Jay Thomas, Account Director for Equator Design, joins the 2020 edition of Reel Chicago Black List, an annual celebration of African-American creativity published during Black History Month.
The Reel Chicago Black List includes ‘The Chi’ cast member LaDonna Tittle, house music pioneer Vince Lawrence, and filmmaker Rhyan LaMarr. To view the archives, click here.
JeWayne “Jay” Thomas is a marketing executive whose experience includes leadership with some of the most visible brands and agencies in the country.
Thomas’s current professional responsibilities as Account Director for Equator Design include overseeing the packaging design for more than 50 of the private brands carried by national grocery chain ALDI.
Among the positions he held prior to arriving at Equator are VP/Account Director at Burrell Communications and Global Marketing Manager at Infiniti, where he worked with Armando Hernandez and Tony Nieves to develop the first Infiniti TV campaign targeted to Hispanic consumers.
All told, Thomas’ account experience spans the QSR, automotive, CPG, retail, and spirits industries. With a proven history of developing and implementing omni-channel marketing strategies, he is a catalyst for ideas that stretch conventional boundaries, improve brand experiences and build lifetime consumer value.
Thomas earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Central Michigan University.
Meet Jay Thomas
What did you originally want to be when you grow up?
My plan early on was to be a newspaper reporter. From the beginning, even though I did well in math and science, I knew writing was my calling. Being an only child, made me a bit of an introvert. Writing was my way to connect to a world outside my own.
How did you get into the advertising and design industries?
Like many, I fell into advertising and marketing almost by accident. I studied Public Relations in college but was quickly recruited into advertising by one of my mentors after graduation. Early on, I never knew there was an opportunity to be in advertising. I never saw anyone like me in the industry when I was making decisions about what to do with my life. Of course, those people were there. I just didn’t have the exposure.
Who were your mentors?
I’ve been blessed to have several people support and guide me during my career. Probably the most impactful person is Eric Roberts. He recruited me to work for Arnold Communications 3 months out of college. That was my first advertising job and set the stage for everything else that followed in my career. Also, folks like Vicky Free have been helped tremendously as I’ve navigated my career.
What is your greatest achievement?
Of all the projects I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in over my 20-plus-year career, I am most proud of the work I did on the client side working for Infiniti. In partnership with MARCA Miami and agency partners Armando Hernandez and Tony Nieves, we were able to develop the first Infiniti TV campaign targeted to Hispanic consumers. This was a huge leap forward and helped redefine how Hispanic consumers perceived and interacted with the brand.
What is your greatest disappointment?
My biggest regret is not having made more time to focus on creative writing over the years.
What are your pet peeves?
My biggest pet peeve is when people expect to excel without putting in the work. In order to be successful and grow in your career you have to be passionate about what you do and be willing to work hard to achieve your goals. Nothing replaces hard work.
What are your predictions for the advertising/design industries over the next decade?
The future of Advertising will be about taking advantage of personalized connections to consumers. The traditional consumer journey is being upended by technology. Those who expect to be successful in the future will need to capitalize on this trend to grow trust and transparency on a personal level to motivate consumers. Brands that fail to provide relevant content driven by a deep understanding of consumer identity will be left behind.
Name a job you had that would surprise people.
One summer in college I worked as a “Playleader”. My job was literally to sit in the park all day and play with whatever kids might happen to come by. That was a very long summer.
What Marvel or DC superhero do you get to play?
Blade. The way Wesley Snipes brought him to life on film opened the door for all the Luke Cages, Black Panthers and Black Lightnings of today.
What do you wish you had more time to do?
Travel. Nothing has been more eye-opening for me than travelling the world and seeing how other cultures live. It’s easy to get caught up in our everyday routines – thinking what we do is so important. Travelling can be humbling and puts the world in better context. I’ve had the opportunity to see some of the most beautiful places in the world and want to continue my journeys.
What drives you to be extraordinary at what you do?
Pride, passion and personal integrity. I want anything I put my name on to truly represent who I am.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you share with your younger self?
Listen more, invest in yourself and follow your instincts.