Last year, David Berkowitz joined as MRY’s chief marketing officer. David is a prolific public speaker and writer, having written more than 500 bylines for outlets such as Advertising Age, The Economist, and Mashable.
As they prepare to attend this year’s Cannes Lions, I thought there was no better time to publish our first Agency Innovators interview profiling TWO champions of digital marketing at one of today’s fastest-rising agencies in the space. I sat down with the two men to discuss the agency’s success and their strong desire to create something bigger.
Matt: We’ve continued to evolve the business and its positioning over the years. We started out very tactical with a focus on event-based marketing, and we created a software platform called RepNation, which allowed us to scale measurement and management of these programs. But I think the upside to that business would have been limited.
Luckily, a couple of students at the Ivy League schools asked us to work with Facebook. So, we reached out to the founding team at Facebook and actually were able to work with them to place some of their first brand advertisements and to help spread brand content online.
That started a whole journey for our business that slowly would pivot us away from just being a marketing company and to a company that was really focused on helping brands create word-of-mouth buzz.
Matt: The way that we’ve been able to do this over the years is by putting young people in a position to make decisions and have authority at levels that are way above their traditional experience level. But it’s about finding people who you trust, with great intuition, who get it, and then actually putting them out there to let them succeed—without having to climb the corporate ladder, so to speak. Remove the linear path. And when you do that, it makes people feel empowered, it makes people feel excited, and it makes people want to create and innovate for you.
David: I’ll add to that. Maybe more than anyone else at this agency, I’m exposed to this extraordinary level of talent and passion that people have. I get to work with people from every department, and I don’t care what job title someone has; I don’t care how many years out of school you are. Let’s see what you can do—that’s the attitude here, and that’s why we have a lot of people who’ve taken on some really impressive roles within this agency.
David: Well, what I only realized very recently was that I got into content marketing before I knew what it was or before anyone knew what it was. I mean, that was actually the whole idea for me starting my career. I always wanted to write, but I didn’t have that passion for journalism. I didn’t want to be writing obituaries for local papers for five years.
And so that’s why I joined a startup as a tech writer, when I didn’t know what a tech writer was. When I moved to iCrossing, I was able to keep writing a lot. Here we are, 500 columns later. Little did I know that I’d be at the forefront of content marketing 15 years ago, but that’s exactly how it was.
Today, a big reason I joined MRY was because I’m excited to build on a culture of ideas that change how people think about the ad business. We’re doing it by creating opportunities for our team’s voices to be heard, and starting a process of getting exposure for them. Overall, that’s been a great way to market the agency.
People ultimately know us by our talent and our work, and so I get to focus on both.
Matt: Brands need the right perspective on content. There’s a lot of talk about real-time marketing, but our perspective is that real-time marketing is already too late. Those opportunities are, first of all, relatively limited. And secondly, [they are] characterized as reactive, not proactive. So, we’re working with brands that want to be ahead of curve when it comes to content. They want to be ahead of what people are saying, and they want to be the ones that are inspiring what others are talking about.
Also, you need the right perspective as a creative. At MRY, our creative teams respect that our analytics and media folks are going to get their work seen, and as such, that they’re going to make sure that their work matters. In order to do things that people really will be talking about and sharing, and that matter in some way to consumers, then content analytics and creative have to continue to come together.
Matt: As a leader, strive to put people in an environment where they can take initiative. The result is, you’ll see employees taking initiative and being ferocious in support of those initiatives. Let people carve their own path at your organization. When you do that, then your company will grow in ways that you have never imagined.
David: I enjoyed the chance to give the commencement address at my alma mater in December around the theme of, “What are you making of yourself?”
But I think that if there is such an opportunity, think about what you’re making of yourself. What you’re making of the place you work, of the relationships you have, and just constantly striving to add some level of meaning to it, and I think that’s just a constant opportunity. So, to be able to wake up each day and ask, “What are you making of yourself?” is daunting. But also, it can add a bit of perspective that at least we’re ready to embrace the world in a new way.