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Meet a DEMAN Keynote Speaker:
Detavio Samuels (Trinity ’02) of iONE Digital

Published By Alex Sanchez Bressler / published on: October 26, 2018

Samuels will be part of the keynote conversation during Duke’s DEMAN Weekend at 7pm in the Nasher Museum of Art on Friday, November 2.

says: Who is DEMAN? Meet a keynote speaker for DEMAN Arts & Media Weekend 2018
Detavio Samuels (Trinity '02) is the President of iONE Digital at UrbanOne

Detavio Samuels is the president of iONE Digital at UrbanOne, the nation’s largest distributor of urban content in the country. At the age of 37, Samuels is one of corporate America’s youngest executives and has helped some of the world’s biggest companies (such as Walmart, Chrysler LLC, NBA and Johnson & Johnson) build their brands and connect to consumers. He is also the President of One Solution, where he oversees the company’s cross-platform sales and integrated marketing groups. He also oversees OneX, the firm’s branded content arm, which was conceived and built by Samuels from the ground up. He is a keynote speaker for Duke’s 2018 DEMAN Arts & Media Weekend (Nov 2-3).

Q+A with Detavio Samuels

We asked students to submit questions to our DEMAN keynote speakers. Here are Samuels’ responses. 

Q: Can you point out a pivotal moment in your career where you knew you were doing what you wanted to do?

Detavio Samuels: During the second semester of my senior year at Duke, I took a marketing course that changed everything. Prior to that class, I was able to get good grades with minimal effort, which is exactly what I did since I wasn’t passionate about any classes. Then, this marketing course came along.  I had never been so interested in a subject. Never before had I wanted to read a required text the whole way through. When I discovered marketing as a subject matter, I saw my soul light on fire and made the decision to follow the path it lit for me. Later on down the road, after working at an advertising agency for several years, I grew bored with creating thirty second commercials. We had a great client at Chrysler who encouraged us to push the envelope. We tried everything from making a mini movie with Lenny Kravitz promoting Jeep, to putting vehicles in music videos of artists like 50 Cent and will.i.am. After working with this client, a new light came on. I grew excited about the world of branded entertainment. So I left the agency world and it led me to where I am today.

I welcome opportunities to fail because it means that I am stretching my limits. I get excited about the new wisdom I will have on the other side of my failure.

Q: What are one or two of the best mistakes or impactful lessons you have learned in your career?

DS: One of the best lessons I ever learned is that failure is a necessary and natural part of the journey to success. We need the pain of failure to help us learn new lessons and build wisdom for our future successes.  The problem is never that you failed. The problem may be that you failed and didn’t build the resilience to overcome similar challenges. Alternatively, the problem may be that you failed and didn’t learn the lessons you were supposed to learn. Again, the problem is never in failure itself. Failure is one of our best teachers. Today, I welcome opportunities to fail because it means that I’m stretching my limits. I get excited about the new wisdom I will have on the other side of my failure.

Q: For students interested in working in creative industries, what would you tell them makes the best employee or intern? What do you look for when hiring?

DS: Above all, I look for hustle and a proven track record in a relevant field. The chances of someone knowing how to do the job fresh out of college are pretty low. Consequently, employers are not betting on existing knowledge or skills. Instead, they’re betting on finding someone with real work ethic who can point to wins in areas of their own life where they do have experience—such as school, sports, and more. Show me someone who has harnessed a talent to put up a win and who won’t stop until they climb the learning curve, and I’ll be willing to hire and train them to do the job.

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