Alisa Ben is the Senior Vice President and Head of Analytics at Canvas Worldwide, a leading global media and marketing services company. Ben is an experienced analytics executive with a successful track record in driving business insights and data-driven decision-making.
Alisa joined Canvas in 2020 and has exponentially grown the analytics agenda and team within the media communications agency in the three years since. She helped the organization create a competitive business model combining data and measurement, technology, and creativity to create unique and powerful business outcomes for its clients.
Before joining Canvas, Alisa served as the SVP of Strategic Marketing Intelligence for Zimmerman Advertising. She also served Select Management Group as its VP and Head of Operations, where she aided the company in creating its internal structure and integrating its operations and several of its programs. Prior to this, Alisa spent 19 years in the music business across marketing, sales, and signing talent, managing multi-platinum recording artists to building Analytics practices at some of the top music companies in the world.
A staunch advocate for diversity in the workplace, Alisa also mentors many young women in the industry. She believes in the power of technology and data to build better campaigns and is committed to driving innovation in the industry.
We recently got to sit down with Alisa to learn how she is elevating businesses through result-driven leadership.
Below are the highlights of the interview.
- Q) Please tell me your story. How did you get your start?
Alisa) I’m one of those born-and-raised kids that grew up in a small town (Antlers, Oklahoma, population around 2,100) off a turnpike in a flyover state. That state happens to have a musical named after it, but most of the folks end up staying in the town or state, and a rare handful get out and do something different. I got out and did something so radically different that people thought I was insane (and probably still do). I was 21 when I started managing a band, 23 when I got them an indie recording agreement, 24 when I got them a major label recording contract, and 25 when Green Day’s manager swooped in, and they fired me. That was my first major heartbreak- a humbling experience to say the least. I then went to work at various independent labels, AOL Music, MTV and in and out of the major record label system doing a variety of roles but mostly specializing in Data, Analytics, and Insights.
- Q) What led to the inception of Canvas Worldwide? And how is it serving its clients?
Alisa) Canvas Worldwide is one of the fastest-growing media communications agencies. We were built to be the alternative to the malaise of media holding company options: an independent, full-service agency that moves nimbly to stay ahead of the ever-changing media landscape.
We are staffed by hundreds of diverse professionals that grew tired of the ingrained processes and bad habits of the legacy holding companies. Everyone and everything at Canvas is driven by creative solutions and accountability to business success for the brands we serve. That starts with a client-centric approach and the ability to move faster than our competition. Our capabilities evolve daily and we’re constantly adding new skill sets—in short, there’s no muscle memory here.
- Q) What distinguishes Canvas Worldwide from its competitors?
Alisa) From our mantra of “Challenge the Comfortable” to our entrepreneurial spirit, Canvas Worldwide truly is a proactive media agency. As a young, independent agency, we are free of bureaucracy. And perhaps our independence is our greatest strength – as it provides the agility and flexibility necessary to shift on a dime in the “New Now.”
We are comprised of 400+ restless optimists who sought to build a better media agency. Everyone and everything at Canvas is driven by creative solutions and accountability to business success for the brands we serve.
- Q) How do you focus on Diversity and Inclusion in your organization for success?
Alisa) Diversity and Inclusion have been our major focus from Day One and are vital pillars of our mission. Our Executive Team is 45% female, and we are comprised of more than 40% of people from multicultural backgrounds.
To support our team members, we require mandatory DEI training for all employees. And we offer a day off in honor of Juneteenth to spend the day in reflection or doing good. Whether for PRIDE Month or in honor of #StopAAPIhate, we’ve also hosted several all-agency conversations with experts aimed at teaching our team to be allies in the fight for racial justice.
Plus, we created our first DEI Council. Partnering with Diverse City (an outside consultancy), we built a team within our agency that aims to create an equitable environment for EVERYONE. When we first launched our DEI initiatives and council, I was the first elected chair of our DEI council. As a Spanish and Native American woman, I’m very proud of how Canvas has not only worked to understand and adapt the business into a diverse, equitable, and inclusive company… but wholly functions with DEI as the heartbeat of this company.
