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Monica Gadsby

Monica Gadsby, a pioneer in Hispanic marketing who leads Publicis One’s Latin America business, speaks the global language of multicultural business.

Jacqueline Hernandez, chief marketing officer for NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, remembers teaming up with Gadsby to get a good deal on pearls at a store in Beijing when they were attending the Olympics. Hernandez was told Chinese merchants haggle over prices and without knowing a word of Chinese, they negotiated, walked away, and then returned to the table with more money. “Between the two of us, they didn’t stand a chance,” Hernandez recalls. “To this day we wear them with pride.”

Gadsby comes by her multicultural worldview naturally. She was born in Brazil, but when she was 11 her father was transferred to Belgium and the family moved. “It was a tough adjustment,” she recalls, “but when you’re fully immersed, you learn the language very quickly, you adapt to the culture.”

They moved again her senior year of high school, this time to Texas. The experience taught her that “while there are differences, at our core there are a lot of commonalities,” she says.

She embraced marketing at the University of Texas and was recruited by Chicago ad agency Leo Burnett. Her class of “people in training” at Burnett included Laura Desmond, Chris Boothe and Lisa Donahue, all now running parts of Publicis Media, and Trisha Pray, who is executive VP of sales at Univision.

Gadsby was assigned to the Procter & Gamble account. When P&G wanted to market to Hispanics, Gadsby, who spoke several languages including Spanish, was assigned to the task and became an expert. When Kellogg’s and Pray’s account, Unocal, also became interested in the Hispanic market, Gadsby was put in charge of the newly formed Burnett Hispanic.

Gadsby pitched the importance of advertising to Hispanic consumers in Spanish, and Burnett Hispanic grew under her into Starcom Mediavest Group’s multicultural businesses Tapestry and 42Degrees. She also built closely knit teams.

“They were there for each other from a personal perspective and a business perspective. Monica really set that tone,” says Pray. “She had a number of women that worked for her. She was one of the first ones to try to offer flexible schedules. She did job shares and work from home. She was mindful that family came first.”

When she moved to Univision, Slay did a number of groundbreaking deals with Gadsby. There was a multiyear deal with Miller Beer that included the World Cup in 1994 that was worth an unheard-of $105 million. There was the first Spanish-language multimedia deal. There were deals that included research.

“She was my top agency client,” says David Lawenda, head of U.S. global marketing solutions for Facebook, who was president for sales and marketing for Univision from 2007 to 2012.

“We blazed a trail with a Total Market Strategy, which encouraged clients to integrate Hispanic at every stage in their business planning process, and as a result we were able to activate a lot of new clients and brands into the U.S. Hispanic space,” Lawenda says. “She was one of the most impressive marketing professionals I worked with.”

Gadsby was focused on delivering measurement and research that would show clients the power of the Hispanic market to move the needle on their business. “She is very strategic, very analytic,” says Telemundo’s Hernandez. “She really likes to dig down and find the solution that’s going to drive the result.”

Together, they did a revolutionary study called Beyond Demographics. It divided the Hispanic demo into psychographic segments, instead of simply looking at whether people were male or female or spoke Spanish or English.

“In 1987, all I did was explain the importance of Spanish. There was an immigrant population being completely missed,” says Gadsby. “It was time to pivot. Language was no longer the single factor that should be driving the decisions we make.

It was about understanding a cultural minority that is evolving into a cultural majority.” It was also time for Spanish media to be more reflective of Hispanic lives. “The market was ripe for a different type of storytelling,” Gadsby says, noting that Telemundo changed its programming formula, de-emphasizing telenovelas, and that now Univision is looking to make its telenovelas more relevant.

Starcom asked Gadsby to work on the agency’s business in Latin America. “Monica was doing a great job of turning our multicultural unit into a real powerhouse of insight and scale when we both started talking about the fusing of the Latin American regional and U.S. multicultural businesses because these consumer markets were converging as well,” says Desmond, chief revenue officer at Publicis.

This year Gadsby was named CEO of Publicis One, a unit that aims to provide clients’ access to all of the company’s marketing specialties under a single umbrella.

“She’s a pleasure to work with and is helping us manage what we do in our Latin American Region,” says Ivelisse Roche, associate media director, global media consumer engagement at Mondelez. “She’s helped get some projects done that were difficult to get done.”

For her new Latin American assignment, Gadsby is headquartered in Miami, travelling back and forth while her family remains in Chicago where her younger children are finishing school. (Her eldest son is at Publicis’ Spark/Mediavest.) Though they’ve travelled internationally and are connected to the Brazilian side of their family, they’ve always lived in one country and one city, unlike their mother, a citizen of the world. “I guess it skips a generation,” she says.