Q&A: Evelyn Neill, chief creative office, Doremus New York

Evelyn Neill, chief creative officer at Doremus New York, talks B2B marketing, earning consumer trust, and the beauty of the ocean.

Q: What elements should every good marketing campaign have, no matter what?

A: For me, I think a great marketing campaign has to [do] one of two things: either it has to inform you or it has to inspire you. If a campaign doesn’t do either, then it isn’t worth the time, the energy, or the tree that was put into making it, either on paper or in pixels.

Q: B2B marketing is often erroneously labeled as less exciting than B2C. Why is hat totally wrong?

A: To my ears those labels are becoming increasingly outdated, and clients are starting to feel like that, too. I don’t think B2B is any less exciting at all, but then again, I’m a junkie for complex things. If you’re like me and you love knotty, complex problems, then it’s actually a very fulfilling side of the marketing world.

Q: What’s the best example of B2B marketing you’ve seen recently?

A: Some of the brands that have been doing it the longest are still doing it the best. Look at how IBM’s Smarter Planet is vertically integrated into IBM. And look at how IBM has things like Watson going on Jeopardy! and now moving into medical care and government. Those kinds of products are always exciting to me because they inspire people with possibility. Watson is an incredible manifestation of our future with technology. Companies right now desperately need to inspire people, the world, themselves, and each other—because whether we like it or not, they are our global infrastructure and we need to trust in them. We need to believe they have our best interests at heart. It’s one of the reasons I think B2B is so vitally important.


Q:
You founded W&K Amsterdam with five other expatriates. What lessons did you learn from that experience?

A: Rather than send the expendable people, Wieden took its core people and sent us as this inoculation unit to start the foreign office. And that takes a lot of courage, to rip the guts out of your shop at the highest level. We were sort of a clearing house for all the European advertising for Nike. We had to figure out how to become authentic to all those other cultures, and that required us to listen more and make more guesses and, of course, mistakes. One thing I’ll say about mistakes: We made some epic mistakes that would cause any other company to shake in their boots. At first we blamed each other mightily, but then we learned to accept our failures and move on. In Amsterdam we were like our own island where we just had to figure it out and that’s a great cauldron for leadership.

Q: Talk a bit about the Sanibel Sea School and your passion for nature.

A: I had a deep, deep love for marine science before I got into advertising, so my husband [a marine biologist] and I founded the school because this is an area that needs more teachers. We have two campuses now and so far, so good, though I have to say, starting a nonprofit was the hardest things I’ve done, bar none. Anyone who thinks that the advertising business is hard these days should go start a nonprofit and then reframe their opinion.

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