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Jillian Ezra, CEO, Ezra Productions

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, October 31, 2018

How did you get started in advertising? What's been your career road map?
I actually got started by playing around with iMovie on the weekends to keep myself from losing my mind while I was working 60- to 80-hour weeks in finance in New York. I realized that there was tremendous storytelling power in marrying visuals with music, and creating videos made me come alive. This was in 2011, right around the time branded content was emerging (anyone remember Casey Neistat’s “Make it Count”?) and I couldn’t get enough of it. I wanted a piece of it. It was also around the time the Canon 5D and Final Cut X came out, so I had the tools to pursue this new hobby without significant investment.

I took my business, marketing and PR background from my time in finance and luxury goods and started Ezra Productions shorty after that. I started making Day-in-the-life videos and Family Legacy videos for families, and somehow I was able to convince some small businesses to let me make videos for them. The process was so thoroughly enjoyable and I felt like I was really contributing to the businesses, so I kept working and learning and getting bigger clients.

Ezra Productions has grown into a boutique video production agency with offices in Los Angeles and New York and a roster of highly talented and diverse creatives who help us service clients like Lowes, JCPenney, La Perla, Umami Burger, and The Agency.

What has been an important, perhaps the most important, lesson you’ve learned in your career so far?
The most important lesson I've learned is that I’ll never have everything “figured out.” Nobody does. Life will unfold as it does and the more I focus on pursuing happiness, riding the waves, and making the world a better place rather than focusing on all of the “should,” the better life will be.

What keeps you motivated? Do you have a personal motto?
I try to remind myself how lucky I am to tell stories for a living. I used to be a cog in a corporate wheel making rich people and companies richer. Now, I have the ability to really make a difference in people’s lives and help impact- and purpose-driven companies grow. I have to constantly re-visit my bigger vision, which is to tell stories that matter while improving businesses and the world, and to help women, minorities, and young people thrive in the production industry. Another thing that truly motivates me is discovering new creatives. Looking at great creative work, whether it is cinematography or graphic design, makes me come alive.

What excites you most about this industry?
Technology is evolving so quickly and becoming so inexpensive, and this is really lowering the barriers to entry and democratizing the creative field. If it weren’t for the inventions of the Canon 5D, iMovie, and YouTube, I would still be working in finance. I’m really excited to see the influx of talent, especially previously marginalized talent, and how they use new technology and their unique experiences to tell stories, reach new audiences, and change the world.

Photos: Don Lupo Photography

Where is advertising heading? What do the next five years look like?
I think advertisers will be able to map our preferences and personalities so well that individualized content will be even more hyper-targeted to carefully segmented audiences. OTT platforms will continue to outperform broadcast as more people households cut their cords. Smart brands have started to lead with purpose and connect with their core customers authentically, and I think more brands will follow that lead. I can’t wait to see the measurable positive impact brands make on the world over the next few years.

What advice do you have for emerging professionals who are beginning their careers, particularly women?
Women: seek support from other women. We will be your champions.

What’s been one of your favorite ThinkLA memories?

One of my favorite moments was during the Math for Agencies workshop hosted by Bill Rosenthal. He asked the audience the most important word you can use when negotiating pricing with clients. The answer was “No.” It’s that simple!

Any closing thoughts for the ThinkLA community?
I’m so grateful to have found a community of likeminded people who are so kind and willing to help one another. If you’re reading this and I can do anything to help you, please drop me a line.


Jillian Ezra is CEO of Ezra Productions.

Tags:  #EzraProductions  #JillianEzra  #Profile  #thinkMembers  Ad Club  She Suite  Women in Advertising 

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ELC LIVE!: Path To The She Suite Recap

Posted By Don Lupo, Monday, October 29, 2018

Written by Jessica McEwan, Copywriter at RPA

Photos: Linda Schwab

It was already dark outside when I arrived at ELC’s “Path to the She Suite” event, but inside Zambezi it was warm and bright. Women (and a few men) mingled together, chatting and taking pictures with a lightbox that said, “Welcome, Lady Bosses!”

