'Ideas are important, but execution wins out': Beyond the Brief featuring Eric Mayville, Wondersauce

Eric Mayville, Wondersauce co-CEO and founding partner

I’m sure our parents have warned us growing up to never get into business with our friends. Eric Mayville, Wondersauce co-CEO and founding partner will tell you otherwise—actually, he already has.

The Columbus, Ohio native and John Sampogna (who you recently heard a bit about) launched their human-centric agency over 5 years ago at the ripe old age of 27. The two-man operation is now a multi-city (and international) network with offices in his Mayville’s hometown, as well as in New York, Los Angeles and London. The award-winning shop was recently acquired by independent agency network Project, giving them more visibility for potential brands looking for their infrastructure-first approach to creative solutions.

Mayville started his career at agencies like Code and Theory and Razorfish in digital design and strategy roles, the skills lending very well to the Wondersauce approach. For the agency, it’s about human behavior first, and then using that to create intuitive experiences and platforms from the ground up, for Outback Steakhouse, Milk Cosmetics, Stella Artois, and the like. The quick rise of this agency as well as its managing founders’ unique approach has turned their digital offering into a full-service operation for brands big and small. For his role in the award-winning agency’s success, Mayville shares a Business Insider’s 30 under 30 recognition with his co-founder, which must have been great to take back to Columbus.

Mayville values of collaboration, accountability, support and trust in the workplace and bucks the conventional way of building agencies. Those values have been important in building the Wondersauce family, and are crucial to living beyond the brief.

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

Talk like a human, be concise, trust me as an expert in what I do so that you can be trusted to be an expert in what your agency does.

What keeps you sane in this industry? What keeps you driven to do great work?

Nothing, you cannot be sane and work in this industry. You can't be a person that asks others for answers, you have you be creative enough to solve problems on your own, or more importantly know where to look for the answers that others have provided. No one really knows what they’re doing. There is no end-all, be-all, framework to creativity. Ideas are important but execution wins out because not everyone can execute.

What’s your favorite thing about your hometown? What (in)tangible thing have you taken from there?

Columbus is diverse and thankfully offers incredible opportunity to be creative. For example, they have incredible schools at the collegiate level with Ohio State, CCAD, etc, they also have extremely well funded education at the high school level for technology. I truly believe Midwesterners are some of the most empathetic people in the country, and having an empathic mindset prepared me for my career more than I could have realized. Everything we do is about serving people, making their lives easier. That’s a very Midwestern thing that has stuck with me.

What book would you suggest to a stranger?

The Hard Thing About Hard Things (by Ben Horowitz). Ben keeps it real. He tells real stories with no bullshit anecdotes. No matter if you started your business or are just interested in growing your career and being a better person this book will help you.

Is work too personal or not personal enough at times? Why is that?

Work should be personal - we spend an incredible amount of time at work and if we aren’t personal we don’t know how to be empathetic to other people's needs. What we do here first and foremost has to do with understanding people, then we build things for them. That’s why empathy in the workplace is so important; it starts with the people around us and extends to those we serve with our work.

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.

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.