Jessica Hawthorne-Castro is the CEO of Hawthorne Direct in Los Angeles.
Your website mentions that what makes you, as a company, different “is not only [a] rich heritage, but [a] unique vision for the future.” Can you elaborate a bit more on this statement?
Hawthorne just celebrated our 30th anniversary as a full-service advertising agency in June, which is very exciting.We are a full-service agency in that all of our services are under one roof, from strategy to creative services to media buying to data and analytics. Much of the mass media content you see on a daily basis, like commercials on television and services such as Hulu, is a result of a strategy produced by Hawthorne.
It’s all based on data and analytics, which is the core of any advertising agency—telling how things work, recording response rates to different ad campaigns, and discerning how effective any given campaign is so that we are able to inform clients about the reach of their ads and the responses they garner. The agency’s legacy is that in the early 1980s, our founder and agency pioneered what is known as the direct-response television agency—it was the first modern form of accountable advertising, involving not just running commercials but tracking consumer responses.
We at Hawthorne preach that advertising should have both deep brand resonance and very specific and accountable attributes. We don’t want to be in a purely consumeristic world; we aim to work with companies that bring better forms of technology to the world and increase efficiency, leaving a better footprint for the world.
In 2015, you led Hawthorne Direct to their certification with the Women’s Business Enterprise by the Women’s Business Enterprise Council. Was this something that was important to you, and why?
After a successful career as a Hollywood talent agent, I had the opportunity to join Hawthorne about a decade ago. I worked my way up the company ladder, got my MBA part-time while working full-time and eventually becoming COO and then CEO before I purchased the company from my father two years ago. After that, I embarked on being certified as a woman-owned business to not only stand in solidarity with other woman-owned business and support them, but also because there are many opportunities that come along with being a woman-owned business.
Prior to joining Hawthorne Direct, you were a successful TV literary agent. What led you to come into advertising?
The management skills from my Hollywood career were very transferrable, but what really cinched it for me was that I had the opportunity to not just manage individual clients but an entire brand and corporation. The ability to work with huge brands that everyone knows so well and be on the front lines in terms of planning their creative visions and seeing their campaigns come to life is absolutely thrilling.
It’s also very rewarding to see the growth and results that come from well-designed campaigns and management. I never thought that the old adage, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work another day in your life” was true, but it is. I love what I do, and it doesn’t feel like work. Every day is different, and new. There is no monotony. The time flies, and you can barely do everything in a day sometimes, but it’s very fun, and I believe in working hard and playing hard to make the world a better place in terms of efficiency and inventiveness.
In addition to your job as CEO of HD, you also contribute to many industry publications. What factors/experiences in your life led to the development of the skills necessary to not only execute your job expertly, but also be able to advise others in your field?
Hawthorne has always been an industry leader. We’re very passionate and excited about what we do, and I believe it’s important to open up people’s eyes to how things work in advertising. Industries sometimes get caught up in not wanting things to change, but Hawthorne is extraordinarily fluid, and we’re always working to put our best foot forward for ourselves and for our clients, so that naturally positions us for a thought leadership role.
I am part of many organizations and progressive groups, including the TED organization. Leadership is extremely important, and I write for publications because I believe it is crucial to spread knowledge and awareness. As for my skills, I believe some people, like me, are naturally driven. I was an only child, so I was always unusually independent, especially as a thinker, and I made my own way in Hollywood, which isn’t easy to do.
I kept my head down, working hard and efficiently. I’m very goal-oriented and focused, and for me, organization is a natural trait that is absolutely key to performing to the highest caliber possible every day. Each day I get through everything so that the next day, I can start fresh and never become bogged down. I always want to learn; when I watch TV, my favorite channels are the Science Channel and the Discovery Channel. It’s important to always strive for more. But the thing is, you don’t just want to work for money. You want to do things in life that are going to really have an impact and make the world a better place.
If you could gather the world’s young girls in a room and speak to them about designing and sustaining a thriving career path, what would you say?
I would say be ambitious. Try to think about things that are going to make the world a better place, but also think about things on a mass level. It is important to have a basis and a background in which you can speak the language of your field; for example, knowing data and analytics is key in advertising.
Execute your dreams and plans on a large level, finding ways that your work can be completely accessible to a mass audience. A love for what you do is important for thriving as well. Be able to identify the environment you’re working in and tell whether or not it’s positive and supportive; if it’s not, move on to one that is. A foundation in happiness is important to sustaining a successful career.
Contributor: Dante Laird