Full Name: Todd Baird
BE Words: Power / Play
Nicknames: Double D, TB
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Alma mater: Franklin and Marshall College
What do you do at KHJ?
My title is “senior vice president, strategy and planning.” I think of my role here as having three responsibilities. The first is the growth, development and productivity of the team. The second responsibility is for the strategic product; for me, the strategy has to uncover a meaningful insight to drive breakthrough creative. The third responsibility is advancing the relationship with the client as it relates to the delivery of value. When you get all three right, you grow the business.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
Well it’s interesting because I’m a soccer player. I wrote, many years ago, an essay about the connection between the sport and this business. In soccer, success requires the sharing of the ball. It’s one of the few sports where one player can’t really dominate. So, the quality of the way you share the ball, for me, always related to the quality that account managers or strategists share information with internal resources (creative, media, production, etc.) and the client. I feel like this business is the closest thing to team sports that there is, so I really love that. I also love that it’s different every day. The world keeps spinning, time keeps passing and competitors keep upping their game, so we have to constantly up the game for our clients. In another way, this role I have allows me to chase emerging curiosities, so it’s always stimulating, and I like that. The people, the work, the results! I feel super fortunate: I love what I do.
What do you like best about KHJ?
I love the “see and realize what’s possible” phrase, even though we don’t call it our mantra. That’s what, ultimately, drew me here, in an unconventional way. I also like that it’s new and different every day. It’s very easy to say ,“the people,” and I mean that! My clients are in the healthcare space, so it’s really gratifying to support businesses and organizations that do have a major impact on the world. It’s an exciting time to be in the Seaport—except when you’re commuting or trying to get lunch! It’s a vibrant part of Boston and it’s nice to see an old-world city develop like this.
How did you get to where you are now?
The long story is that the way I was raised really helped me in my career. I had a father who was in sales and marketing, and he worked on some major brands. And, as a result, I don’t think I owned a piece of clothing without a logo on it. And I don’t mean, Polo or Nike or Calvin Klein. I mean Smirnoff, Fruity Pebbles, Grey Poupon, A1 Steak Sauce. I get my work ethic and just a natural inclination for what I do from him. I had an empathetic mother, who was a giver. Her constant phrase growing up was “put yourself in somebody else’s shoes.” As a strategist, that’s what you do—you have to put yourself into the shoes of your audiences. I started as a copywriter, and then I realized that I could make more money faster by chasing account management positions … and hey, by the way, there’s a lot of writing, it combines strategy and creative so it’s a win-win. I kind of joke sometimes that the longer you perform that role, the more you become a strategist. You just start to understand the foundational elements of what makes for great strategy driving breakthrough creative that raises brand performance.
What do you think makes a good brand?
I like to say it’s the alignment of the “say … be … do.” You can’t be out there just talking; you have to be what you say and walk the talk. Obviously, something that has an inspired purpose makes for a better brand. Selling stuff and making money is not an inspired purpose; having an impact on people and the world is. Brands have to understand what drives their audiences’ behaviors toward their brand in order to drive the brand thinking. Changing thinking is one thing—changing behavior is quite another, and it’s much harder, but much more meaningful to affect this level of change.
How long have you played soccer?
I’ve played essentially since I was 11. So, it’s a lot of years … coming up on 44, I guess … Jeez! Yeah, so I still play, and I still run a team. I’ve had five ankle surgeries, and I blew out a knee, but the most significant injury was when I ruptured and detached the vitreous, which is the gelatinous part of the eye; now my vision has a lot of floaters that it didn’t use to have—and that’s from a soccer ball smashing into the side of my face. I’m still playing, though. I used to think it was a passion; now I’m wondering whether it’s an addiction.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
I think one of the first things was an astronaut (I do remember Armstrong walking on the moon), and I’ll also confess I had aspirations to do something on a political level. I probably wanted to be a baseball player at some point, too. I never thought I’d be doing this when I was a kid!
Do you have a favorite author?
I have to go with Shakespeare, which I realize is probably incredibly geeky, but the human themes that are within all of those plays and sonnets are just so rich. And I’m also wowed by the fact that Shakespeare’s messages still translate into our lives today—they truly stand the test of time. Other than that, David Foster Wallace, who I think was trying to teach us something amazing with his work. I was a huge Stephen King fan in my teenage and early twenties.
If you were a superhero, what would your power be?
It’s really tempting to want to fly. But I think to suit me in my profession, it would be great to understand the drivers for people’s motivations for their actions. So, I would love that ability—to divine what instantly moves people – would save me a ton of work and time. That would be a great superpower!
What’s your proudest moment at KHJ?
My proudest moment at KHJ occurred when we presented the creative platform for an important new sub-brand to the general manager of the division (our most senior client). We presented two options that were competent. When we presented our third approach, however, the client let out a primal and fairly operatic yawp. Her expression caught us all off guard since this leader has a long professional career and been part of big brand campaign work. She went on to say that this was the best work she’d ever seen.
We were pretty psyched, but this is only part of the story. The concept that generated the praise was actually killed not once but twice before by other client team members. We were firm believers in the power of the concept, however, and found ways to ameliorate their concerns – leading to a breakthrough creative platform that we expect will hit the market very soon. I was proud not only of the moment, but also of the way our team persevered in our belief in the approach.