Jo-Anne Ebensteiner brings extensive brand and digital experience to her roles as the new president of the Thorburn Group, a Minneapolis-based brand agency.

Ebensteiner oversees the agency’s creative and client teams as well as daily operations. She’s also working with CEO and executive creative officer Bill Thorburn and Patrick Weas, chief operating officer and executive strategy officer, to lead the agency as it adds capabilities to drive growth.

“It’s no surprise that the agency is starting to expand a little more strongly into social media and digital strategy work particularly with clients like colleges and universities who appeal to a younger target segment,” Ebensteiner said.

Those younger segments are of particular interest because Thorburn Group is part of Stamats Communications Inc., an Iowa-based company that does marketing and research for the higher education market.

She most recently was chief brand officer for lifestyle apparel brand company Coolibar. Her experience includes roles as senior vice president, global chief creative officer at Carlson Marketing Worldwide; senior vice president, group creative director at Martin Williams; and senior vice president, executive creative director at McCann/Campbell Mithun. Joining the Thorburn Group marks a return to the agency work that Ebensteiner said is in her DNA. “People who have grown up on the agency side like a variety of clients and categories and challenges,” she said.

Q: How are your skills complementary to those of Thorburn and Weas?

A: Bill has a great reputation for beautiful, elegant, significant and meaningful design work. Pat is a brand strategist, great at finding the heart and soul of a brand. I bring bigger, broader brand shoulders, creatively speaking, as well as having a strong digital background.


Q: Why should a brand work with the Thorburn Group?

A: Anyone who has worked with the agency would say they have a very strong reputation and acute sense for zeroing in on the emotional connection and that’s the big driver today. You think about what motivates millennials and they have an increased desire to have an authentic dialogue and relationship with companies that they buy services or products from. This agency has always focused on creating that emotional connection. It’s more relevant today than ever.


Q: Do you see your hiring as part of the rise of women in leadership at agencies here?

A: I’d like to think that all women get opportunities for leadership based on their capabilities first. There is a shift in being more open to having people in leadership roles that come from all kinds of diverse backgrounds, women being one of them. It’s opening up the door to diversity. It’s wonderful because it brings different viewpoints.

Todd Nelson