The CMO Files: Jen Whelan, Innovid

What keeps CMOs awake at night?

Get inside the minds of the world's top marketing professionals. In 20 questions we find out what they love most about their job... and what keeps them awake at night.



Name:  Jen Whelan

Organisation: Innovid

Job title:  SVP, Marketing

Location:  New York, NY, USA


  1. Where were you born and raised? 
    Juneau, Alaska       
  2. What was your first job? 
    I started babysitting at a very early age, but my first “real” job was busing tables at the airport restaurant when I was 14.  
  3. What was the first product you got really excited about?  
    I don’t know about “the first” but I do remember wanting white Nike high tops with every ounce of my being.
  4. Who has been the biggest influence on your career?  
    I’ve had amazing mentors over the years, but my son has been the biggest influence on my career.  I wanted to set an example and show him that anything is possible, while maintaining focus on the things that are most valuable, the relationships and people we meet along the journey.
  5. What has been your greatest achievement? 
    My son, no doubt.  He makes me proud every day.
  6. What has been your biggest mistake? 
    Not asking more questions. I’ve had the privilege of working with brilliant, insightful leaders who I wish I spent more time in rich conversation with, versus buried in email.   
  7. What is your greatest strength? 
    I genuinely love coaching and mentoring others.  Collaborating with someone on their goals, watching them work hard and accomplish something they didn’t believe they could do is invigorating and inspiring.
  8. What is your biggest weakness? 
    When I get lazy and cut corners on healthy eating and a regular exercise routing I become a fraction of myself. Typically, I do it to find more hours in the day for a given task or project, but the lack of self-care makes me exponentially less effective.
  9. What do you think is the aspect of your role most neglected by peers?
    Over the last 10 years I’ve seen marketing shift from being a lovely accessory or shade of lipstick on a company, to being the heart and soul.  This requires investment in people: training and mentoring.  An effective marketing team is made up of business-minded professionals who understand the issues that matter to shareholders and, more importantly, know how their jobs impact the bottom line. At Innovid, we make sure to hire smart, curious, motivated and opinionated people who actively participate in driving both our business and our culture. The #1 thing we can do as marketing leaders is to develop and grow our people.  It’s always the area where we can all do more.       
  10. Which word or phrase is your mantra and which word or phrase makes you squirm? 
    My mantra is “Falling down is life, getting up is living.” And the phrase that makes me squirm on so many levels is “To tell you the truth…” (what have you been doing all along?)
  11. What makes you stressed? 
    When I’m not communicating well with a co-worker, like when we have a difference of opinion and are having a hard time finding common ground.  Or when I’m hungry.
  12. What do you do to relax? 
    There is a long list of things depending on the circumstances.  I go for a run, pop into a Pilates class, listen to music, call a friend or spend some quality time with my two pals Ben & Jerry and their ice-cream magical goodness, or curl up with a good book and my other pal Justin… as in the Justin Vineyards and Winery in Paso Robles.
  13. What is your favourite song? 
    One favourite?  That’s extremely tough.  I guess if I have to choose one, it would be Ray LaMontagne’s “You Are the Best Thing” because I used to sing it to my son when he was little. 
  14. Which book taught you most? 
    Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.  So many of the stories and lessons transcend time and age.  When I first read the poems, I felt like they were in my own voice, they were inspiring and borderline rebellious. As an adult, the words are more reflective, but still touch my heart and make me smile; sometimes because of relatable childhood memories and other times because of what I’ve learned along the way. The more life experiences we have the more meaning each of the poems has.    
  15. Do you have a team or sport that you follow? 
    Do I?  I love sports.  I follow American football and baseball most closely, but have an appreciation for all sports.  Not only do I appreciate the games for the strategy and pure competition, but the context, backstory and human element fascinates me.  Sports gives us hope in all scenarios; anything can and often does happen.  Growing up in Alaska where there are no professional teams, you naturally gravitate towards the Seattle teams, so I’m a Seahawks and Mariners fan, but we also had two TV stations available and one was from Detroit, so I fell in love with Barry Sanders as a runner and I followed the Lions for years.  I also love the passion around college sports – Go Ducks!
  16. Which country would you like to work in? 
    I’ve come close to taking an ex-pat assignment a few times in my career and I’m always open to it.  In the past, my focus has been on Australia, Germany and the UK, but with so much innovation coming out of places like Israel and parts of Asia, really the “globe is the limit”.
  17. Which company do you think has the best marketing? 
    Wow – another very tough one.  I believe strongly in integrated campaigns, so I gravitate towards brands that use the full funnel and really walk their audience through a customer journey that makes sense and ends in a sale. At Innovid, we have the opportunity to partner with a lot of major brands that are doing really innovative things in video marketing throughout the customer journey. I’ve been very impressed with what Toyota has done with the Yaris campaign.
  18. What do you love most about your job? 
    Collaborating with amazing people to tackle challenges that others shy away from.  Innovid has a culture that is founded on embracing challenges and changes while uniting people through knowledge and passion.  I have the opportunity to tell stories around true innovation that changes the landscape for other marketers.
  19. What is your favourite book? 
    The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.  First and foremost, as a marketer it taught me that you can say so much and have such a complex message delivered with simple, concise words and images.  Simplicity is the most powerful tool.  And as a mum and a human being it taught me to let love rule and that we get so much out of giving that it makes us want to give even more.  If we all tested the waters on giving unconditionally, we’d realise how addictive it is and the world would be filled with givers.    
  20. What keeps you awake at night?
    Honestly, not much.  If I had to list my strengths sleeping would have been on the list.  I believe water and sleep are the great elixers of life and I protect them aggressively.  I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by amazing friends and family.  My career challenges me and my team inspires me daily.  I believe I am exactly where I need to be at this moment in life and there is nothing more peaceful.