After a year and a half, Sean Reardon has enough of a track record in running three of Publicis Media's agencies to share some insights and learnings. We recently discussed his justifiably proud moments as well as goals for impacting greater change.
E.B. Moss: Looking back at your 18 months as the CEO of three agencies, what are you most proud of? What are you most excited about on the horizon?
Sean Reardon: I'm particularly proud of the way Zenith, Moxie and MRY are each growing and thriving under the modern marketing landscape's pressures and opportunities.
At Zenith, the marketplace horsepower that has always defined us, combined with an advanced data and insights team and a content practice, has driven our evolution from a media planning and buying agency into more of a marketing "consultancy."
Moxie's embrace of a "creation" mindset coupled with a robust data and technology acumen has set the foundation for the largest growth period in our two-decade history.
MRY's ability to marry technical channel understanding with pliable creative skill has sent us on an incredible run over the last six months.
What has me most excited is that with each brand, we've only just begun…we're only in second or third gear. I honestly can't wait to see where we're able to take things as we continue to expand what we do and refine how we do it. Gears four and five should be quite exhilarating.
Moss: What has surprised you most or what have you found most challenging?
Reardon: As a CEO, leadership can be lonely, which is something I probably underestimated. While I'm in the position of overseeing over 1,600 people, my ability to go deep into conversations consistently is challenged by the planes, trains and automobile rides that often consume my days.
I feed off the energy of people, so my resolve has been to go deep into one to two projects a week with our teams. This keeps my mind sharper and maintains my closeness to client businesses and most importantly, to our organizations' lifeblood: Our people.
Moss: Looking ahead, where do you think the marketing industry is going? What challenges will marketers – both agency and brand side – face?
Reardon: It's not the future itself that's a mystery so much as the timing of it. Marketing will be increasingly personal, mobile, tech-enabled and data-enhanced. In accordance, the scenes of Minority Report are probably not that far off from the reality of our industry's future-state, but will it be realized in 2054, or 2020?
I think the big challenge everyone is facing is how to evolve at the right pace for their brand and for their clients. Old things may not work as they once did, but they are not "dead" as we so often state…Similarly, new things will be increasingly available to us as marketers, but let's not be too quick to proclaim, "Eureka!"
Determining the right pace of evolution is probably the single most critical challenge we're all facing. It goes without saying: Those that get their timing right will be at an advantage over those that don't.
Moss: Focusing on talent, what kind of employees are you looking for today? What skills do you think the best marketers will need for tomorrow?
Reardon: Our approach here is guided by three things:
Moss: How are you preparing your agency to support and foster this kind of talent? What programs are in place or do you think are needed?
Reardon: All the organizations I oversee are committed to driving equality and diversity in our business, as demonstrated by our participation in initiatives like Verizon AdFellows, the AdPr program and Advertising for Change. We aren't simply hiring amazing, diverse people, we're participating in programs that positively impact our future industry make up.
In terms of diversifying skill sets, Publicis Media's Trainee Program successfully provides a pipeline of new talent with new-world skill sets: Nearly 50% of our current employees are Trainee Program graduates. While we once focused our recruiting efforts on universities' business and communications programs, we've expanded to include engineering, statistical and design fields. The result is a much more diverse group of entry-level employees.
Moss: We've heard that you love sports/move analogies. Can you use one of these to describe the future of agencies?
Reardon: I use this one all the time…the future of our industry will be akin to the evolution of an NFL offense. We're evolving from days of drawing plays in the dirt to days of running advanced "west coast offenses" with 90-plus plays per game called from the coaches' booth, but audibled and read-optioned in real time on the field based on scores, circumstances and how the defense lines up.
Just as the goal in football remains to get the ball in the end zone, the goal in marketing is still to connect with consumers in meaningful and impacting ways. However, the method by which we get there is radically more developed and complex than ever before, creating both challenge and opportunity. I'm a Patriots fan…we tend to see the opportunity.
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