1. My name is Jason Wesley Oke. The Oke part is an old English spelling of “oak” as in the tree (and is pronounced that way), but people often think I’m Nigerian, Japanese, or Finnish. Which is to say I inevitably disappoint most people on first meeting. The Wesley comes from Charles Wesley, a founder of the Methodist Christian movement and composer of many well-known hymns (well-known if you’re the Methodist church-going type). He was no relation, I just had ancestors who were really active in the Methodist church and wanted to honour him, and the name somehow became a family tradition. The Jason my parents thought would be unusual name, but then it became the 3rd most popular name the year I was born, and I was one of 6 Jasons in my grade one class of 24 kids. Funny how that happens.
2. I’m originally from Toronto, Canada. But I’ve also lived in Asia and Europe. Now I live in a suburb of Chicago called Winnetka. You really should come visit.
3. I have a lovely and patient wife, two rambunctious daughters, a chilled-out son, two cats, and a dog with anxiety and gender identity issues (no, really).
4. I spent the first part of my career in marketing as a strategic planner, which involves helping companies think about their strategies for communicating, and understanding the motivations and behaviour that leads people to like brands and buy things. I really enjoyed doing it. I’ve worked at large multi-national firms and startup boutiques, done freelance consulting work, and started my own consulting partnership. Along the way I’ve been lucky enough to work with clients like Coca-Cola, Pepsico, Kellogg’s, Frito-Lay, Nintendo, Wrigley’s, Quaker, Starbucks, P&G, Unilever and Colgate. In 2012 I made the leap into corporate management, despite my protestations that I was horribly unqualified for the job.
5. I’ve always told people I stumbled into advertising by accident: I literally started in the mail room. But I realized recently that I’ve actually been in communications for a long time. I was in a baby clothes commercial when I was a baby (apparently I was fussy, bored easily, and didn’t take direction well – not a lot has changed). Then I was editor of my elementary school newspaper, started a sports newspaper in high school, edited yearbooks in both high school and university, played in many bands, and briefly experimented with DJ’ing. So I guess my connection to media runs deeper than I ever really acknowledged. In hindsight it all seems so obvious.
6. I seem to talk a lot – presenting to clients, speaking at conferences, teaching marketing courses, debating minor points of cultural trivia. But I still find it odd because I used to be quite shy. I could barely make eye contact until university.
7. I’m a classically trained tuba and piano player. I used to play in national youth orchestras. Then I stopped and haven’t touched one in 25 years.
8. I make a good beet risotto. My paella is pretty good too.
9. I’m a poor but enthusiastic dancer, and an embarassing but not-infrequent karaoke performer. I do a pretty good Don’t Stop Believin’, and my rendition of Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love Of All” has brought down the house on a few occasions. And for the record: yes, I do believe the children are the future.