‘Stay humble, stay hungry’: Beyond the Brief featuring Mo Osunbor, J. Walter Thompson

Mo Osunbor, senior art director, J. Walter Thompson

There's always risk involved with taking on any pro-bono client in a charged political and societal atmosphere--but Mo Osunbor, a senior art director at J. Walter Thompson, knew the payoff of reaching out to collaborate with Black Lives Matter.

Their first collaborative effort, a utility geared to promoting brick-and-mortar black businesses, launched during the holiday season last year. It was a shrewd move that fostered goodwill and support within the black community, on and off social media. A much more provocative move came a month later: a chilling twist on Facebook's Safety Check feature called Mark Yourself Unsafe. Coinciding with inauguration week, the most powerful, scary part of the idea was in a simple fact—the disproportionate amount of police brutality towards the African-American community—the timing and medium only enhanced its effectiveness. Expect it to win many, many awards for its brilliance.

Osunbor gets the formula for award-winning work--he’s won his share, including with the One Show, ADC, Webbies (and a 2015 Drum Content Award) for Mercedes-Benz’s new GLA. The Nigerian-born, Miami Ad School alum (and now teacher) cut his teeth at Razorfish, FCB, and Deutsch before putting in work within the legendary walls of J. Walter Thompson. But it’s what he teaches to advertising’s next creative hopefuls, his experience and his experience in creating innovative digital products and campaigns, that keeps Osunbor humble, yet hungry to make even more groundbreaking work.

Taking the initiative to better your agency, industry and society at-large is rarely a comfortable move to make, but Osunbor shows you can do all that and still perform--and live beyond the brief--at a high level.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your advertising career?

Stay humble, stay hungry.

How do you explain to your parents or children what you do for a living?

Come up with ideas and make them look pretty.

What makes you excited about going to work every day?

The opportunity to be inventive for a living.

If you went back to school to pick up a new skill, what would it be?

Stand-up comedy, really helps with presentation skills.

What non-advertising things do you draw inspiration from?

Movies and eavesdropping.

Where was the last place you traveled to? What did you learn from that trip?

China. I learned to go to places where you’re the least comfortable — if you are ok there, you can thrive anywhere.

To celebrate its 100th Anniversary, the 4A’s has partnered with us at The Drum to pull back the curtain and look at an industry full of problem solvers, creative types and analytical minds. But what keeps them going once the briefs are written, the campaigns executed, and the pitches won (or lost)? We’re interviewing 100 people at 4A’s member agencies — across all disciplines, levels, regions, and agency types — to get a glimpse into what drives them at work and what fuels them in life.

See the industry pros we're featuring here.

To pitch someone from a 4A's member agency for Beyond the Brief, please complete this linked form.

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Bennett D. Bennett

I am a NYC-based writer who calls BBDO NY home — putting copy together for major brands (and fiction for myself and others) and pushing for more inclusive, smarter work environments everywhere. I've previously sat on the ADCOLOR Advisory Board, and currently am a member of AAF's Mosaic Next-Generation Leadership Council and the 4As Steering Committee for High School Initiatives.

All by Bennett D.