- Q) Please explain the pandemic’s effect on Canvas Worldwide. And how you tackled it?
Alisa) We tackled the pandemic with a strong sense of humanity for our clients, ourselves, and our consumers. We were all in this unprecedented experience together. I’m not going to get into the economics, politics, psychology, digital transformation, and cultural shifts of the pandemic, but our agency’s motto was “Make Yourself Uncomfortable,” so we approached our clients’ business goals that way even before the pandemic, and this ideology really allowed us to carry business continuity across the board.
Our motto has since evolved into “Challenge the Comfortable” because we refuse to lose that humanity, relatability, innovation, and growth for our clients’ businesses – and we’re still learning the new normal for business as usual.
We also know there is a workplace revolution upon us. And Canvas aims to be at the forefront of this revolution. We’ve embraced our updated company motto of “Challenge the Comfortable” as we try new ideas to create a hybrid work model… that actually works. Our aim is to offer our team one of the “best” places to work. A place that’s welcoming and inclusive of ALL employees. We want all 400+ team members to feel as though we are “in this” together. And we do this by ensuring all team members have a voice and their ideas are taken seriously. We send staff surveys to see how we’re doing and then put team feedback into use! We even changed the parameters of our “Summer Fridays” PTO option to ensure they better aligned with what our team told us they needed. We know we are great at all the hard skills that make us amazing marketers, so we’re also putting attention towards the soft skills that make us a great place to work!
- Q) What are your primary challenges in this ever-changing industry?
Alisa) Preparing for the impending deprecation of third-party cookies. However, it’s such an innovative time in the attribution and measurement world, and the capabilities are more competitive than ever with many industries racing to adopt next-generation solutions and striking up some fascinating strategic partnerships. It’s truly the era of testing and learning with a side of healthy competition in the market.
Also, a small (and perhaps silly), but realistic challenge is transitioning folks from their physical pdf document or PowerPoint reports into the dynamic self-service world of data within reach!
- Q) What does success look like for you?
Alisa) Success is progress. When I was younger, I used to have these very steep goals and if I didn’t accomplish them in whatever designated timeframe, I felt like a failure. Often, I was setting myself up for failure because I wasn’t accounting for the fact that the world doesn’t work in absolutes. I was attached to the outcome and not the journey. As I had more successes and failures in my career, I realized that success is moving the needle closer to those goals and learning to gracefully adapt to changes within those goals that you cannot control. It’s also working toward an outcome without being attached to the outcome itself. Sounds conflicting, but I’ll give you an example. When I was younger, I was going to get a recording contract, write for SNL, write romance novels, and have a corner office somewhere. I did get a couple bands recording agreements (not myself), write an (unpublished) novel, but I’ve never had a corner office and I did take Improv and Sketch classes and realized it wasn’t for me, so I had to pivot that goal and revise my goals not to mention the goals looking slightly different than originally planned. My point being, there is a fluidity with success and if you can embrace that (both the yin of success and the yang of failure) then whether you succeed or fail you learn and grow with the journey.
My goals are very different now versus when I was younger, and I’d like to think with more depth. Success to me now is being mindful of those around me and to myself in every aspect of life and being able to embrace and expand in the unknown. To raise happy and well-adjusted children, and help be part of the career growth of happy and well-adjusted people that go out into the world and take a glorious bite out of it. Oh, and to publish my novel.
- Q) What are your plans for 2023 and beyond?
Alisa) I’m really excited to work with the Canvas teams to launch some of our proprietary data and measurement tools and strategic partnerships that help our clients and prospective clients with their business outcomes. We have really invested in this area across talent, function, partnerships, and data infrastructure, and 2023 is our year of innovation in the data and measurement space.
- Q) What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
Alisa) Patience. I’m working on it.
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