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Clients like L’Occitane, Ford Models, and Cartier count on Jodi Morgen Katz ’97 to boost demand

Jodi Morgen Katz ’97 had a vision of a $400 face serum on a black background in mud. Her client, Cornelia Day Resort, thought it was an inspired idea.

The high-end spa on New York’s famed Fifth Avenue enlisted Katz’s firm, jmk creative, to create print advertising to support the launch of its new line of beauty products. She describes the ad campaign as “anti-Clinique,” noting that Clinique traditionally presents its products on white backgrounds for a very clean, clinical feel.

“It was important to stand out from the others; a lot of brands follow [Clinique’s example] because it’s been so successful, so we did pretty much the opposite,” says Katz. “The people at the brand were really trusting. We did a black background because the key ingredient in their product is a certain type of mud from a Romanian lake that is very nutrient-rich. People make pilgrimages to this lake and smother this mud all over their bodies because of its anti-aging properties. This was dirty; it’s not something you traditionally associate with beauty. They were saying to us ‘we know our product is different and we’re willing to show that.’ That’s what we like to do for our brands. Why would you spend money marketing your brand if it’s going to be like all the others?”

Gaining a client’s trust is an important part of what Katz and her team do. Architectural photographer Jonathan Hillyer called in jmk creative to help him market himself to potential clients. Although her firm caters to skincare, fragrance, luxury, and lifestyle brands, Katz was up to the challenge.

“Another artist was hiring us, which is really flattering,” she says. “This wasn’t a universe we knew anything about. His work is phenomenal, so we knew we had to show him concepts that were different from anything he’d seen before. We were able to sell him on a concept based on his photography and showing how important shapes and colors are. He was really a risk taker and had faith in us. It’s not [a] beauty [brand], but his work is beautiful. We had tremendous influence in helping him push his art in a new direction, and we’re really proud of it.”

If you step into her company’s office on a given weekday, don’t be surprised if you can’t find Katz—or any signs of life. While she runs a full-service ad agency, her team is scattered throughout the country, working in ways that fit best with individual lifestyles, she says.

“This for sure makes my team more productive and more creative,” explains Katz, who counts L’Occitane, Bliss, Cartier, Ford Models, and Lavanila Laboratories among her clients. “I truly believe that this is the future model of an advertising agency. We have an office in New York City, so it’s a place to meet with the team or clients, but we don’t spend a lot of time there. This allows us to be nimble, flexible, and much more competitive with rates than similar agencies with a lot of overhead costs.”

Katz reached her previous career high as creative director of French-based beauty brand L’Occitane, where she started as a copywriter. Encouraged by requests she received for freelance services, she found her entrepreneurial spirit tugging at her and decided to hang a shingle for her own firm.

“Beauty is interesting because there are no special creative agencies that focus on it,” she says. “I haven’t encountered one other boutique agency that caters to beauty. Beauty products are very accessible. For instance, not everyone can buy Chanel shoes or a Chanel handbag, but a $30 Chanel lipstick is attainable. Women of any age—even if they’re not into make-up—are into beauty even if it’s something like getting your nails done.”

Katz serves as an externship host for Lafayette students, exposing them to an array of career paths at her office. She tries to give them the guidance and support she needed as an undergraduate serving internships with Crayola and the BBDO ad agency in New York City.

“I was surrounded by so many students who knew exactly what they wanted for a career, and it seemed like they all wanted to work for a bank or an engineering firm,” recalls the government and law graduate. “I had no idea what other types of opportunities existed. That’s what I try to do for my externs each year—give them a ‘parade’ of creative careers. We visit my clients, my team members, and other creative professionals in beauty and fashion. The students walk away with a better sense of how to be an artist and creative in a professional environment.

“I’m thrilled to host externs. I’ve encouraged them to keep in touch with the people they’ve met through their day with me and never be shy in asking for help and advice.”

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