Last fall, Alex Lopez left behind a near 25-year career at Nike to join McCann Worldgroup as its global chief creative officer and president.
Applying the knowledge he gained at Nike to help brands across a range of categories drew Lopez to the job. At McCann, he aims to help position clients to be meaningful to consumers as cultural dynamics rapidly change.
“We're working in a world that begs for a more thoughtful, sustainable approach,” he says. “We’re wrestling with how to think more holistically around the relationship with consumers and how we evolve into new spaces.”
Lopez joined McCann Worldgroup, which owns agencies including McCann, UM, Momentum and MRM, as a star creative player on a newly reassembled leadership team. After longtime CEO Harris Diamond retired in 2020, and CEO Bill Kolb took over, North America president Devika Bulchandani decamped for Ogilvy and longtime creative chairman Rob Reilly departed for WPP, creating an opening for some fresh talent.
Lopez chatted with Campaign US 100 days into his new role.
Campaign US: What were your first observations about McCann Worldgroup?
We're making really great work. We've made great progress in taking what are the best specialist agencies and bringing [them together to deliver] modern solutions for modern brand and business problems. We’re at the size where we are able to truly work in partnership across teams to find the best ways to unleash those solutions.
It’s been great to find ways to connect the dots, build bridges and think beyond the brief that’s in front of us to what is happening in the world. What is the future going to look like for this brand, their business and industry, and how do we move them into that space?
Where have you connected those dots so far?
I talk about bringing our clients’ timeless values to light in timely and contemporary ways. We look at those evergreen things that make the brand what it was at its origin and find modern ways to express it.
For GM, for instance, we've taken a look at how we move them beyond the world of fossil fuels and truly make them a beacon for our mobility future. We bring our expertise across a number of segments against that mission – brand storytelling with McCann, bringing it to life through Momentum, the consumer journey and experience work through MRM.
The relationship between brands, consumers and the world is rapidly evolving. We need to be at the vanguard of what those dynamics look like and steward our clients to a meaningful place in consumers’ lives. That's where we started to see a lot of energy.
What is it like joining an agency after more than two decades on the brand side?
There are a lot of things we on the agency side don't necessarily see that the client wrestles with. Enterprise data, supply chain – these are real challenges that can either be a headwind or tailwind. I'm very fortunate that I understand how those dynamics inform what ultimately gets out into the world.
At Nike, I worked closely with our agency partners. I was very vested in their success. That work bore fruit. The way those agencies grew and were able to expand their business profiles was one of the proudest parts of my time at Nike.
Nike has long-standing relationships with agencies like Wieden and R/GA. How does that longevity shape your view of a successful client-agency relationship?
When you can be fully aligned and work toward a greater purpose, it bears incredible fruit. It has such a significant impact on not just the work, but also the way it resonates in the world.
McCann Worldgroup has long partnerships: a 50-year relationship with L'Oreal, a decadeslong partnership with Mastercard. GM is our longest-standing client. I’m fortunate to walk into a place where we've earned that continued seat at the table.
How do you see the creative business and how is McCann leaning into that?
Clients are asking us to solve challenges in new and different ways. We need to deliver creatively, but we also need to think about what the business of creativity looks like in the future. We have a massive white space. We have to revolutionize the work we do and the business we're in.
How is McCann’s approach to talent evolving as the creative business changes?
We are a people business. The business we do is centered on ideas and relationships. We need to create the best dynamics for people to work well together, bring their full selves to the table and meet them where they are.
There is such an opportunity for us to think about not just the job experience, but also the life experience people can bring. We need diversity of thought, experience and approach. Hopefully I'm an example that you don't have to have grown up on the agency side to come in and create impact.
Has creativity suffered during the pandemic? How do you keep inspiration high while working remotely?
We need to ensure our teams can connect and feel the collective power of each other. At times, that might mean being in a room together. That might be finding other ways to connect.
The role of the workspace will continue to evolve. I love the ability to engage with other people we may not cross paths with every day, or give people flexibility so when they are in the work, they are fully in the work. I hope we're seen as revolutionary in how we embrace it. Doing that, we will be able to draw more people in.
This interview has been edited and condensed.