'I don’t believe in regrets': Beyond the Brief with Mason Franklin, MEC

Mason Franklin, MEC

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.

Mason Franklin, managing partner and executive director of strategic and communications planning at MEC, has led a team of strategists responsible for identifying consumer insights, developing communication strategy, and creating engagement ideas for the last eight years. He has been the architect of the agency’s global strategic planning approach called T5, and led development of the first Product Development Board.

Throughout his career, he has worked with brands like General Motors, L’Oréal, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson and Marriott.

In conjunction with his professional creativity, he has taken his artistic eye to photography. In 2016, he made it a mission to self-publish one book every month that captured his photographic journey throughout the year. He claims that his coffee table in his Manhattan apartment will never be the same.

Franklin’s work in the industry, coupled with his passion for photography, shows that he is living beyond the brief.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I believe the decisions and the actions we take in life are all important and turn us into the people we are today. I don’t believe in regrets. But that said, I would have probably taken more math and statistics in college. We now live in the era of big data. While it’s given us a lot more information into who our consumers are and how they think, it’s made our job as strategists even more important to figure out the why behind those what’s. Navigating through all the data would be a bit easier and, hopefully, second nature.

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

My biggest lesson is the importance of storytelling. To be successful, you have to be able to package your thinking and work into a compelling story that will get people on-board with you. It’s the key to persuasion. Regardless of the audience — client, colleagues, award juries — you have to draw people in, keep their attention, and provide compelling logic. It’s human nature to love a great story, but it’s up to us to provide one.

Who or what influenced you to get into advertising?

I grew up in a small Michigan town. My older sister lived in Detroit and started dating this really successful, fashionable, good looking guy from New York who worked in advertising. I was young and didn’t really understand what he did, except for the fact that it had something to do with making the ads on TV — which was incredibly cool in my naïve mind. My sister ended up marrying him. To me, he was the epitome of the urbane sophisticate, and I was determined to make my life similar to his. So, becoming an ‘ad guy’ became my mission.

What’s your passion outside of advertising?

Like many account planners, I’m a frustrated creative. I love photography because it lets me express myself through images — which is refreshing since I’m usually using the written or spoken word to express my perspective as a strategist. Last year I decided to self-publish a book of my photographs each and every month. It required a lot of discipline, but I felt such freedom just letting my eye roam every weekend, capturing images, and then putting those books together. My coffee table will never be the same.

Where is your happy place/space?

I love quiet spaces, especially living in NYC — and my absolute favorite is to be in a deserted art gallery. Just me and amazing paintings on the walls. Artists pour their hearts and souls into their work. I love being able to take it in quietly without distraction, to really feel the emotion it evokes in me. If I won the lottery, I’d get a job working in a gallery just to experience that day in and day out.

What is an art that you cannot live without?

I wouldn’t want to live life without the abstract expressionists. As a strategist, I deal with insight, logic and reality. But the masters like DeKooning, Reinhart, still, they dealt with emotion. Expressing how they felt about the world through color and gesture — nothing representational or realistic to be found. Because their work is so different from my every day, it never fails to move and delight me.

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

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.

All by Haley