Jenn Petell: Insights Genius
Jenn Petell Kid Picture
Jenn Petell, Insights Genius

Smarty Pants was thrilled to add distinguished industry veteran Michael Desmarais to its talent roster in May of 2021. As one of the company’s newest vice presidents, Michael guides Smarty Pants’ top food & beverage, toy & game, entertainment, and healthcare clients through their most pressing business challenges. From front-end innovation research to strategic consulting on marketing best practices, he applies his business and consumer expertise across industry, lifestage and business need.

Michael has been leading consumer insights research for more than 20 years on both the supplier and client sides. His skills span qualitative, quantitative, mixed-method and strategy, and his DNA is equal parts thinker, doer and leader.  He is a roll-up-your-sleeves professional who is a phenomenal moderator, data analyst and client partner. (Did we mention he’s one of our former clients?)    

Michael’s contributions extend far beyond his leadership of consumer research initiatives. As the company’s “Strategy Savant,” he also plays a role in guiding Smarty Pants’ continued business growth. His research, innovation and organizational insights are helping the Smarty Pants attract and retain the best talent, improve diversity, enhance creative offerings, refine operations and ensure the company’s culture remains unchanged.

Before joining Smarty Pants, Michael spent more than 13 years at ViacomCBS in senior positions across multiple brands and on two coasts. His most recent position was as vice president at Paramount Pictures where he was responsible for designing, executing and implementing market research and consumer insights for all of the studio’s domestic motion picture releases. Prior, he led consumer insights and strategy across some of the company’s leading entertainment brands including MTV, VH1, CMT and LOGO. His leadership was inclusive of program testing, consumer lifestyle studies, brand tracking studies, advertising effectiveness and social media monitoring.

Michael began his media and research career as a Strategic Planner at DMB&B Advertising, which merged with Leo Burnett Group and was later acquired by the Publicis Groupe. He went on to be a planner at Grey Advertising before assuming the title of director at branding, naming and design giant Interbrand, where his client roster included Microsoft, Hallmark, Sony, Wrigley, Nissan, JPMorgan Chase and more. After stints at Interbrand’s New York and London offices, Michael joined the team at Henley Centre HeadlightVision (now part of Kantar). His interdisciplinary research and strategic consulting included work with Coca-Cola, Diageo, Unilever, Nautica and Coty.  

Michael earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Catholic University and his master’s in integrated marketing communications from Northwestern University.

Born and raised in Rhode Island, Michael has lived in Washington, DC, Chicago, New York City and London.  He and his partner currently reside in Los Angeles with their beagle/dachshund/chihuahua mix, Bob.  He is a proud member of Smarty Pants’ expanding West Coast team.


Fun Facts

  • An amateur crime fighter in college, he worked as McGruff the Crime Dog and gave congressional staffers tours of federal prisons
  • Avid tennis player and fan who was able to fulfill his life-long dream of sitting at Centre Court at Wimbledon
  • Has visited over 20 countries and has fantasies of moving to Japan to become a wood carver
  • Loves podcasts of all kinds, particularly pop culture and politics
  • Has happily spent hundreds of hours talking to reality TV fans dissecting their favorite shows
Ken Clark, Insights MastermindAnne Knight, Insights Genius