Regions Central Virginia

J. Walter Thompson executive to lead VCU Brandcenter

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Vann Graves, a creative leader with more than 25 years of experience, has been named the new executive director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter.

The appointment is effective on Aug. 10.

Graves, a Richmond native, is chief creative officer at J. Walter Thompson in Atlanta. During his career, he, has worked with brands such as Shell Oil Co., American Airlines, Cigna, Lockheed Martin, Coke, MasterCard, the U.S. Army, AT&T, GE, M&Ms, Snickers and Visa.

The Brandcenter was named the No. 1 graduate advertising program by Creativity magazine and was the first winner of the 4A’s O’Toole award for the Best Advertising School.

More than 200 students are enrolled in the two-year, full-time master's program in one of five graduate tracks: art direction, copywriting, creative brand management, experience design and strategy.

“The decision to come to the Brandcenter was an easy one,” Graves said in a statement. “The VCU Brandcenter embodies a culture of creative thinking and craft that is second to none and as our industry continues to evolve these are the skills that will be critical for its future leaders. The reputation of the school combined with such an amazing group of talented individuals in the alumni, the faculty and staff, the board and the members of the VCU community made this a unique opportunity and one that I was immediately drawn to.” 

Graves started his career in 1993 as an intern at BBDO, where he eventually became vice president and creative director. After 9/11, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he rose to the rank of captain. Graves is a decorated combat veteran.

After seven years in the Army, Graves joined McCann WorldGroup as a vice president and creative director in 2009.

A Fulbright scholar, Graves’ work has won a number of industry honors, including Cannes Lions, London International Advertising Awards, The One Show, New York Festival, Art Directors Club Awards and Clio Awards.

He is a board member of the 4A’s and a former member of the Ad Council Creative Review Committee.

Graves holds degrees from Howard University, the Pratt Institute and Harvard University.


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