Who: Carlos Wigle, award-winning creative director at McCann, perhaps the most iconic advertising agency in the world.

What: As VP Creative Director at McCann in New York City, Carlos currently oversees all creative for MasterCard’s global brand communications. He has won nearly every major national and international advertising award for his work on brands like Microsoft, Google, Budweiser, New York Lottery, Tropicana, ExxonMobil, Reebok, National Geographic, and Xbox.

Where: Originally from Poway, California (see his incredible story), Carlos now lives in Woodmere with his wife Sara, son Asher, and Mastiff puppy, Ber.

Why: With his work on some of the biggest advertising campaigns for the world’s most respected brands, Carlos is definitely one of the most creative minds in the Jewish world. But two things about him impress me even more: First, he is openly proud of his Judaism, always wearing his (big!) kippah at work and garnering the respect of his colleagues and clients. (On LinkedIn, he describes himself as “the only Irish, Mexican, Orthodox Jew in the world!”) And second, he has incredibly deep emunah in Hashem, as you’ll clearly see from this inspiring interview. Ever since I met Carlos a couple of years ago, I was eager to share his story. And when he told me his story about Poway, I knew that now’s the time.

 

1 of 9 What opportunities or personalities played a role in your career?

Baruch Hashem, there were so many forces/opportunities (a.k.a. brachot) along my journey. I have to begin with my introduction to Judaism, as it all started with compelling visuals (foreshadowing my career, LOL).

When I was ten, my older sister was taking a photography class and shot some images on a trip to San Francisco. When she developed them, there was a particular photo of an Orthodox Jewish family. My father was Jewish, but I’d never seen anyone Orthodox and didn’t even know these people were Jewish. I was enthralled by their garb and felt instantly connected in a way I still can’t truly describe. I asked my sister for the picture to hang in my room.

A year or so later, a family friend was having a baby-naming at a place called Chabad. Not knowing what a Chabad was or what to expect, I was thrilled to arrive and find people who looked like the ones from my picture! My neshamah was born that day. I never looked back. I dove in. I studied, converted, was bar mitzvahed and started yeshivah as soon as I was able. Some of my fondest memories were in yeshivah, where I forged lifelong friendships.

One of these special connections was my brother-from-another-mother and roommate at Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad, Aron Fried. Both of us being crazy creative types, we’d riff, conceptualize jokes, write skits, and create ads for fun. He helped birth my love of advertising and later down the road was instrumental in many aspects of my career.

We took that love of comedy and enrolled in ad/art school after yeshivah. We dubbed ourselves the “Dynamic Jewo” using our unique flair for funny as our calling card. During a big portfolio night — where creatives show work to the chief creative officers of all the big agencies — we met Lee Garfinkel, then CCO of DDB NY. We totally hit it off. He loved our work and the yarmulkes and said, “I’m a Brooklyn Jew myself.” A few weeks later our dream came true, we were officially writing commercials for New York Lottery.

Fast-forward 13 years, I’ve had the privilege to work on many big brands (Microsoft, Mastercard, Google, Budweiser, MGM, etc.) at some of New York City’s top agencies and have won numerous creative awards along the way.

It’s been really special. Baruch Hashem.

 

2 of 9 Which three character traits have played a key role in your career path?

Positivity. Persistence. Passion. In my opinion these are the three tiers of everything in the industry.

The power of Positivity + Persistence: “Think good and it will be good” is definitely the way to go. That outlook will help you take moves you’d otherwise dismiss. For example, I can’t emphasize the power of an e-mail, tweet, text, or the like. The “What do I have to lose?” lunch invite, the digital olive branch, if you will. Those moments will make or break your trajectory. At times we think our industries are some sort of impenetrable fortresses but sometimes the simple, honest attempts break down the barriers. Just do it!

Passion: You have to make the decision early on to be a student of any industry you decide to inhabit. That means spend time studying it. Which companies are at the top of their game? Who are the stars within that company? Eventually you’ll start to see the trends, tendencies, and formulas for success. Most importantly, keeping up on this info gives you the knowledge needed to impress if you do find yourself engaged in an industry conversation with a prospective employer or someone from the C-Suite.

