I got to know Jodi Sweetbaum, president and partner of advertising agency Lloyd & Co, years back when she hired me for freelance branding work. I liked her immediately. Jodi is so under-the-radar cool, so nice and so real (two uncommon adjectives used to describe people in the advertising world). And if you’ve ever looked at a Gucci ad in the last ten years, or Bottega Veneta, Estee Lauder or say Pharell Williams or Rita Ora for Adidas—you’ve seen some of Jodi’s (and her partner Doug Lloyd’s) work. Meet TFI’s first Flair Woman.
Tell TFI readers what you do: The easiest answer is Lloyd and Co is an advertising agency. But we also do branding, strategy and innovation, packaging design—three-dimensional objects, store shop-in-shop designs—everything that the consumer interacts with. We also do nonprofit; whenever the Dali Lama comes to town we work with the Gere Foundation to promote his travels here and events. We do a broad range of things that are conceptual and strategic, but they’re all creatively driven.
I am the head of the company. I’m a partner with Doug and I handle the business side. It can be anything from interacting with a client the moment they contact us through all the strategic thinking and overseeing the management of the brand an its success. At the same time, I’m the mother hen. And not just of all the people in our office, but also of our clients, making sure they’re cared for. Not just that they have the right team assigned to them, but that we’re actually delivering on what they need. I’m the mom in every which way.
And you’re a mom out of the office too? I have four children.
How do you do it? I don’t know. I say I have one girl and a lot of noise—I have three boys. I had two, and then when we found out we were pregnant with the third that was fine. Five and half months into my pregnancy they said ‘oh guess what? They’re twins!’. I thought ‘what have I done?! I’ve tipped the scales’ but the truth is they solidified us as a family in a way I never imagined. And in terms of work, there was nothing a client or anyone could throw at me that was bigger than having twins. It was like ‘go ahead, bring it on!’
Three words that describe your company: Can constant motion be one word? And when I say constant motion I mean in two ways, one we’re always moving, moving, moving to constantly deliver, but also the world is constantly changing so we’re changing with the world, which is more relevant now than the first version. I’d like to saw that we’re nice. And engaged.
Three words that describe you: Empathetic, the mothering part of me. Problem solver and flexible.
How did you choose advertising? I didn’t start out to be in advertising, I started out to be in children’s programming. I went to school for child psychology and I wanted to make animated TV shows for young people. I got a job at MTV. I made it to doing what I am now, because my jobs were all creative ventures, and everything I did was in the creative world. And speaking back to three words that describe me, at the end of the day, I’m very right brain, left brain. I think that’s what makes me able to do what I do. I can look at things both ways; it enables me to work with creative people, and it enables me to work with business people.
What comes easiest for you in your job? I’d say that the actual development of the product, working with a team to get to that strategy is the easiest for me—the actual output.
What was the hardest part when you started Lloyd that you didn’t think about? I didn’t start Lloyd, I joined Doug a year into it, but even then when it was three or four of us, we were just going with it. Nobody told us anything. There was no hardest part. But I think categorically over the years the same hard part comes up which is, how big do we get? How much more do we take on?
Did you have any role models starting out? Not one person really, but many people and more of a philosophy. I’ve always admired people who are risk takers, who are unafraid but not reckless. And I think being nice goes a long way. For me that is super important.
Best career advice you’ve ever received? Hmmm. Maybe it’s the career advice I’ve given myself because no one has ever said this to me, but at the end of the day I need to be able to go home and look myself in the mirror. I’ve watched people behave different ways in meetings; the ones who speak kindly and speak the truth and are there to collaborate to get a better product or output. That’s why I ended up with Doug because I never say something I’m not proud of or okay with. I know I’m being boring, but at the end of the day, especially because I have a family, I want to go home and know I haven’t said anything I can’t live with.
On the other hand, I think my best jobs have been the ones where I’ve learned what not to do. I had a boss who was so horrible. Sometimes it’s someone’s managerial style or how a company is run, and you look it and think ‘oh, I’m never going to do that because look at all the downsides.’
