Tim Donovan, Senior Business Leader at MasterCard Worldwide. If you don’t know Tim, you should. If not for his intelligence, marketing savvy, and HILARIOUS sense of humor, then at least for his love of dogs. I caught up with Tim recently to cover a few thoughts on marketing. Have a read and, as always, comments are welcome.

Aside from Oreo and the Superbowl, what do you think were some of the more interesting brand/marketing developments in the first quarter of this year?

I’ve seen a few things that I found interesting. One is that I’ve seen more advertising featuring men in more of an “involved parent” – almost “Mr. Mom” – mode (making dinner, doing laundry, etc.). Typically, the father has been portrayed as an incompetent menace when it came to household chores (other than yard work) and now he’s shown making gourmet dinners, caring about how clean the laundry gets and so forth. Quite a change! I’ve also observed the increasing presence of same-sex couples in advertising. The Amazon Kindle was the most notable one where a man and woman are on lounge chairs talking about the glare on their tablets (or not) while both of their husbands get them a drink. You probably wouldn’t have seen that on mainstream TV media even a year ago.

I continue to be impressed by JC Penney’s advertising. A great campaign with a more modern Americana vibe, taking a page from the Target campaigns. Still, it doesn’t seem to have done much yet for their business. I think it’s going to take a lot more than just an ad campaign to change the perception people have of that brand. The “no discounts” strategy didn’t work and I think the jury’s still out on things the Levi’s Denim Bar are actually attracting buyers of Levi’s who will also shop around to buy some other items. JCP is trying to reinvent itself while distinguishing itself from peers like Target, Sears, Walmart, Macy’s etc. It’s not really any of those…so what is it? I’ll be curious to see how things shape up for that brand later this year.

How do you see B-to-B businesses leveraging social media for customer engagement?

One of the biggest trends I see in business-to-business social media is lead generation for sales. Through my LinkedIn profile alone, I receive tons of requests for meetings, product demos, etc. I’ve accepted some and also follow some of the blogs from these people just to see what’s out there. So, I guess you can say that blogs are also keeping me engaged.

What is your point of view on how agencies can best support clients in this era of analytics based social engagement and content marketing?

First, make sure they understand how your business works and how it makes money. If that’s clear then all of the ideas, regardless of the medium, should ladder up to how they contribute to the growth and health of the brand and its business. With social media, the key is to translate the strategies into how they support the business objectives. Help clients understand what a more engaged customer does for them. Provide examples of how deeper social engagement translates into stronger sales or greater brand affinity and preference. Is there really an ROI to social media and what is the best way to assess and measure its value? I don’t think anyone’s quite been able to quantify what “engagement” really means and that’s an essential piece of information to help determine how and why to keep investing in this space.

In the marketing discipline, what are three qualities you look for in new job candidates?

Be curious, be flexible and be resourceful. Curious people have a desire to learn new things that will help them figure out how to do their job (and other things) better. They have a desire to learn more than just what’s required and this means they can grow in other ways than what the current job requires. Flexibility is important because you want someone who can roll with the punches and not get too bent out of shape when somebody’s moved their cheese. Being flexible doesn’t mean be a pushover and don’t take a stand. It means being able to take in new information, figure out the next best course of action and still move forward without too much trouble. So many industries have periods of uncertainty and you want people who can deal with that and course correct when Plan A doesn’t work out. Resourceful people get things done. They are typically self-starters and don’t need a lot of hand-holding for each step of the project. They can usually size up the situation quickly and then they tap into the strong internal and external networks they’ve built to get what the information they need to get the job done. Having people like this on your team is a gift when you’re under pressure to deliver something quickly.

What advice would you give to someone entering your industry straight from college this summer?

Be a sponge, be hungry, be courteous and remember – not everyone gets a trophy at work. Read everything you can. Listen first and then ask tons of questions to make sure you understand. And then ask more questions to make sure you really understand. Be hungry about wanting to do more than is asked of you and make sure that whatever you do, no matter how trivial it seems, don’t assume it’s “beneath you”. At this stage of your career, it’s not. Have high standards and don’t accept “good enough”. Be respectful to your colleagues and give the more seasoned ones the courtesy of listening to some of their “sage advice”. You may know all about the latest and greatest technologies to do your job quicker and more easily, but many of your colleagues (and maybe even your boss) have a level of business wisdom that comes with experience. The trophy comment is meant to tell people that there is real competition in work. You won’t all get the same rating, bonus, opportunities, period. Work hard and be honest with yourself. If your work isn’t as good as someone else’s – it matters.

What resources do you turn to keep abreast of marketing news & trends?

I subscribe to a number of e-newsletters about my industry, I read blog posts on LinkedIn, I read Adweek and other magazines about marketing when I have the time. I basically read whatever I can, whenever I can. I always click on cnn.com, nytimes.com and other news sites to see what’s happening in the financial markets to see if there are any news items that might be impacting my company or my company’s clients.

Courtesy plug time: Tell us about an organization, person, movement, etc. that is important to you and that you think more people should be aware of.

I just learned about www.code.org, which is a group focused on helping all kids in school learn how to write code. It’s a cool site and organization, but I’m just at the early stages of learning about it. I would love for them to do it at my kids’ schools because I think it’s important for them to understand all the possibilities once they learn how to do more than just consume or use technology. I’d love for them to combine their imagination and technical skills to develop massively popular apps that will make me and my wife rich enough to retire early!

Ok, just for fun… borrowing from James Lipton: what profession other than your own would you like to attempt? What profession would you not like to do?

Believe it or not, I would probably consider acting. I always thought it would be fun and a good test of your mental endurance in the face of such rejection. However, I was always too chicken to really take it on. I like to eat and was never too keen on being a “starving actor”. I would never want to be one of those guys washing windows on a skyscraper. I’m not really afraid of heights but I don’t have any desire to do that. From what I can tell, there’s really no safe, quick way down when you have an emergency or have to go to the bathroom.