air quotes, you have to say that out loud.
On the podcast UM. There's a lot of talk about
the metaverse right now, and a lot of discussion about
how many people are in Horizon World and what Meta

is doing, and whether actually Second Life is going to
have this new UM like new energy brought into it
because people are focused on UM the metavers. But the
metaverse to me, when I think about it, someone asked
me the other day, where I think it exists. I'm like,
edge entertainment exists, and when we can bring it into
the spaces that people are in, especially when we're actually

reducing the need for people to be like physically engaging
in those spaces. So like if people do not have
to drive their oh cards, they have some time back
and what can they do at that time? Can they play?
You know? I think that entertainment needs to meet people
where they are, and it's less like you know, the
kind of the following from the industrial revolution, where we

now have work time and then we have a leisure
of time. We go home, we switch on the TV,
or someone might switch on a console. I think it's
more integrated, right, We've seen that with mobile gaming. But
I think as we can start to bring gaming into
the spaces where people are and where they have to
time and and actually make it more about playing and
more about being entertained or connecting to people or creating something,

that's where there's just such endless innovation opportunity. UM So,
I love what you said, and yeah, I think it's
part of the like edgelessness of the conversion space. I
definitely see some brainstorming sessions coming up together because, um
I think especially if you combine I like your idea

of you know, pushing the edge and challenging the edge
and the assumptions, because I do think that we already
know where people are bringing their entertainment with them, but
how do you do it in a different way, And
how do you provide other opportunities to have UM an
experience that's even more surrounding UM and where can that go?

And then how can you use a lot of that
to make our life continually better. Doesn't have to be
just entertainment. That's gonna be some really practical ideas too. Yeah,
and if I could just offer just a tiny build
on that as well. UM. I think the other thing
that's really exciting is there's some research that's recently been
published by the Oxford Institute around the fact that play

doesn't have a material negative impact on wellness and um.
Adam Grant actually posted today, i think on Twitter or
on Instagram about the fact that gaming can be a
great training ground for your brain. So it's also like
even entertainment is being a bit blured, like it wakes
up your brain. That's actually written into the Electronic Arts
Founding Manifesto that we believe that the developers in the

next artist of our era UM and we think that
gaming can wake up your brain. And so it's a
really interesting thing to think about how we can use
play in downtime that is happening, and yeah, whether that
could be an experience having a vehicle. I'd love to
brainstorm with you using play for good. I'm going to
keep challenging my son with that information, who loves his games.

I'm loving this and I don't know about you, Ross
that I feel like if we want to start a
podcast on innovation or the future of everything, the two
of you should be leading that conversation because, like you have, Debra,
see the potential for massive brainstorming here, and I'm sure
everybody's like going to be furiously taking notes on everything
you both are saying. I wanted to just ask you

a quick question. I mean, certainly we can talk about
the future forever, but if we just put ourselves really
squarely into the present, I'd love to hear from you
both about one thing you'd like to change about the industry.
I'd love to change the narrative that we have around
purpose and I think that that's really important in this
environment where the pendulum keeps on swinging from one side

to the other, and there's a lot of good and
then there's a lot of back flash, and then there's
a lot of good, and there's a lot of backlash,
and as brands try to maintain a sense of being
purposed within this environment, the risk that we face is
for the purposeful wealth that we do, all the purposeful
stories that we tell to feel a little bit superficial,
and so then when the backlash happens, we get pulled

back away from purpose. I think the change that we
need to make is for purpose to really be integrated.
And what I mean by that is, you know, our
d I work shouldn't be separate from the work that
we do. D I need to be absolutely built into
how we represent and the stories that we tell. It
can't be its own thing. And as I think about
taking on my expanded remit into social impact, impact can't

be corporate social responsibility. We can't be positioning our brands
and our businesses as check writing entities. We need to
be thinking about how we drive true meaningful impact with
the resources that we have available to us. And that
for me, is brand purpose built in and the kind
of brand purpose that is future proof and protected against

both backlash and things that pull us back from it,
but also anicism and anything that could seem cynically motivated
because that's how you religne you purpose to your brand.
I think my primary focus right now is to help
us transform to zero emissions world, and that is all
the work that I'm doing is to really show the

possibilities and show everyone why they should want to get
UM into an e V and then what that world
can bring. Because there's the whole sustainability side. Of course,
there is also the business growth side, which many people
who protest against dvs don't understand, and I think that's
really very important for us UM at this point in time,

for our country, for the world, and bringing everyone along
and inclusivity for us as a large large part of that.
That's where we're building e vs from twenty six thousand
dollars with our both EUV two, our Equinox e V
at thirty dollars, all the way up to the Hummer SuperTruck,
So that's really important. My second personal goal, I have

to to show that marketing is a competitive advantage for
every company, and if you do it right and let
marketing as it should be performed and engaged within the company,
it can really add to growth, which again is good
for everyone, good for a company, good for our industry,
good for our countries um and good for economies overall.

And and that I think is, you know, something we've
talked about. We don't have the accounting concepts that finance has.
That you know, let give parameters that are very consistent
from anywhere you go, and we need to keep doing that.
And my third thing is is just to change the
the biases and to make sure we're watching out for
them so that we have Because we are engaged in

human storytelling and human behavior, we have a great responsibility,
each and every one of us to make sure that
what we do has not horrible unintended consequences, but it's
good and positive and we have the ability to do that.
We all do if we're purposeful and think about it.
We know that there are a lot of people, especially

young people, who will be listening to this episode and
looking to learn from both of you, and you've certainly
given us a lot. I don't really want this conversation
to end, but I'm feeling so lucky and grateful and
thank you so much for engaging here for our listeners

and also with each other in this way. I mean,
you talk about the power of human connection, and Ross
and I talked all the time about the thing that
makes the a F so special and the moment when
you enter the Hall of Achievement is that it instantly
unlocks this connection that you otherwise might not have had.
And the a F is the ultimate convener of people

in our industry, and we're just we're so grateful to
be part of these conversations. So thank you again both
for your time and for your wisdom. And I hope
you two are able to brainstorm. If you need someone
to take notes, I'd be happy to come, but Ross
would be happy to come and talk to Thank you

so much for doing this. Take care, Thanks everybody, Thanks
so much for us. Thanks everyone, Well that doesn't for
this episode of the Future Legends of Advertising podcast. I'm
Ross Martin and I'm Haley Rohmer, and thank you for listening.
We'll be back with another episode before you know it.
And for more information on the American Advertising Federation, go

to a AM dot org.
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