During a tearful farewell address at the 4A’s Transformation conference in Los Angeles, outgoing chief executive of the trade body Nancy Hill discussed both the achievements and setbacks that have marked her nearly 10-year tenure with the organization.
Hill told attendees that when she first started as a traffic coordinator with W.B. Doner in Baltimore 35 years ago, she would have “never, ever imagined” herself being in the position she is today. When she was asked to join the 4A’s in 2008 as chief executive, Hill said that the board and selection committee “made it very clear that the 4A’s needed to change and change quickly.” At the time, Hill said that the organization was lagging in tech, media, and “clearly behind in taking a leadership role on gender equality and diversity.”
She added that 2008 was a particularly challenging time for the industry because of the recession, noting that staff layoffs at agencies were common and that the year marked “the start of what would become arguably the most drastic reset of our industry and what we’ve ever experienced.”
Even so, Hill said that the organization has managed to become “digitally-centered with a mobile-first approach” since she joined and has “taken a front and center position on diversity and gender equality.”
“You put a great deal of trust in me when you tapped me 10 years ago to represent you,” she told the audience. “I hope you believe that your trust was well placed. I don’t think I had any idea just how much that trust would really mean. My passion for this industry and my love and respect for the people in it has fueled my unwavering commitment to you, to the industry, and to myself.”
Hill also briefly acknowledged the ongoing transparency debate happening within the industry, stating that there are “probably some bad actors out there that maybe aren’t as forthright with their clients as we would all like them to be” and that she thinks the industry as whole is “better than that.”
“We’re not defined by salacious headlines,” she said. “As an industry, we have a lot to be proud of.”
Regarding the gender and diversity debate that still plagues the industry, Hill said that she does “not plan to go quietly into that good night.” However, she said that the fact that more and more women have been appointed to top agency roles over the past two years gives her “great hope.” She also added that the the 4A’s Multicultural Advertising Internship Program will include 215 interns this year, its biggest class ever.
After Hill leaves in June, she will be replaced by Marla Kaplowitz, CEO of MEC North America. Following her departure, Hill plans to focus on consulting and spend time in Ecuador volunteering and teaching.