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Leading the charge of unicorns: Matt Eastwood, Worldwide Chief Creative Officer of J. Walter Thompson, on inclusion and diversity

In 2002, at the age of 35, Matt Eastwood was famously labeled “as one of the industry’s unicorns—a young proven talent capable of managing and motivating a large creative department” by Britain’s Campaign magazine.

Eastwood was a founding partner of M&C Saatchi in Australia. He then joined DDB Australia as National Creative Director and vice chairman. He moved to DDB New York as Chief Creative Officer in 2010. Eastwood was recognized as the 5th most-awarded Chief Creative Officer worldwide by the AdAge Awards Report in 2013. Under Eastwood’s leadership, J. Walter Thompson won 80 Lions at the Cannes Creative Festival—the most ever won in the agency’s 150-year long history.

Eastwood is best known for iconic, innovative, and unforgettable campaigns that showcase not only his creativity but also his wit and his humanity. His ‘Yeah, that Kind of Rich’ for the New York Lottery Powerball featured luxury fantasies and super rich problems like not knowing which hit song to ask pop music icon Cyndi Lauper to sing live at one’s own living room or the trouble of finding the right car for the keys you have among a fleet of luxury sports cars at your own private underground parking lot. His ‘Hashtag Killer’ campaign for Water is Life turned first world problems on their heads by having underprivileged people of Haiti recite humblebrag tweets from wealthy nations such as forgetting their maid’s last name and non-heated leather seats in a first ever attempt to end a hashtag instead of promote it, an innovative campaign that has ben labeled meme-jacking and reverse-trending.


Now the Worldwide Chief Creative Officer of J. Walter Thompson, a position he has held since 2014 that was vacant since 2009, Eastwood has been grooming an entire stable of unicorns and leading a charge to bring a culture of diversity and inclusion to the industry and to the public.

After more than two years of leading the charge, he has much to show. In an exclusive interview with adobo magazine, he notes, “We reaped the reward for our hard work in last year’s awards circuit. We had our best year ever in Cannes with 80 Lions; JWT Amsterdam was Cannes’s Innovation Agency of the Year; JWT LATAM earned the premier title of Latin American Network of the Year, and we also had major recognition across other global shows including D&AD, Clios, GoaFest, Spikes,” adding, “More recently, we earned four Grand Prix at Dubai Lynx and were named The Gunn Report’s ‘Biggest Mover,’ jumping in ranking from 14th in 2015 to 7th in 2016.”

Eastwood emphasizes, “It’s important to note that change in an agency as large as JWT, is never one person’s job. In order to move the dial on anything, everyone needs to be moving towards a shared goal. That’s also the case for creative work. When I took on this role in 2014, I wanted to set creative targets and establish a sense that our creative output is a collective effort, not just the responsibility of the creatives. The regional creative leads have really been instrumental in helping local offices get in line with these goals and raise their creative bar.”

He credits many mentors for his success. “I’ve been blessed throughout my career to have had some of the best mentors in the business – Ted Horton, Bob Isherwood, Tom McFarlane, Maurice Saatchi, Bob Scarpelli, Keith Reinhard; to name a few. Each of them made me a better creative and, eventually, a better leader. My first mentor, and first boss, Gordon Dawson, helped me understand what it takes to be a proper writer. In my first week on the job he asked me if I’d read Catch 22, Slaughterhouse Five, Brave New World, and about a dozen other novels. Of course, I’d read almost none of them. So he bought me a huge stack of paperbacks and told me to start reading. There’s no doubt that he made me better.”

“Keith Reinhard, chairman emeritus at DDB and lifelong mentor, once said of my role as a Chief Creative Officer, ‘Your job is not to create great advertising. It’s to cause it.’ That’s become a mantra for me,” Eastwood confides.

Rainbow Bridge

That award-winning collective effort is the result of a culture of diversity and inclusion fostered within J. Walter Thompson. Eastwood attests to the agency’s various programs:

“We have a number of programs that are designed to nurture talent from diverse academic and professional backgrounds as well as talent that is underrepresented in the industry. I’ve long believed that creatives are underserved in terms of training. So, we’ve created a range of programs designed to uncover and nurture creative talent. Our Jump/Start program is geared toward finding and nurturing the next generation of creative minds. Created around the belief that an idea can come from anywhere and anyone, Jump/Start welcomes applicants from a variety of professional and academic backgrounds and offers them a paid immersive three-month internship.”

“We also have our Helen Lansdowne Resor Scholarship, a global program launched by J. Walter Thompson and the 4A’s in 2014. It was designed to confront the disproportionately low presence of female creative leadership in the advertising industry, offering a select group of young aspiring female creatives the support they need to change the tides. Each winner receives an individual scholarship up to $10,000, a paid summer internship with a J. Walter Thompson office in her respective region, a J. Walter Thompson mentor, and a ‘first look’ placement consideration upon graduation.”

“A similar opportunity, JWT Babaelang, will be launching in our office in Manila and will give female students the opportunity to gain experience and mentorship across like Account Management, Finance/Admin, Creatives, Strategic Planning, and Print Production.”

“In addition to our diverse internship and mentorship programs and creating work that aims to resolve issues of inequality, we’ve begun piloting multiple global diversity initiatives, including Blind Recruitment and Unconscious Bias training. We really believe that having a diverse and inclusive workspace is not just the right thing to do; it also improves the quality of the work we produce and broadens the range of perspectives informing that work.”

Colored Palette

J. Walter Thompson’s culture of diversity extends to its message and its work. Eastwood enumerates the latest initiatives that espoused gender and racial inclusion:

“This year alone, we’ve created some great pieces that promote equality and inclusivity. Our team in Melbourne created a campaign for the Melbourne Queer Film Festival (MQFF) that used voice data from hate speech and turned it into animation. It is quite a powerful example of reclaiming divisive, derogatory language and transforming it into something that empowers and unites”

“JWT India and Haiyya, an NGO based in New Delhi, also recently teamed up for #MyDaughterWill, a social awakening effort that aims to give daughters rights to perform a parent’s last rites, a privilege that Hindu sons fully enjoy.”

“Late last year, our New York office became the first-ever creative agency partner for Black Lives Matter. Since then, they’ve released two projects together. The first,, was designed to support Black-owned businesses and the more recent piece, ‘Mark Yourself Unsafe,’ featured an app that allows Black social media users to mark themselves ‘unsafe’ for being Black in America.”


These values of inclusivity that bolster the agency’s creativity reflect Eastwood’s own life lessons.

He confides, “I’ve worked with a lot of incredible women over the years. And each of them, in some way, has helped me understand better how to shape creativity in terms of gender. But, in particular, when I was 26 I sat in an adjacent office to a creative director named Jane Caro at Saatchi’s in Sydney. She has a brilliant creative mind and is a powerful voice for women. She was so gracious and really spent the time to help me understand creative work from a female perspective.”

Now, as the Worldwide Chief Creative Officer of J. Walter Thompson, Matt Eastwood leads a charge of unicorns much like him.

He declares, “The world is always changing and consumers change with it. Our job as agencies, regardless of the political and social climate, is to keep the consumer at the heart of the messages we’re creating. If we keep humanity at the center of our creative work and commit to solving human challenges, inspiring people, moving them to feel something and most importantly, getting them to remember the brands we create for, then we will always be on the cutting edge of creativity and innovation. That’s the philosophy that’s leading us forward.”

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