AdFest Grand Jury President Joyce King Thomas: People are drawing the line


Joyce King Thomas.jpgJoyce King Thomas is at AdFest this week as the festival’s Grand Jury President.


As Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of McCann XBC, she is best known as co-creator of MasterCard’s “Priceless” campaign (which has just celebrated its 20th anniversary) and has helped create noteworthy work for Nikon, Staples, Verizon, Marriott Hotels, and the Ad Council.


She was also part of the team behind “Fearless Girl” for State Street Global Advisors.


CB Asia caught up with Joyce – this year’s Grand Jury President – as judging began at AdFest 2018.


Your “Priceless” Campaign had a massive global impact. Were there any markets you weren’t able to reach — or places where the idea didn’t catch on at all?

 Some markets took a little bit longer for it to work, but some markets were very easy. In Brazil, for example, it became popular very quickly: “No tiene precio.” One of the interesting challenges was Japan, where there was absolutely no Japanese word that translated for “priceless”.

Was there a word for expensive?

I don’t know, but there wasn’t even a series of words for “priceless.” The word doesn’t mean ‘cheap’ — it means ‘very high value’, but not a monetary value. They decided to run the ad in Japanese except for the word “priceless”, which they left in English. Not many Japanese people spoke English back then but, surprisingly, it became a very popular word in Japan.


I’ve read that you’re involved with the Nurse Family Partnership. What attracted you to this organization?

They send nurses to homes of at-risk moms: people who live in poverty or single mothers, in many cases. The nurses begin working with the mothers when they’re three months pregnant and will continue with them until their child is two years old. What’s most interesting to me is that it’s an organization that uses analytics to prove their results. The kids are more likely to succeed in school; the moms are more likely to go back to work. It has very good results and I’m interested in things like that: things with result.


In a recent interview, you said you took great inspiration from both your mother and Muhammad Ali. Why Ali?

I’m not really a boxing fan, but he was way beyond a boxer. You can find so many inspirational things he said: “Don’t count the days, make the days count”, “A man without imagination has no wings”. He took moral stands, like refusing to go to the Vietnam war. I think that was great.


As a female leader in advertising, what do you think the future of the “#MeToo” movement will be?

There’s really [now] a zero tolerance for sexual harassment and sexual discrimination and, until it becomes the norm, you’re going to keep hearing about it. Perhaps another year of outing people who’ve crossed the line. I think it’ll be good for the business in the long term — even though it may be a painful process.


I think that people are drawing a line. Especially the younger generation, it’s not just women — young people, in general. One of my clients was behind the “Fearless Girl” statue. I’ll talk about it a bit on Saturday, but I think that idea was at the right place at the right time. I think that project built on the momentum and added to the momentum. It’s a phenomenal project and it’s made a major impact in the US.


* Joyce is presenting this Saturday 24th March, 4:45pm. Her session is called, ‘How a 30,000 year old medium became the most transformative idea of 2017’