Claire Thompson, Associate Director of Brand Connections at VICE Media was our moderator for the evening, introducing us to our panel of:

  • Sarah Ceglarski, Partner and CMO at Omelet
  • Jiah Choi, Partner and CEO at Anomaly
  • Jean Freeman, Principal and CEO at Zambezi
  • Sheila Marmon, Founder and CEO of Mirror Digital
  • Yumi Prentice, President and Managing Partner at David&Goliath

With so much success in the room, the first question focused, naturally, on failure. What had the panelists learned from it? Sheila Marmon urged us to remember that being laid off is not the end of the world, but it is important to always be aware of what is happening in your industry and be mindful of when it might be time to make a move. Jiah Choi recalled a time when she accepted a new job and was unhappy for months, but now feels it prepared her for her current role. Jean Freeman added that failure needs to be seen as part of the process, and that if you are just chugging along smoothly, you aren’t growing and learning from experience.

All of the women spoke about the importance of mentorship and how vital it is to learn from the experience of others. Sheila remarked that in addition to having strong mentorship, it’s important to really take a look at the power structures of the organization you are in. “It is important to position yourself in places where someone will hand you the baton.” Sarah Ceglarski pointed out that “your enemies are your greatest teachers, and as a leader not only do you need to be open to discourse and uncomfortable discussions, you need to lead those conversations.”

When asked what accomplishments they were proud of, Yumi Prentice shared that she is very proud that David&Goliath is a signatory to Times Up Advertising, and that they were promoting mental health by adding a mental-health day to their PTO package. Jean lamented that there is too much talk about diversity and not enough action, reminding us that “leading by example means holding yourself accountable.” She put that into practice by updating Zambezi’s benefits package to be more family-friendly.

The final panel question of the evening: “What’s a must-do in life?”

“Floss. And lead with compassion and integrity. If you don’t, the cost is too great to yourself.”
 – Yumi Prentice

“Be an agent for your own success. Don’t wait for someone to hand you that next opportunity. If you see a gap in your organization, fill it. Become an asset.” – Sheila Marmon

“Everyone should experience a U.S. National Park at some point in their life. Get outside and away from technology. Unplug.” – Jean Freeman

“Values are not values until they cost you something. Know what is sacred to you and protect it.” – Jiah Choi

“You must be empathetic. That’s more important than what you can learn in school. It’s how you connect and understand who you are talking to.” – Sarah Ceglarski

From there, Claire opened the panel up to Q&A. A small-business owner was having a hard time letting go of doing to focus on leading and wanted advice how to better manage that. Jean suggested she be honest with herself. If you’ve been in the same position for years and haven’t let go, do you really want to? Jiah remarked, “Neither you nor your business will grow if you are just doing.” Sheila suggested she bring on someone better than herself at the doing, so that she would feel comfortable handing off responsibility.

After a few more questions, Claire said there was time for one more. I raised my hand. Throughout the panel discussion, my eye had been wandering to the lightbox sign I mentioned earlier. I wondered, how did the women feel about this term, “Lady Boss?” Yumi chimed in first, saying she respected it and thought it had its place, and that there is an underscore to saying we are bosses who don’t fit the normal mold. Jean said she was looking forward to the rising of Gen Z, who don’t look to make everything so male or female. Jiah said, “I respect it, but I hate it. But I think that’s where we are. I’m looking forward to the day that we aren’t.” Perhaps the most empowering response, though, came from Sheila. “Being a lady boss doesn’t keep me from being a boss.”

Key Takeaways:

“Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.” – Sheryl Sandberg

“There is no work/life balance, there’s only work/life integration. You just have to enjoy what you do. The only way you can spend this much time working is if you like it.” – Jiah Choi

“Be open to discourse and uncomfortable conversations. That is part of your job. If you want to be a leader, you have to lead those conversations. If you have an issue with someone, you have to talk to them and sit them down and say, ‘I have an issue with you.’ That is such a powerful thing that I’ve only recently learned to do. But don’t assume malice every time. Pull back your immediate emotional reaction.” – Sarah Ceglarski

“People in successful leadership positions are curious and always looking to grow. Warren Buffet spends half his day reading.” – Jean Freeman

“Remember that when you get to where you are going, the people you need to mentor may not look like you or have the same background.” – Sheila Marmon

“There are incremental things you can do to promote diversity and equality. It doesn’t always have to mean joining a huge movement.” – Yumi Prentice


Jessica McEwan is a copywriter at RPA and an instructor for The Book Shop School for Ads.

Tags:  #ThinkELC  #thinkStars  C Level Women  ELC Live!  Membership  professional development  She Suite  Women at Work  Women in Advertising 

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