Alumni Spotlights

Jack Essig, '92: Intrigued by the Power of the Media

December 16, 2011 by Lisa McMahon, MA'09

Jack Essig, '92, loves what he does. It's apparent in the energy and enthusiasm with which he describes his job, his sales and marketing team, and his community service activities. And it's one of the keys to his success. The others? A supportive wife and a strong work ethic that has propelled him to the position of senior vice president and publisher of Men's Health and Women's Health magazines and websites, responsible for advertising sales and marketing for the two brands.

“I've always liked magazines, advertising, and media,” Jack says. “The idea of influencing millions of people and the power of the media intrigued me.”

Jack got his start as a sales/marketing coordinator at a weekly trade publication in Manhattan. He sought out opportunities to go beyond his job duties, earning the notice of his supervisor and a promotion to a junior sales position eight months later. His trajectory to his current role at the bestselling (single copy) men's magazine included launching Bob Vila's American Home magazine for Hearst Publications and positions with Traditional Home and Men's Journal Magazine. He joined Men's Health 10 years ago as advertising director and was promoted to associate publisher just two years later. In 2005, he was named to his current position, taking on the additional roles of senior vice president and publisher of Women's Health in 2009.

Like many in the industry, Jack is spending much of his time investigating the opportunities presented by the changing media landscape and developing content for readers who get their information in a variety of ways. One of his most recent projects was developing an advertising program to launch Gatorade's G Series Fit low-calorie beverage that combined traditional advertising avenues as well as newer ones like webisodes (video that appears on the Internet rather than on broadcast or cable television).

“It's an exciting time to be in media, but with that comes a learning curve,” he says. “It's a whole new ballgame. The way our jobs are evolving is making all of us step out of our comfort zones. There's something exhilarating about that.”

One of the most successful initiatives Jack has launched on the event front is the Men's Health Urbanathlon, a signature event that extended the brand to a first-of-its-kind race platform. Introduced in 2006 in New York City and later expanded to Chicago and San Francisco, the Urbanathlon incorporates iconic city landmarks into the race, including the staircases at 7 World Trade Center in New York City and the bleachers in Soldier Field.

“It's really taken off,” Jack says, noting that he has participated in each of the Urbanathlons. “Thirty thousand racers from 34 states participate, from weekend warriors to elite athletes. Our readers love it because it is a completely different race experience and requires unconventional training.”

Proceeds from the event go to the Challenged Athletes Foundation, an organization that provides opportunities and support to people with physical disabilities so they can pursue active lifestyles through physical fitness and competitive athletics. Jack, who serves on the foundation's council, calls the people it serves “the most inspiring group of individuals I've ever worked with.”

Jack also mixes business with service as a member of the National Father's Day Committee, using Men's Health as a forum to recognize “everyday” fathers as “All-Star Dads” alongside celebrity dads at the Annual Father of the Year Awards in New York City.

Although he hesitates to call himself a triathlete, Jack participates in several such races each year, including the Malibu Triathlon and the South Beach Triathlon, which are sponsored by Men's Health and Women's Health. “It's one way I live the brand,” he says.

Since Essig has been at the helm, Women's Health was named Advertising Age's 2009 “Magazine of the Year” and both Men's Health and Women's Health were named to Adweek's annual Hot List. In 2007, Essig was named to Advertising Age's prestigious “40 Under 40” list that recognizes excellence in the publishing industry. He has also been honored by Media Industry Newsletter at its annual Sales Executive of the Year Awards.

Jack credits these accomplishments to a team that shares his passion and conviction for the brands and a supportive wife (Kathy Smith, '93) who takes care of things at home, including their four daughters, so that he can stay focused on work. Even with this strong support system, balance is sometimes elusive for Jack. He notes that although he sometimes must accept quality time over quantity time, he prioritizes weekly family dinners, kids sports, and date nights with Kathy. “I'm no different than any other busy dad,” he says. “What I work hardest at is keeping balance.”

Despite the challenges of career and family, Jack loves what he does and is aware of the impact he has on his readers. “I've been incredibly blessed,” he says. “I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunities I've had. We change people's lives for the better everyday.”

Update: In July 2011, Jack Essig was   named to the position of publishing director and chief revenue officer of Esquire. Read more about it here.