“It’s my own pond”: Beyond the Brief with Molly Sugarman, Treehouse at Horizon Media

Molly Sugarman, Treehouse at Horizon Media

To celebrate its 100th Anniversary, the 4A’s has partnered with 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)? The Drum is now 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.

Molly Sugarman, vice president and managing director of Treehouse at Horizon Media founded and leads the Treehouse team at Horizon Media as the creative media and innovation studio within the larger organization. The team works with media partners to bring brand integrations and custom content to life in a meaningful and impactful way, across the media landscape.

She joined Horizon Media after working at technology companies ranging from Quigo to Outbrain to Microsoft.

She also takes her dedication and spirit to her external passions in addition to her work at Treehouse. She is a trained violinist, enjoys knitting, watching “Friends,” exploring and photographing the wildlife of Africa, or just being the world’s best aunt (she let her niece and nephew each design one of her impressive tattoos).

Sugarman’s work to build Treehouse (which she is still hoping will help her get a real treehouse), as well as her extracurricular passions, show that she is living beyond the brief.

If you started an agency from scratch today, what would it look like?

I always loved the idea of having an agency that only worked with businesses that were about to fail. It was basically their do or die moment. They would come to us when they were ready for the unthinkable, because it was the only thing left that could save them. Continued growth and success is great, obviously, but the brink of failure? That’s where things get interesting. This is also why I’ll probably never start my own agency.

If your boss sent you to a desert island for a week and could only take 3 things with you, what would they be?

My dog (Frank Jr. Jr.), my Kindle, and hand lotion.

What skill do you have that draws colleagues to you?

I’m fortunate to do something very different from whatever everyone else in my organization does. I enjoy being a normal sized fish in a normal sized pond, but it’s my own pond. You come visit my pond when you want some thinking that is one stepped removed from the rigor and day-to-day of media. I think I can bring a fresh perspective to a plan that colleagues have been staring at for weeks.

What is a guilty pleasure/vice you can’t go without?

The TV show, “Friends,” though I don’t feel guilty about it at all. I probably average about one episode a day. It’s like vitamins for me. Also, there are very few life challenges that can’t be explained through a Friends reference.

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

My last vacation was in Botswana. This was my third time to Africa and I can honestly say that it’s where my heart feels most calm and alive. When you’re sitting quietly in the bush, watching a herd of elephants wade across the delta, dusting themselves in the Kalahari sands, you quickly realize how truly small and insignificant you are, and how freeing that is.

What’s your passion outside of advertising?

I am in love with all the dogs and am passionate about saying hi to as many of them as possible. More broadly, I love animals, wildlife and wildlife photography. I am annoyed that I am not the Dogist. I am annoyed that I am not Paul Nicklen. In my next go-round, perhaps.

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

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Haley Velasco

Haley Velasco is a writer based in Chicago, IL, who has a background in PR for a sports media company and has reported on a variety of topics, including sports, opinion, politics and celebrity news. Based in the Windy City, she covers industry happenings in the Midwest and throughout North America. She has been reporting for The Drum since May 2016.

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