Sandy Rubinstein, CEO at DXagency, started her career though an unusual route. Classically trained as an opera singer, she pursued a dual major of music and business in college. "I took all of these business and marketing courses while I was taking music courses," she recently told me. "In the evenings, I would be performing at an opera and in the daytime, I might be studying accounting. But it was great because it gave me a broad sense of the possibilities."
From college she entered the music business, moved to music TV, then to a range of cable networks including Sci Fi, Nick-At-Nite and Lifetime Networks before moving into the agency world at DXagency. "I always hired agencies while at the network -- digital agencies, a creative agency, a traditional media buying planning agency -- so I was always exposed to the agency from a client side," she said. "I started consulting for DX after Lifetime and that is how the evolution happened."
Charlene Weisler: As someone who was a fine arts major in college and has an MBA in the arts, I have often felt that studying liberal arts was a valuable asset in the business world. Do you agree?
Sandy Rubinstein: I do a lot of work in education, sitting on two school boards and running a non-profit in education. I hear that "we have to focus on STEM" but you can't leave the arts out of it. It is such a critical piece of that puzzle and people forget that the composition of music is math, and that visual art has such an impact on being able to offer creative, and creative has an impact on media. It all ties together. People underestimate the value of the arts but if you understand the arts you have a deeper understanding of all of the opportunities.
Charlene: What would you say are the biggest changes in the media industry since you first started?
Sandy: The biggest change is the amount of data we use now to inform our decisions. When I first started, it was more about creativity, shooting from the hip and trying things because you knew in your heart would be the right path. Now I still have that same sensibility but I need to back it up with data with measureables. Data has changed the way we market and advertise.
Charlene: Do you think data "cramps" creative?
Sandy: One thousand percent! In the past I would bring an ad campaign to a client and say, "This is going to be great. It will move you," and that would be that. Now I take a campaign to a client and the first thing out of their mouth is, "Did you test this? What do you think the measureables are?" There is so much more analysis. We've become overly data-reliant.
Charlene: Where do you see the industry going in the next three to five years?
Sandy: The consumption of content is going to continue to evolve and that is going to bring greater challenges with a fragmented consumer -- targeting them and getting messages out. We are just at the beginning stages of this. I believe that over the next five to ten years the landscape will be completely different, which is scary but a reality.
Charlene: So how can an agency best prepare?
Sandy: Most are not preparing. Media shops are going to suffer the most because they opened digital arms and said "we are digital now" -- but digital is no longer another vertical. Digital is a marketing channel. It's the mainstream. To remain competitive, we have to think about how we can micro-target our customers because there won't be a way to macro anymore.
Charlene: What are your thoughts about mentorship?
Sandy: I was fortunate to have a teacher in high school who helped me down my life path. I tell everybody that it takes one person the change your world. She was focused on sending me to music school. She taught me how to read music. She drove me to the interviews and the auditions. I am where I am today because of her. Changing one person's path is huge. That is why I feel that mentoring is so important. I currently mentor two high school students. I mentor University of Miami grad students in business. I try to mentor different people in their careers whether they have worked for me or not. Having someone to be a sounding board to get perspective from someone who has been there is so important and helpful.
Charlene: So with all of your work, how do you achieve life balance?
Sandy: It's a daily struggle and you just have to look at it every day and say, "I did my best today. Tomorrow is another day and I will try my best tomorrow." I think everybody struggles with balance. When I come home at night, I put my phone by the front door and that time from when I get home to when my kids go to sleep, that is my family time. I can get back on my phone later and check emails but everything has to have its time and place. When you try to do too many things at once, you do nothing well.
Charlene: What advice would you give to a college student today for a career in media?
Sandy: Do it because you really have a passion and love it. Don't do it because you think you are going to get rich and famous. That goes for any industry. Kids come out of school with a false sense of reality, thinking they are going to make Kardashian money with their own YouTube channel. The most important advice I give people is to find something that you are really passionate about because then it is not work and then it becomes something that you really enjoy.
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