Six Things You Didn't Know About J. Walter Thompson NY's Adam Kerj

Or Should We Say Adam Johnson?

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Adam Kerj
Adam Kerj

J. Walter Thompson New York Chief Creative Office Adam Kerj joined the agency at the beginning of the year, taking the reins in the midtown office alongside recently elevated president Lynn Power. Mr. Kerj came to the WPP shop after nearly three years at Dentsu's digital creative agency 360i.

He was previously a founding partner and executive creative director at Saatchi Sweden and, before that, founding partner and executive creative director at TBWA Sweden. But what about that last name?

1. His last name? It's kind of made up. His grandfather, Karl Erik Johnson, was a writer and journalist. He began signing books and articles "Kerj" halfway through his career. "I was the first one born into the name Kerj," said Mr. Kerj. "No one knows how to pronounce it and people in Sweden are confused by it -- a lot of them wonder if it's Latvian." His father adopted the elder Johnson's pen name as his surname around age 30.

2. He was in the Swedish air force. Mr. Kerj spent what was previously a mandatory year of service in this branch of the military, but "It wasn't like 'Top Gun,'" he said. He wasn't flying fighter jets, but rather applying his lifelong love of dogs to his training and working with canines on base in the picturesque city of Luleå in northern Sweden. "All of these jets were taking off, but we were just patrolling all the time." He's a dog owner to this day -- a much more neighborhood-friendly dalmatian he takes on runs near his Westchester home.

3. He might need to put his kids on his payroll. His three teenagers keep him up to date on the Kardashians, "who's the current No. 1 annoying cupcake-making/make-up YouTube artist and, of course, the latest random memes," he said. "And every social platform there ever was before the industry hears about it."

4. "Mystery Science Theater 3000" is one of his favorites. Mr. Kerj stumbled upon the sci-fi comedy series when he first moved to the U.S. in the early '90s. He loved the look and feel of it, "the dialog, the complete insanity of what the characters are watching, it's in the same vein as 'Beavis and Butthead.'" He got hooked and watching it after work became his ritual.

5. He had a short-lived banking "career." Four days. "It may have been a week," he said. He tried his hand at banking and finance following his military service and hated it. "I realized this was the opposite of what I wanted to do." Fast-forward through college at the Berghs School of Communication and he landed his first job at Forsman Bodenfors in Gothenburg.

6. He ran the New York City marathon, twice, while living in Sweden. Having been athletic growing up -- playing soccer and hockey -- the transition into "gym-going career man and father" just didn't do it for him. "I started running," he said. "Not like Forrest Gump, but I needed motivation." While in Sweden, he researched the best running events in the world and ended up flying in for his first New York City marathon seven years ago and followed up with a second a couple of years later. The actual race wasn't the hard part, according to him -- "It's the training that's tough." Now that he's relocated to New York, completing a third marathon has become his new goal.

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