AEF’s Gord McLean Shares His Vision for the Future of Marketing Leadership & How Talent Drives Growth
7 mins read

AEF’s Gord McLean Shares His Vision for the Future of Marketing Leadership & How Talent Drives Growth

The AEF is ANA’s Educational Foundation, and its mission is to connect today’s advertising and marketing communities with academia. AEF educates and inspires the next generation of talent while advancing the understanding of marketing and advertising in society.

According to Gord McLean, President & CEO of AEF, “Our future marketing and advertising leaders are not just looking for a job; they are looking for a meaningful career that will make a positive impact on society.”

The AEF is introducing a new industry conference this month to highlight leadership strategies from some of the best minds in marketing and academia. The concept has certainly struck a chord as there is currently a waiting list to attend.

The Future of Marketing Leadership Conference will be held on February 28–29 in New York as a collaboration between the AEF, the ANA Global CMO Growth Council, and New York University. It will focus on the Growth Council’s four leadership priorities: Talent and Marketing Organization, Technology and Data, Society and Sustainability, and Brand and Creativity.


The goal of the conference is to bring together marketers and academia to build the “curricula for modern marketing” through inspiration, practical education, and an opportunity to explore those talent competencies essential to future success.

Many of the featured speakers at The Future of Marketing Leadership Conference are at the top of their game in defining modern marketing— from Raja Rajamannar of Mastercard, author of the influential book, Quantum Marketing: Mastering the New Marketing Mindset for Tomorrow’s Consumers, to Esi Eggleston Bracey of Unilever, who talks about her passion for “breaking barriers and inspiring collective greatness.”  


Through Gord McLean’s leadership, the AEF also offers numerous programs to develop the next generation of advertising and marketing talent. With the organization’s guidance, more than 250 marketers are now mentoring students.

The Marketing and Advertising Education (MADE) internship program provides young, college-level talent with opportunities through a turnkey process managed entirely by the AEF. Last year, the program placed over 75 students at MADE member marketers like Mastercard and L’Oréal, agencies like McCann and Publicis, and media companies like Disney and NBCU. AEF has also matched 150 industry mentors with students.

The MADE Program was designed to identify and cultivate the future generation of marketing and advertising leaders. It is an outgrowth of a 2017 AEF study, “Bridging the Talent Disconnect,” which revealed that all stakeholders- academia, students, and the industry- agree that internships are a critical step to future employment.

The AEF Campus Speakers Program encourages marketing executives to share their knowledge at college campuses by addressing industry topics requested by professors and students. Similarly, the Visiting Professor Program enhances professors’ understanding of the latest developments and practices in advertising and marketing through contemporary information and examples to inform their teaching and research. Since its inception, 1,500+ professors have participated in the program.

To learn more from Gord McLean and his comments on the future of marketing leadership, watch the video interview on Internationalist Marketing TV (IMTV) on YouTube by CLICKING HERE.

In our conversation, we discuss the following:

  • What do you see as the leadership challenges of marketing today? 
  • How do you think the industry can best build the marketing leaders of tomorrow?
  • Discuss what you mean about charting a ‘curricula for modern marketing.’
  • If leadership is about anticipating the unforeseeable or constantly adapting strategies to changing situations, can that be taught as part of a marketing curriculum, or does it need to be experienced… or perhaps both?
  • Tell us more about AEF’s Next Gen Talent Program which currently has 250 marketers mentoring students. I recall the importance of ideas like this from Masters of Marketing when Coca-Cola’s CMO Shakir Moin talked about how his “shadowing” program has been wildly popular and developed extraordinary talent.
  • Would you outline another AEF cornerstone– the Campus Speakers Program?
  • I also understand you’re working with numerous Historically Black Colleges to excite students about advertising and marketing careers…
  • You also have another event in February at the Smithsonian on Sustainability with 50 professors. Please tell us about that … and what that means for the future of marketing…
  • I also understand that you’re partnering with another ANA program—SeeHer—to create a Gender Equity Certificate. Tell us about what it means to the marketing industry…
  • Finally… what’s next for AEF?

Listen to Gord McLean talk about how marketers can connect with professors and students to ensure that the next generation is inspired to enter the business and to The Internationalist’s entire Trendsetters podcast series here on iHeartRadio’s Spreaker or wherever you download your podcasts.

Created in 1983 and supported by its three constituencies, advertising, media, and marketing, the AEF is a 501(c)3 operating foundation. AEF creates and distributes educational content to improve the understanding and appreciation of the societal role of advertising and marketing through programs on college campuses across the U.S. These programs have continuously played a role in attracting top college graduates to the industry. Advertising & Society Quarterly is the AEF’s online academic journal. In 2015, the AEF joined the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) as its educational foundation.

Gord McLean is President and CEO of the ANA Educational Foundation. As an AEF Board Member for over 10 years and a past Chair, he is committed to its mission to be the bridge connecting the marketing, advertising, and academic communities. The AEF was founded to educate and inspire the next generation of talent while advancing the understanding of the role of advertising and marketing in society.

Previously, he was a Global Managing Partner at the Young & Rubicam Group, one of the world’s leading providers of integrated marketing communications and services. At Y&R Group, he worked with clients worldwide to help build their businesses across geographies and all disciplines. He also drove the Group’s cross-company business development initiatives.
Gord joined Young & Rubicam Group in 2007 from Y&R Advertising, where, in his last assignment, he was CEO for North America. Over his 16 years at Y&R, Gord acquired global experience spanning every region and almost every category. After first serving as Managing Partner of Y&R Toronto, he moved to New York to lead global clients such as Colgate-Palmolive, Ford, Citibank, and Chevron. Gord has also served as Y&R’s President, Chief Operating Officer for Asia-Pacific, and President of Global Client Services.

Before Y&R, Gord worked for some of the most respected agencies in Canada, including MacLaren-McCann and Doyle Dane Bernbach. He began his career in the Canadian House of Commons as Chief of Staff to a Member of Parliament.