Talent Champion – Barry Wacksman

Talent Champion Spotlight

AEF Talent Champion - Barry Wacksman

Barry Wacksman
Board Chair, 4A’s
Board Chair, Miami Ad School

Barry Wacksman is an AEF board member and the former vice chairman and global chief strategy Officer of R/GA, where he worked for over 21 years and was a key architect of the company’s growth and vision. After joining R/GA in 1999, the company grew organically from a pioneering digital agency of under 50 employees to a connected company spanning consulting, design, technology and advertising, employing over 2,000 staff in 18 offices globally.

Wacksman is the co-author of Connected by Design (2014, John Wiley and Sons) where he developed the concept of “Connected Ecosystems” and “Functional Integration” to describe the business models of market leaders like Apple, Google and Amazon as well as the emergence of new categories like the connected home, the connected car and connected financial services. He serves as board chair of the 4A’s and is chairperson of the board of Miami Ad School.

What prompted you to get involved with the AEF and why are you passionate about the future of the industry?

I was recruited by my early mentor, David Bell, to take over his board seat as he was planning to step down. As a firm believer in education being key to the industry’s future, I was eager to join and start contributing. At the time, there were few board members with a digital background, so I thought I could try to expand AEF’s thinking about the industry’s future.

What is the best career advice you've ever received?

Never be afraid to change what you are doing, constantly. If you aren’t changing at a time when business is going great, you won’t have the resources to make changes when there is a downturn.

Who was your favorite professor and why?

I studied philosophy as an undergraduate and as a Ph.D. candidate (although I never finished my doctorate). Jose Benardete was the very definition of the quirky absent-minded professor and he absolutely blew my mind when I was in graduate school at Syracuse University. He taught me to do what I later aspired to, professionally: make complicated things simple.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I am a strategist by trade, so I love problem solving and trying to make complicated things simple.

"I developed a much higher respect for social marketing by seeing the value and complexity of this function which seemed very ambiguous to me before."
— Student at Boston College after AEF sent speakers from DigitasLBi