Michelle Gatto Withey, ’11 B.A. Communication

by Pamela Dean

Michelle WitheyMichelle Gatto Withey didn’t always have her sights set on becoming a marketing executive. In fact, the Newbury Park native originally thought she wanted to be a talent agent. But an internship changed her mind.

“In my senior year, I took an internship in marketing at Paramount Pictures where I worked on trailers, posters, etc.,” Gatto Withey explained. “I figured it would look good on a resume and make me more well-rounded as an agent, but as it turned out, I absolutely loved the creative advertising side of the business. They offered me a full-time position once I graduated.”

She has ascended the entertainment marketing ranks ever since.

The 2011 grad who majored in Communication and minored in Business, moved from Paramount to DreamWorks Animation, then to an ad agency and finally to her current home at The Walt Disney Studios, where she is now the Director of International Creative. She oversees a team that develops all advertising materials, such as posters, billboards, trailers, TV and radio spots, mall exhibits and museum displays, used to market Disney films around the world.

It was no easy task landing a job at Disney. Gatto Withey beat out 300 applicants for her initial position as Manager of International Creative Print Services.

“Even though the numbers were stacked against me, I still went for the interviews — all four of them,” she recalled. “Through this process, I was very upfront about my skills and about my aspirations to do more than print down the road. I wanted to get back to my roots working on trailers and TV spots and beyond. I believe that showing my passion in this way is why I was offered the position. I started working with their international print team, leading campaigns like Rogue One, Pirates of the Caribbean and Star Wars to name a few.”

Gatto Withey explains her skills and dedication were quickly recognized, and she continued to hold fast to her promise of wanting more.

“I asked for more work — which to my excitement now included travel to places like Mexico City for focus groups, Philadelphia for photoshoots, or the crowning jewel — traveling to Paris to personally take Tim Burton through an exhibit I had designed about the history of his work and his upcoming film, Dumbo.”

She was eventually promoted to her current executive position where she is in charge of producing creative materials for more than 50 markets world-wide.

Gatto Withey’s advice for anyone looking to enter the entertainment marketing field includes networking, hard work, speaking up and being flexible.

“Find the time to network and find a mentor in the area you are interested in. Always take the meeting. Take the interview. Do not burn the bridge. A great reputation will always speak volumes before you even get in the door,” she advises.

“Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves—no job is beneath any of us,” she continued. “Taking the initiative is something that people will recognize and respect more than just being able to get the job done. Speak up. There is greater value in the ideas you bring to the table, than just being able to do the job.”

“Be flexible,” she added. “You never know when a ‘fallback’ opportunity will turn into the job of your dreams. It is about getting your foot in the door and showing up in the best way possible every day. You’ll be amazed how opportunity seems to follow those that work hard.”

Gatto Withey also has advice for recent graduates trying to find a job during the pandemic.

“We are in unprecedented times. Remember to take it easy on yourself. You will find a job. You will be successful. Be open to opportunities that may not 100 percent fit the mold you had in mind. You never know—the door you were reluctant to open may lead you to a greater opportunity than you ever imagined.”

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© Fall 2020 / Volume 25 / Number 2 / Biannual

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