Leaving a leading legacy: Beyond the Brief featuring Keni Thacker, JWT NY

JWT New York’s senior event technology specialist, Keni Thacker

Keni Thacker, JWT New York’s senior event technology specialist, would most likely describe himself to you as an “ambitious outsider”.

In his role, Thacker is behind the scenes ensuring everything his agency presents internally (and externally) is flawless. He was one of the co-founders behind Differenter, JWT’s first D&I initiative, and his non-traditional approach to tackling diversity has included immersive agency tours with local CUNY colleges, documentaries focused on the city’s Latino community (Perfiles), bimonthly interviews with local artists and influencers (24/7 Differenter) and JWT’s annual “Innovators of Change” gala. In JWT’s 2016 iteration, he received one of these well-deserved honors.

He’s been a solid, steady force in New York City’s increasingly diverse advertising scene, namely with the T.O.R.C.H. (Together Our Resources Can Help) program, which has transformed the lives of underserved high schoolers who otherwise wouldn’t have proper exposure to career paths in communications and the arts. This, along with his presence as a perennial MAIP mentor/coach, a volunteer for organizations such as ADCOLOR, has made Thacker a boss in and out of JWT’s four walls.

When Thacker isn’t working — or working out; the gym is one of his constants — he’s “working”: as a doting husband, father to a daughter that he loves madly, and as an older brother figure to some of the industry’s rising stars. Team Thacker, he calls them. All this while being a prolific content creator and founder of the “Young Commodores Program”. He'll talk more about that, and everything that lets him live beyond the brief.

What was your proudest career moment?

I've had a lot of proud moments in my career. All the latest mountains that I’ve climbed I’ve considered my proudest, while I’m always climbing another one. Right now, I'm extremely proud of my Young Commodores program, advertising's first college/high school mash-up. It’s an immersive business advertising experience and will also be the first time a program of its kind will be offered as college credit.

Who is your hero and why?

My mother is my biggest hero. From a young age she said we were placed on this earth to help people and create opportunities for others.

What do you believe your legacy in advertising is/will be? Why is that?

I pray that the legacy I leave behind in this business is as a relentless a leader in the D&I space, who worked everyday to the level the industry’s playing field — and did it my way.

What’s a virtue that you live by?

“I’m a leader and a loaner. Either way I’m a boss, because followers never leave their mark.”

How do you practice self-care?

My self-care comes from a religious five-to-six day workout regime. It's the only time I can totally zone out and be my realm of reality. [It's just] me and the weights.

If your life and career were a biopic, who’d narrate it? Who’d be on the soundtrack?

I'd love if my biopic would narrated by my daughter, Issy Onassis, because she knows me best. The soundtrack would scored by Pharrell Williams, Dr. Dre and Devante Swing (from Jodeci). As far as who would be on soundtrack, I'd to say Biggie, Jay-Z, Anderson .Paak, Andre 3000 and The Internet.

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.

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.