What has been your biggest success? My family. I think also building a company where people keep coming back. We have had almost all of our clients for a long time. That’s a great win. We’re a service business, so we could just be a vendor, but when you work with someone for a long time, it means you’re a partner. That’s great.
What has been your biggest failure and what have you learned from it? The biggest failure we’ve had is not saying to a client, ‘you know, this isn’t working out and we should stop working together.’ It’s perfectly fine to say that and there are times when we should have.
What motivates you? I like being inspired. To do something that inspires me and takes me places, that’s what motivates me.
How hard do you work? Way, way, way too hard.
How do you stay focused? I don’t know. I’m the kind of person where it’s all in my head. I’m not a list maker. I’m a visual person. If I write down a note crooked on a page I know where to go back and look for the crooked part on the page. Everyone makes fun of my notebooks because there are scribbles everywhere, but that’s because I visualize it. Oddly in my own chaos I stay focused.
When it is an advantage to be a woman in your business? When is it not? Feminists might come after me, but I’m inherently nurturing and when you run a company (and in our business, there are a lot of women, a lot) I feel that it’s an advantage. It’s not to say that men can’t be nurturing, but I do feel that the ability to see people as people and not just as employees or clients is helpful. And in my particular field, where we specialize in luxury fashion, obviously having a great passion for the product, fashion, beauty, fragrance is helpful.
What is one thing missing in the advertising world or something you would like to change? I think as an agency the relationship between clients and agencies is getting less collaborative and more vendor-like, because the demands on clients and their jobs—that are tied to retail and sales–are becoming so much harder. It trickles down to how our relationship is structured. Plus I think it’s harder as the tools to communicate with the customer get more diversified—digital etc. Now, there are so many more players at each brand that finding a way to work together for stronger output is definitely something that needs to change.
Life goals: To be happy. Not to have to mentally own everything at once.
Daily goals: I try as hard as I can to connect with my family in the most simple ways. To make sure I walk in the house and say ‘Hi, how was your day today?’ To make human contact with people every day in a more meaningful way makes me feel better.
Daily rituals: I meditate every morning. Then I go to Toby’s Coffee and get an iced latte with an extra shot—every day, all year long. It’s like having ice cream for breakfast.
How do you unplug? I love to read. Great writing inspires me. I’ll read anything that strikes my fancy, I will read déclassé murder mysteries if they look like they will be good, or non-fiction. I like to read articles. I just reread What is the What by Dave Eggers. My son was reading it for school, and he kept asking me questions and I couldn’t remember so I reread it.
Hidden talents? I wrote illustrated novels for kids. I worked with an illustrator; it was super fun. I am really good with little kids. That would be my secret. I could have been a teacher.
Do you collect anything? I used to be a big collector, and now I’m in the opposite of collecting, I’m the uncollector.
Biggest splurge do you don’t regret: Besides my house on the North Fork, the landscaping at my house. I will say that I collect trees. I am a big tree person. The house I like, but I don’t stay for the house, I stay for the outside.
Daily reads/what do you follow. I go to the NYTimes every day. That’s a ritual. I do the crossword first then I read the paper. I can go online and hunt and gather for hours. There is no particular site I go to, but if I’m reading something on the New Yorker and then I see something else, I’ll head there. I can fall down that rabbit hole really quick.
Favorite charity: Donorschoose.org. It’s super important to me.
Coffee/tea. Coffee coffee coffee.
Morning or night. Morning for sure.
Heels/flats. I really want to say heels, but flats. It’s so sad. I feel good when I wear heels. I keep heels under my desk to wear them when I have to.
Pastels/Primaries. Definitely primary.
Monet/Mondrian. Mondrian. I hate being asked if I have a favorite of anything, because I like all different disciplines and genres. I like going to the Whitney. I also love Moma.
Cats/Dogs. My dog is my anecdote to the day. He’s a rescue and he’s the best.
To see Jodi’s Flair Five picks click here.