Editor’s Note: John Muszynski has spent his entire 32-year advertising career in Chicago, starting out as a media planner at Leo Burnett working on brands such as Kellogg’s and McDonalds, progressing to CEO of Starcom USA, and now serving as chief investment officer at Starcom MediaVest Group Exchange. The Ad Blog asked John about measuring results in a fragmented market, building new organizations from scratch, and sharing ad business lessons learned with students from his alma mater, Elmhurst College.
Yahoo! Ad Blog: Congratulations on receiving the Chicago Advertising Federation’s 2012 Silver Medal award. Looking back on your career, what are you proudest of? Is there anything you’d do differently?
John Muszynski: Thank you so much. It's an honor to be recognized by a community I've considered to be family for 32 years. When I look back on my career, there are really two achievements that make me proud, and both revolve around the people I've had the honor to work with over the years. It's humbling to know that I've been accepted as a business partner by many of the industry's top marketers---Kellogg, Allstate, Disney, etc.---and been able to work alongside these organizations and their leadership to help build their businesses. The second achievement that I'm most proud of is the ability to watch the people I've mentored and trained excel and become leaders of their own teams and agencies.
Now, in terms of something that I'd do differently, I'm not sure there is something I'd do differently per se, but perhaps more of ... and that is work on accelerating change in the marketplace. It's what I'm working on now and what we're doing as part of SMGx, so rather than say "do differently," I'd say "do more of" because we are certainly not done.
YAB: Starcom won several awards under your leadership, and it became known for its innovation in new metrics and accountability. With so many new marketing channels opening up, from mobile to video to social media, how can we effectively demonstrate results and show accountability?
JM: Long ago are the days when Nielsen was the only measure of success. Even as we have undergone channel fragmentation, we have seen a steady rise in the amount of data available to us. In fact, we have so much data that we can identify what is working and what isn't, often in real time. Because ultimately, our goal as marketers has not changed over the years, and we are all responsible for driving sales. That means we have to identify our KPIs before campaigns begin in order to measure success and hold all parties accountable.
YAB: When you took over the Starcom MediaVest Group Exchange, you were quoted as saying that the new organization’s goal was to “redefine how we use scale to our clients’ advantage.” How have you gone about doing that? Have you been successful?
JM: When we created SMGx back in 2009, we did so with the recognition that scale wasn't limited to dollar clout. Scale is knowledge. It's experience and technology. And we knew that we had to combine these three things for the benefit of our agencies and their clients. That was our vision from Day One, and we've certainly been successful in changing the mindset of both internal and external audiences. Our people are more prepared and knowledgeable about the marketplace, and we've been able to drive real innovation and change as a result. Our success in the addressable space is a great example of that.
YAB: You’ve led groundbreaking initiatives and built new organizations from scratch. What is your mindset and first priorities when starting something that hasn’t been done before?
JM: Before taking the first step in anything new, you need to clearly understand and define value in order to make sure that your product or service is truly needed. I've always believed that you have to design a product or service to address specific needs, and once you understand what those needs are, everything you do should drive value against them. Said another way, the most critical thing is to define your reason for being.
YAB: Every year, you deliver a lecture to an advertising class taught by a former professor at your alma mater, Elmhurst College. What hard-won wisdom do you share with the students on how to succeed in the advertising industry?
JM: There are three things that I think are necessary to ensure success in our business. First, you need to immediately recognize that "good" is not good enough. The industry is filled with a lot of pretty "good" people. You really have to go above and beyond if you're truly looking to succeed in this business. You need a little extra hustle, a little more preparation.
You also have to completely internalize and understand why our clients hire us, which is to solve their business problems. And you have to be willing and able to take an entrepreneurial approach to their big business problems. Take a step back to understand why we are really in this game. And finally, the Number One thing you need to succeed in this business is be curious. Don't just accept things as they are. Always question, "Why?" “What if?" “How come?"