 

4 of 9 What was your most resounding failure? What did you take away from that experience?

At one point in my career I was hired by a big brand for a big role. I was beyond excited to be part of the team and was ready to bring my creative flavor to the table. Unfortunately the promises made didn’t pan out. It became clear early on that the opportunity wasn’t what it was cracked up to be and that I and the senior creatives were not seeing eye-to-eye. We agreed that the role wasn’t a good fit and I was let go. I was shocked… it was the first time in my life anyone had been dissatisfied with my work. (Hasn’t happened since, baruch Hashem).

In the days that followed, I helped on a pitch for a different account, which I won, so I didn’t end up leaving the company. I was happy to be employed but the taste of being fired still filled my mind. Months later a massive shift happened in that account and tons of the teams were fired. New management came into power and working on that account became a prison sentence. Fortuitously I was no longer there. That’s when I coined the phrase, “Rejection is Hashem’s protection.”

That lesson rang very true for me quite recently. I am sure all of you know about the tragedy in Poway. Well, what you don’t know is that Rabbi Goldstein has been my lifelong rabbi. He oversaw my conversion, my bar mitzvah, and my wedding, all at Chabad of Poway. In the months leading up to this past Pesach, I was due to receive a substantial check from a client for some creative work that I had consulted on. I had designated that money for a family trip to Poway for Pesach. (My mom and younger sister had converted to Judaism as well.) The plan was for my sisters and our families to get all of the cousins together for some fun in the sun. As the months, weeks, and days neared, the client kept assuring me that the payment was around the corner. Well, as Hashem would have it… the payment never came. Realizing that we needed an alternative plan, we decided to have everyone come to me for Pesach in New York, including our mother.

What seemed to ruin our plans was truly our salvation. If anyone knows me, I’m a schmoozer. I could have easily been standing in the lobby of the Chabad of Poway talking with community members that I hadn’t seen in years, with my son and nieces running around. Chas v’shalom. Instead, the “problem” removed me and my sisters from the danger, and also removed our mother from the calamity! I can’t tell you the goose bumps we all felt in my home when we heard what had happened in Poway.

Gam zu l’tovah never rang more true.

 

7 of 9 If you were asked to deliver a TED Talk watched by 50 million people, what topic would you choose to speak about? Why?

For me, it’s gotta be “Gam zu l’tovah,” hands down. It’s tough to live by but true emunah allows you to let things go. In any fast-paced creative environment, things are going to live and die at the drop of a hat so being able to move on is a must. A project you’ve been working on for months will be shelved due to any number of reasons. You have to have thick skin and just roll with it and know it’s truly all for the best.

My example leads me back to your fourth question…

 

8 of 9 Can you share a time when you had to navigate the tension between your deepest values and the business world?

Just a day in the life. An Orthodox Jew in any corporate environment will have his resolve tested on the daily, no doubt. Being in the entertainment business tends to come with an extra helping of religious difficulties. I’ve been through it all — stomach growling through lavish private dinners by Michelin-starred chefs, turning down offers to see the most desired DJs in the world, and proudly wearing a yarmulke while filming in locations where I might as well have been wearing a target… but that’s all part of the brachah.

Those tests define us and our relationship with Hashem. We’re all here to lift up sparks from the past. Within these tests also lie opportunities to bring out amazing kiddush Hashems. I’ve been able to blow the minds of a few big names in Hollywood with chassidus but at the same time have missed out on big film shoots due to Shabbat or chagim. It’s all part of our path.

Bill Bernbach, who is considered the father of creative advertising, once said, “A principle isn’t a principle until it costs you something.” Very true for me as an Orthodox Jew.

 

Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 764. Moe is the Founder & CEO of Winfluencers, an early-stage startup that empowers micro-influencers to monetize their passion.Previously, he was the Head of BizDev for Hometalk, Strategy Consultant for Deloitte, and Regional Director for the Lauder Foundation. He holds an MBA and semichah, and published his first book, The Gift of Stuttering (Mosaica Press, 2016). He also teaches a daf yomi shiur, produces inspirational videos for Aish.com, and gives lectures to audiences worldwide. Moe lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh with his wife and children.