Shane Ankeney, our 2019 Media Executive All-Star, is proof positive that nice guys can finish first. In the four years that the deeply experienced media veteran has served as Havas Media’s President, North America, things have gone très bien for the French-owned agency.
His tenure has been marked by 40% revenue growth and 35% staff growth. And in 2018, the shop was named MediaPost’s Media Agency of the Year.
“I’m a player-coach,” Ankeney says of his leadership style. “I don’t sit in a boardroom and pontificate. We pushed hard to reinvent the place when I came here. New business was almost a punishment. We revamped the place to be a little more independent while still being respectful to Paris. New business now is fun and a reward.”
'In his first year on the job at Havas, Ankeney oversaw a winning streak that landed the shop such clients as TD Bank, Tracfone, and Swarovski. And Havas kept winning as Ankeney applied the power of the Village — parent company Havas’ flat organizational structure of all its agencies, creative and media, under the same roof. He put in place Havas HealthMedia, and quickly won Bristol Myers Squibb (which led to the formation of a standalone unit devoted to the healthcare giant), Sanofi’s North American media account, and others.
Ankeney’s success is due to a working approach that is anchored by “simple stuff,” says Fred Sattler, the veteran media services leader who has hired Ankeney three separate times. “He brought the Midwestern qualities of being smart, reliable and generally good to be around. His time at Lee Clow’s Media Arts Lab was particularly noteworthy in the pioneering role that it took in elevating media’s role in creative development. He also mentored and developed talent to assert their rightful role in partnering with creative as equals in developing effective marketing communications.”
Those virtues have been put into practice at very different shops in Ankeney’s career, and while the markets were dramatically different — Los Angeles, Detroit, New York — the results were consistent. Ankeney spent six years at JWT, two stints at TBWA Chiat/Day, Carmichael Lynch, Doner and another six years at Initiative. He joined Havas in 2015.
Yet he is about more than just hard work and adept management. There’s a touch of the visionary in the potent Ankeney professional mix. He was, in fact, a “digerati,” the name given to 250 internal cyber evangelists Chiat tapped in 1999 to educate the rest of the shop in what were then new concepts like e-commerce and e-marketing.
“Let’s reboot the whole place because sixth graders know more about the job than you do. That’s what digerati was all about,” he explains. “What I take with me to this day from that experience is to never say never. Figure out a way and don’t ever be afraid to blow things up and start over. I’ve had some conventional leadership roles, but I tend to approach them in an unconventional way.”
Looking ahead, as leaders are wont to do, Ankeney hopes for more of the same. “You want to keep the momentum going as long as you can, and our upside has lasted quite a long time,” he says. “We’re all just having a good time. That’s why we all get into advertising — to be creative and have fun.”