20 Agency Folks Describe Their Alternative-Career Fantasies

From Professional Wrestler to Weatherman to Broadway Dancer, Adland is Ambitious

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Working in advertising, media and PR isn't sunshine and roses every day. It's hard work -- and that's a large part of what prominent players in the business thrive on.

But being creative and outgoing personalities means that they've got broad interests. They're the kind of folks you'd want at a dinner party, who know how to tell a good story. And, they know how to dream. We asked them to dream a little with us, and tell us about their alternative-career fantasies.

Sunny outlook: BBDO New York President-CEO John Osborn tries being a weatherman.
Sunny outlook: BBDO New York President-CEO John Osborn tries being a weatherman.

On those days that are rough, they imagine themselves doing all manner of different jobs, from being on tour with Radiohead to being a sports announcer or a Broadway dancer or a wrestler or even a shaman.

1. Marla Kaplowitz, CEO, WPP's MEC: If I wasn't in media, I would likely be standing in a crowded courtroom arguing my case in front of a judge and jury as a criminal attorney. I read lots of mysteries as a kid and enjoyed figuring out the whodunit. Those who know me can attest that I love a good, logical argument.

2. John Osborn, president-CEO BBDO, New York: I'd be a weatherman because I grew up in New England with frequent snowstorms and so I was always playing weatherman as a kid. But now, ironically, its sunny for me every day in the land of Oz.

3. Jeff Benjamin, chief creative officer, JWT North America: Professional wrestler. My WWE name would be the Wacky Paki. My signature move? The Karachi Crunch.

4. Lisa Donohue, CEO, Publicis Groupe's Starcom: I would be a sports announcer for ESPN. I am a certified sports junkie and would love living and covering sports all day long. While I would cover all sports -- I would have a slight focus in the Boston based teams. Maybe Ed Erhardt has a job for me!

5. Kelly Cutrone, owner of fashion PR firm People's Revolution: I would be a yogi in India and devote myself to personal transformation. It's about renouncing -- letting go of attachments to material things, focusing on meditation, learning the balance between mind,body and spirit and dedicating life to human rights. I would become a human rights worker on behalf of all women globally.

6. Daryl Lee, global CEO, Interpublic Group of Cos' UM: I would want to write epic novels of social change - Charles Dickens- or Victor Hugo-type stories of how people of all types embrace and navigate times of monumental shifts. As a South African, I am a shameless idealist. I truly believe that the arc of history always, ultimately, bends towards justice.

7. Chris Adams, creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi LA: The guy that goes on tour with Radiohead and keeps their instruments just slightly out of tune.

8. Greg Stern, CEO Butler Shine Stern & Partners: No question. Foreign correspondent. I always did journalism and always traveled abroad. I guess the other option would be an NPR host or correspondent. I used to do a lot of radio stuff.

9. Ahmad Islam, co-founder and managing partner of Commonground: To be a super-talented musician/singer. I've attended some amazing concerts over the years and to see the power that an artist can have over a crowd and the emotional connection they can create with either their voice or an instrument is amazing. Being a lifelong below-average shower singer means that will probably never happen, but with the emergence of the under-talented, over-exposed, overnight internet sensations in popular music, there is hope if the over 40 emerging artist movement really takes off....ummm...probably not.

10. Jason Peterson, chief creative officer at Havas Worldwide Chicago: Although I actually love being in advertising, if I did anything else I would be a bike messenger. I love the idea of having a career where I could mix working out with getting paid.

11. Carlo Cavallone, executive creative director at 72andSunny Amsterdam: If I weren't in advertising, I would probably be a lawyer or a comic book writer (one of the two). These jobs sort of run in family, and when I was younger I seriously considered both. They may seem vastly different, but both professions can be linked to the work I do today. At first glance comic book writing is closer, but if you think about it, law and advertising share important similarities. A lawyer is also a creative problem-solver whose success depends on their ability to persuade.

12. Shirley Au, chief operating officer at Huge: I would definitely open my business. Every single person in my family has opened their own business, and I worked in a family business growing up. My parents are from Hong Kong and had a business selling wicker furniture in the United States. I'm really into food, so I'd love to do something around food. It's a tough environment but I'd love to develop a business model there. Wine maybe?

13. Michael Ventura, Founder & CEO, Sub Rosa: For the past several years, I have explored many forms of energetic healing, meditation, tribal rituals, naturopathy and metaphysics. So, I guess if I wasn't in advertising, based on my current interests, I'd be a shaman. And given the amount of wear and tear this industry puts on all of us, I don't anticipate that I'd have a shortage of patients.

14. Michelle Fabrizi, CEO at Marc USA: Broadway Dancer I studied dance from the age of 4 till 24 and in my teens thought I wanted to be a dancer on Broadway. Going to the theater in NY in my youth just fed this passion. My first dance teacher taught Gene Kelley and my teacher in my 20s danced for Bob Fosse. Needless to say, I caught the bug and can see myself dancing when I hear music.

15. Donald Chestnut, chief experience officer at SapientNitro: I didn't work in Advertising I would probably be pursuing work as theatre director (one of the things I studied in undergrad). Live theatre is one of the reasons I love living in NY, and traveling to places like London, Chicago, and LA. And to be honest, the advertising pitch has a lot in common with live theatre: casting, storytelling, drama, and presentation.

16. John Coleman, CEO-founder at Via: With my engineering background and belief in the creative process, I would have loved to try to become an architect. I have had a chance to work with brilliant architects renovating and expanding our offices, especially our current home in the Baxter Library, and each time it has been an adventurous and deeply satisfying experience. When successful, architects can create space and schemes for interaction that inspire people and help them achieve more from their life. The great ones are almost spiritual about their process. They help define the backdrops to each generation's plays. One of the most moving documentaries I have ever seen was My Architect, about the legendary Louis Kahn. Yes, the guy was kind of a prick, but the buildings he created blow my mind. To just carry the pencils for someone like that would make me happy.

17. Carolyn Hadlock, principal and ECD at Young & Laramore: I'd be a Marine Biologist. Which is probably pretty weird for a land locked midwestern girl. I guess I've always been attracted to the unknown. I got certified for diving in my 20's because I wanted an adventure that others were too afraid to experience. The first time I dove and saw the flick of a blacktip at depth and an eagle ray flying overhead, I was bitten.

18. Don Baer, CEO, WPP's Burson-Marsteller: Since I have already been a lawyer, journalist, White House aide and TV exec, there are not that many things left to do. Two I could imagine are to be a movie director or to help run a media company, especially one navigating the new digital world.

19. Marian Salzman, CEO, HavasPR: I would love to have an institute for global trend-spotting on a college campus. Or maybe I would be a headhunter since nothing is more invigorating than making the unexpected match -- the one that was obvious to me alone. I really like selling, so if those two careers are a wash I would be happy selling luxury homes in the Southwest (chalk that up to countless hours spent watching HGTV).

20. James Green, CEO, Magnetic: If I were not in advertising, I'd likely be running some other start-up. I love thinking of new ideas, challenging the status quo, growing organizations and seeing them flourish. But if for some reason I was unable to secure an entrepreneurial job -- I would probably choose to be a sailor. In fact, I have already been one -- albeit for a short period of time. A few years ago, I decided to sell every item I own -- I should actually say we decided -- because I'm married with two kids. So if it didn't fit in a 5 feet x 5 feet storage facility, it was sold or discarded. We then bought a boat and went sailing for a year. Lessons learned? No matter how insane, if you really want to do something, you really really should do it. And if rules, schedules or family suggest otherwise, you need to break the rules and the schedules and persuade the family of the virtue of following your dreams. If you come back, you'll be better for it.

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