‘The purpose of advertising and marketing is to create impact’: Beyond the Brief with Courtney Cotrupe, Partners + Napier

Courtney Cotrupe, Partners + Napier

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)?

Courtney Cotrupe is the president at Partners + Napier, an agency based out of Rochester, New York. Before she was promoted to president in November, Cotrupe served as managing director where she lead the agency that works with clients including BMW and MINI Financial Services, Gannett/USA Today Network, Highmark, Xerox, Keurig Green Mountain, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, Robert Mondavi and Delta Vacations.

In addition to her day-to-day, she sits on the 4A’s Future of Account Leadership committee, and will soon be taking a leadership role on that organization's NY State Council.

Additionally, in the philanthropic vein, she has dedicated herself to multiple charity efforts. She’s driving the agency’s pro-bono initiative for Rochester City School District to combat chronic absenteeism, which has already declined by 21%. She is also co-chairing the Go Red For Women fundraising drive for the American Heart Association, determined to combat the high rate of cardiovascular disease in women.

At home, she and her husband are raising two young kids, meaning her days are packed as she successfully tackles the work-life balance and gender equality — two topics she says she’s passionate about.

Cotrupe’s passion for creative advertising work, as well as work-life balance, in addition to her volunteer work, shows she is living beyond the brief.

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

Creative is not a department. It has to infuse every corner of the agency. It’s a big part of my job to stoke those creative fires. That’s why we started our Culture Club initiative. Our top planners bring outside cultural touchstones into the agency to discuss and debate and provoke. For example, after screening HBO’s “The Defiant Ones,” we had a lively discussion about the powerful and unexpected blaze of creative energy sparked by Dr. Dre and Jimmy lovine. And for the next session, we had our minds blown by the “Nosedive” episode of “Black Mirror.”

What makes you excited about going to work every day?

The purpose of advertising and marketing is to create impact – in business and in culture. Creativity fuels that purpose and that’s what makes me excited to walk into work every day. My colleagues across the entire agency are inspired by music, art, books, travel, fashion – you name it – and they use that inspiration to push boundaries and create change. I fundamentally believe the world needs more creative people, so I’m lucky to be surrounded by so many of them every day. It’s energizing.

What skill/personality do you have that draws colleagues to you?

I’ve been told that I’m very optimistic. I’m proud of that. It’s a good way to look at life and frankly it’s one of the most important traits you can have as a leader. And this doesn’t mean sugarcoating everything. I heard someone once say you can still be optimistic while being authentic and truthful, and I really believe that. It allows you to build the credibility and trust you need with your colleagues to rally and create change when things aren’t so rosy.

Where is your happy place/space?

Brantingham Lake in the Adirondacks. My great grandfather bought a cabin there for $3,000 in the early 1900’s. I always think about how he didn’t buy it for himself. He bought it to leave a legacy that would benefit generations to come. He was completely unselfish. It provides a sense of place and provenance where my family can return each year to maintain closeness. It’s (mostly) technology free. There are no schedules. I don’t have to wear make-up and rarely shower. And now it’s a place I'm rediscovering through the eyes of my kids. I cry every time I leave.

What life advice do you give others?

Life is not in sync, and we need to embrace that. Work could be great, but home life could be hard – or vice versa. Make the most of it all. Celebrate, laugh, cry — whenever you can at home, work, on the road, on vacation – everywhere. If I’ve had a bad day at work, sometimes I’ll make the kids dinner dressed up as a short-order waitress — complete with a really big wig. Just make the most of your time when you have it — whenever that may be. I'm not the best at it, but I try.

What is an art that you cannot live without?

Music. It changes a mood, lights up a room – it’s powerful and a huge part of my life. My dad loved music. I still have his old ukulele even though there are no strings on it – and his entire record collection, including the original White Album by the Beatles. My husband is in a band and our daughter’s named Lennon, after John. There’s a piano in the kids’ playroom. It’s totally out of tune, but it was free. David Bowie dance parties break out often before 7 a.m. at my house. He’s my 3-year-old’s favorite artist.

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

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