USC Annenberg alumna Adrienne Cadena.
Twitter / Havas Formula

Adrienne Cadena: The value in learning through experience

Adrienne Cadena received a PR Week 40 Under 40 award.
Twitter / Havas Formula

USC Annenberg alumna and vice president of Havas Street, Adrienne Cadena, was recently named one of PRWeek’s “40 under 40.”

The 30-year-old executive has worked in the experiential marketing division of Havas Formula since it was launched in 2009, and has turned it into their most profitable division.

Despite her tremendous success, Cadena is the first to admit that much of her career has been defined by learning through experience. When she graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in communication in 2006, Cadena said she wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to do.

“I liked the communication field and the fact that [my] degree gave me a wide variety of options to choose from,” she said. “I think I tried to remain open to what opportunities came my way.”

That philosophy landed her a job at public relations firm Formula — now known as Havas Formula after being acquired by Havas in 2014 — where she’s worked ever since. Having had little experience in public relations when she started, she had a lot to learn on the job.

“Acting like a sponge, having a positive attitude and never passing up a task, no matter how small or challenging, allowed me to gain more and more confidence,” she said.

Cadena’s efforts paid off in 2009, around the time she completed her Master’s degree in communication management at USC Annenberg. She was asked to take over the fledgling marketing division Formula Street, which would become known as Havas Street.

As vice president of the division, Cadena works with a team of 15 to manage a portfolio of consumer and lifestyle brands. Their clients include household names like Heineken USA and Dunkin’ Donuts, as well as newer additions such as Popcorn Indiana and Fox Hispanic Media. The Havas Street team helps these companies promote their brand’s existing and new products through careful consumer consideration.

“We focus on creating programs that establish an emotional connection between a brand and a consumer through an unforgettable experience,” she said.

Cadena said the most exciting part of her job is constantly looking for ways to improve her division’s effectiveness through implementing new ideas and bringing in new companies.

While she’s honed her craft over the last 10 years at the company, she also credits USC Annenberg with providing invaluable guidance in strategic thinking and public speaking, both of which she employs daily.

“We are constantly presenting to clients, prospects, internal team members and other valued partners,” she said.  

Cadena also recently joined the Board of Advisors at the USC Center for Public Relations.

Her advice to young people aspiring to work in public relations is to create the opportunities they want and be persistent.

“Great work doesn’t go unnoticed, so if you stay humble and produce quality work, the accolades, promotions and rewards will come in time,” she added.