Vice President of Group Accounts
Get to know Brad Stephenson, VP of Group Accounts and Creative Center of Excellence Lead
From Dungeons and Dragons to creative storytelling, Brad provides insight into how stories shape who we are and the work we do at Level Agency.
Rather listen than read? This article is adapted from a podcast interview, available here:
What’s important to you?
I am a stand up and improv comedian, so I still perform regularly. I produce a monthly show with Pittsburgh’s only nonprofit comedy theater-Arcade Comedy Theater. It’s a Dungeons and Dragons themed show and it’s a podcast as well called Knights of the Arcade. During the pandemic, we raised more than $10,000 for the theater through virtual shows. I think laughter is a really great gift that you can provide people.
Switching from comedy to business – your title, VP of Group Accounts is a serious title. Can you tell us more about the role and how comedy helps you do that job better?
We do work at an agency, and it is serious. However, we have a lot of fun collaborating. My comedy background is in improvisation which is an incredibly important skill when you’re working with clients and devising different strategies and different tactics to solve problems. One of the key strengths of working with an agency like Level is that you have you have this set of amazingly intelligent collaborators that are working together to understand the problem explicitly. And then, it’s about coming up with creative ways to address the problem.
The idea of play, collaboration, and curiosity is important, and that’s the essence of theater and comedy. Those ideas help me to excel in my role. We want to have fun. We want to bring levity to things like it’s a very serious business to make sure that we are spending Our clients’ dollars as responsibly as possible, but at the same time without humor without fun. Without that collaborative spirit, you’re not going to solve problems in new ways.
You’ve worked in many disciplines at Level, some call you a Renaissance man. Is it the Level norm to work in a variety of positions?
That’s kind of the nature of the agency environment, right? It’s that you have a lot of journey-type people who have done a lot of different things. My background is in theater is in journalism. I worked for a newspaper in in New Jersey for a period of time. I mentioned comedy earlier and I actually did stand up in New York for three years.
At its heart, marketing is about storytelling and messaging and resonating with an audience. I think it lends itself well to people who have been in the performance space or any of the creative spaces.
As part of your new role, you oversee the cross functional teams. Why cross functional teams and what are the benefits?
When I started with the agency we had functional teams in media, account services, creative, and data. And it was a strong agency. But what we realized was if we were able to take these teams and create cross functional teams of dedicated people by vertical, they could improve their learnings about specific clients. The longer you’re working directly with a specific set of clients, the more you know about them, the deeper you know their audience, and you can create shared learnings around a specific vertical. So as a team, you become much stronger at facing the challenges that the marketplace presents related specifically to that vertical, like B2B or EDU or Ecommerce, which is awesome.
How do cross functional teams improve work for clients?
I think what it does is it deepens empathy for people who are working on these cross-functional teams. Empathy for the client and empathy for our clients’ customers because they spend more time working directly with the clients than they ever would have in a functional model. In a functional team, a developer might rarely meet the client. In this new cross functional world, they absolutely have opportunities to meet with talk with, learn about customers, learn about clients and their challenges. And so, it is about empathy.
I think a lot of what we do is about empathy. It is empathy for our clients and their business challenges. And then it is about the empathy for the customer.