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The Ad Club of New York Advertising People on the Move

Ad Club of New York's new board chair Lee Nadler on the future of the club, inhousing and data


By Kyle O'Brien, Creative Works Editor

July 31, 2019 | 6 min read

Lee Nadler is a prime example of what it means to use the resources of an advertising club to move a career forward. So, it makes sense that The Advertising Club of New York has tapped Nadler, one of its longtime members and supporters, as its latest board chair.

Nadler, head of marketing consultancy Sherpa Marketing, takes over from Mari Kim Novak and starts his tenure today (31 July).

Nadler started his association with the Ad Club more than 25 years ago when he joined as a Young Pro, a foundation that works for a diverse and inclusive community, with a membership for those professionals under 30. Throughout his career, he has continued to use the Ad Club as a base for his professional endeavors. His career path has taken him across the advertising and marketing ecosystem, with experiences ranging from agency to media and ad tech to consultancy and client brand.

As board chair, Nadler will lead the board of directors to set and activate against both long and short term goals for the club. His goal for his tenure is to raise the profile of the Ad Club and to educate, empower and celebrate its nearly 5,000 members and the industry at large.

“One of the great things about the Ad Club is that it represents all constituencies across the industry, and I, for one, have been a part of organizations that represent each of those constituencies,” Nadler told The Drum, noting that he worked with KBS and Digital Pulp on the agency side, was the first head of marketing at DoubleClick, recently worked on the brand side with Mini Cooper, and his revamped consultancy Sherpa Marketing.

The 'Sherpa' mindset, which came from Nadler’s time spent with actual Sherpas in Nepal – those intrepid guides who overcome incredible obstacles to reach the highest summits – was one of the reasons the Ad Club looked to Nadler to be the new board chair, along with his longtime connection to the club.

“He has always had a connection to the organization throughout the years, which has been amazing. I think he was really a natural choice,” said Gina Grillo, president and chief executive at the Ad Club, who came through the club as a Young Pro at the same time as Nadler. “Somebody that has that much connection and engagement with the organization, it’s kind of a no brainer not to one day see him as the leadership of the board. We’re so excited because for us it’s kind of like a full circle moment.”

The Advertising Club of New York, said Grillo, has a 123-year history and is the oldest trade club of its type in the US. Some of the biggest names in advertising, media and brands have been members, including William Paley and Phil Dusenberry. Nadler appreciates the heritage of the organization as well as the lasting connections that can be made through the organization.

“I do think as people move throughout their careers, more and more people are looking to continuously learn and evolve their career and not get left behind. I’m most excited about the Ad Club being that continuous thread for people throughout their career, like it has been for me…I think this is a very powerful way, not only for individuals…but also for companies across the board who aren’t able to invest as much anymore in training and education. I want to make sure that the Ad Club is seen as that resource to move the industry forward, move individuals forward and also celebrate some of the successes,” said Nadler.

“His story alone will hopefully motivate other people to not only think about the club but engage in a more significant way. He’s used the club as the foundation point – [meeting key people who would help forward his career at the club]. If you think about the club as an anchor for your career it’s really going to make a difference,” added Grillo, noting the club’s many programs, like Young Pros, a scholarship fund and the Andy Awards, which is the first awards show of the season.

Keeping an eye on industry changes

Nadler has seen plenty of changes over the decades in marketing and advertising, including the tools and techniques used to move the needle. He sees change as a constant and wants the Ad Club to keep up and be a resource for people in the industry.

“The biggest change is the level of sophistication that we have around data and also the immediacy that we have around what’s performing, what’s not performing, how shall we optimize, has changed significantly. I think used correctly, that’s an extremely positive benefit and makes marketers, agencies and media companies smarter, and provides benefits to customers so the right messages are delivered to them. However, I think it’s also overwhelming for people on all sides of the industry and can become a stalemate if not embraced with the right resources and guidance,” he said.

Another interesting trend he sees is that of in-house agencies, though he believes those work best when combined with working with other outside agencies.

“I do think that there are some really interesting models now being set up – how brands can go to market most effectively with a combination of resources both in-house and out-of-house. I think what this leads into, it’s requiring new skillsets for all different constituencies, including people inside the brands,” he said.

A positive trend Nadler sees is the business models around direct-to-consumer brands. “In some ways this does allow fast access to capital, to markets, to consumers to kind of test, learn and iterate very quickly. And also not be beholden to legacy models that stopped companies from being able to go to market.”

He notes that The Ad Club is well suited through its education and programs to help make the most out of all these different changes in the industry.

“I don’t think there’s anybody that cares more,” Grillo said of Nadler. “His leadership style I appreciate because he’s a listener. He is very thoughtful. He’s somebody who appreciates collaboration. Those two things are wonderful to lead the board because if you’re always willing to hear people’s perspectives, and to collaborate to come up with the best way forward, it’s going to have a positive effect on the board and how they participate.”

The Drum will be profiling the Ad Club's People of the Year honorees leading up to the event on September 5.

The Ad Club of New York Advertising People on the Move

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