Getting to Know: Joe Oh


With his heart in San Fransciso and his roots in the start-up world, we sat down with Joe Oh, the newly named CEO of FCB West, to find out a little more what he has in store for the agency, what he’s listening to these days and whether he prefers a sweet or salty snack – all the important things that matter.

This is Joe Oh.

  • How did you get into advertising?

    • Purely by accident. I was unemployed after graduating from college and choosing not to go to medical school (I come from four generations of doctors). A friend suggested I call her former boss who’d just taken a gig at FCB. I agreed and somehow talked my way into an Assistant Media Planner position. I had no idea what that even was.
  • Can you tell me about your first job in advertising?

    • I worked 70 – 80 hours per week. I had an emotionally unstable boss. I was only paid $18,000 per year. And I loved it. FCB SF was the epicenter of advertising creativity back then and I got to work with 500 of the smartest and most talented folks I had ever met. It didn’t hurt that there were a ton of good-looking ladies there, too. Although I was only getting hit on by gay men. Still, that was pretty flattering.
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

    Don’t just seek to know. Strive to understand.

  • What is the hardest part about working in advertising?

    • We work in the service industry. That means all the amazing, smart, fun and creative stuff we get to do is often offset by the bumps and bruises you take along the way from clients, bosses, peers and people who think advertising is the devil’s love child. So you have to develop a thick skin to make it for any length of time without it making you numb.
  • Tell me about a transformational moment in your career?

    • The biggest was when I became a client. As the head of marketing, I gained a massive amount of empathy for both sides of the business. Especially when I conducted agency reviews. It didn’t mean I wasn’t tough. But I tried to balance that with being super appreciative of the agency folks dedicated to my business and fair even when they screwed up.
  • What would you be doing if you weren’t in advertising?

    • Likely a disillusioned doctor.
  • What five things would you bring on a deserted island?

    • Five bottles of really good bourbon
  • Salty or sweet?

    • But really, spicy. I’m Korean, after all.
  • What do you have in store for FCB West?

    • That is the million-dollar question and what I am working on now as I sit in the office on day 8. In spirit though, I want FCB West to be where every single agency person on the planet wants to work. We will have done a lot of things right if we can make that happen.
  • What are three things most people don’t know about you?

    • I’m a rock climber. Which means I fall a lot. Really hard. And it means I get my ass back up that rock and keep trying.
    • I love SF. I’ve lived here for over 20 years and it is my home. But I’m a die-hard Dodgers fan. Fuck the Giants.
    • If it weren’t for my amazing wife and crazy little boys, I’d probably be a degenerate hobo dirt-bagging in Joshua Tree (see my previous responses about bourbon and rock climbing).
  • What songs are on your “Top 25 most played” list?

    • I’m sort of stuck in the 90s and early 2000s right now:
      • Thieves in the Night (Blackstar)
      • Radio (Alkaline Trio)
      • Scenario (A Tribe Called Quest)
      • I Will Follow You Into the Dark (Death Cab for Cutie)
      • Last Goodbye (Jeff Buckley)
  • Tell me about your favorite vacation.

    • More specifically Hanalei Bay. The air. The water. The humidity. My boys are usually lunatics but they become angels in Kauai.
  • What is your favorite thing in your office?

    • The beat-up ol’ FCB pencil my wife dug up from her boxes from when we both started at FCB SF 20 years ago. It is a veritable time capsule of my career, and she gave it to me the day I accepted the position as CEO.
  • What is your favorite movie quote?

    • I can’t think of one. But I do have a favorite rap quote: “I’m charming, I’m dashing, I’m rental car bashing, I’m phoney paper passing at Nick’s Check Cashing” – Beastie Boys
  • What are you currently reading or watching?

    • Watching:
      • I have little kids so . . . The Octonauts, Shawn the Sheep and Tumbleleaf.
    • Reading:
      • No God but God (Reza Aslan): You can’t pretend to understand what’s happening in the world if you don’t at least try to understand Islam.
      • The Last Kind Words Saloon (Larry McMurtry): Because sometimes you just need a good piece of fiction to briefly take you away from what’s happening in the world.