Commentary

Agency Hires Industry Outsider For Culture, Content Role

Last month, Droga5 announced that it was launching a new “academy” designed to draw creative types outside of Adland to the industry.

Now Los Angeles-based independent agency, Zambezi, says it’s done Droga5 one better — and hired a well-known creative outsider—film executive and tech entrepreneur Dawn Thomas — to a new position at the agency.

Thomas’ title at the agency is creative. She’s the shop’s first head of culture strategy and content innovation. Truth be told, she’s probably the first head of culture strategy and content innovation at any agency. Or any company for that matter. When it comes to creative titles, the ad biz is tops!

In her new position, Thomas is responsible for overseeing all agency client initiatives to elevate creative strategy, brand narrative and cultural IQ, per Zambezi. She’ll also run the shop’s Samsung business.

Thomas has an eclectic background. Academically, she’s a bit of a brainiac with a J.D. in international corporate law from Syracuse and a Masters in New Media Business from the Newhouse School of Public Communications.  

She began her professional career on Wall Street in bank analysis, hedge funds and derivatives, later moving in-house to a tech startup in the Equity Group Investments portfolio.

Fueled with an obsession for technology, finance and storytelling, she moved to Los Angeles to explore opportunities in entertainment. There she started at Creative Artists Agency (CAA) working in the Film Finance, Film Talent, and Television divisions.

She then became a Senior Development and Production Executive for Will Smith’s production company, Overbrook Entertainment (“Pursuit of Happyness,” “I Am Legend” and “Hancock”) managing a slate of film and television projects. At Overbrook, she founded the company’s interactive marketing division developing digital content and franchise strategies.

Following Overbrook, Thomas ran a consultancy for creative talent, TV networks and brands (Fiat, Hulu, Neutrogena, Reebok, Verizon, Walmart) structuring content deals, producing multi-platform campaigns and designing creative strategies.

She also founded her own interactive content platform, Koi Media, producing immersive narratives (including VR and 360) for and about women.

Thomas was recruited by and reports to Zambezi’s chief strategy officer, Kristina Jenkins. “I believe in finding inspiration and talent from unexpected places”, says Jenkins. “Dawn straddles a range of industries leveraging a deep understanding of people and an exceptional network. She is someone who sees the opportunity, instead of the challenge, in everything she does. She truly knows what it takes for brands to create with culture in powerful and meaningful ways.”

Thomas is the latest senior-level addition to Zambezi’s expanding strategy department. Earlier this year, Zambezi hired Wieden & Kennedy executive Danielle Pak as its first director of communications planning.

 

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