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May 18, 2005
Profiling Tomorrow's Media Leaders

Within a sector of the marketing industry that—some would say—is shaping the advertising models of tomorrow, Starcom has always been a media agency that prides itself on looking forward. I guarantee you no agency reaping success today got where it is without peering a bit into the future, but these days, when industry-changing trends occur more frequently than ever, an ability to look into the future has never been more vital and essential to survival.

Today’s media leaders have already demonstrated this sort of media precognition, and the tomorrow’s leaders will develop this knack the same way current leaders have: by relying on a lot of personal values that could certainly be called “old school.” Below is a breakdown of some qualities that make for good leaders on a personal level, which leads to stamina on an organizational level.

Be a Team Player
You’ve heard it a million times before: “There’s no ‘I’ in team.” Well, the fact is that there is an "I" in media, but it had better refer to individual dedication to team goals if it’s going to be a career benefit. The fact is, it is up to YOU as to ensure that you’re doing your part to open up collaborative communication, seek feedback and cuts through the ambiguity to get to the heart of things.

Sharing in all things is key to the betterment of the whole. Not only should you share your talents, knowledge, resources and manpower to get things done, but you should also share your mistakes and the lessons you learned from those mistakes. All this honesty is what makes the team dynamic transparent; when you can see how all the pieces work in the machine, it’s always easier to make the machine work harder, or to fix it when it’s broken.

In the end, it’s also up to YOU to lead through example. This sort of behavior improves more than just internal operations. A main challenge for media agencies these days is to push the envelope to develop emerging contact points. When you’ve helped make your team into a well-oiled machine that has confidence in its capabilities, clients are more inclined to follow your lead on some tough decisions.

Prove your commitment
The top media leaders of today are people who’ve carved out a real niche for themselves. They’ve shown a knack for mastering a particular contact point; or perhaps they’ve learned to negotiate unheard of deals that leave both sides of the table as winners; or maybe they’ve simply shown a very human understand of why consumers make the decisions they do.

The point is that now that you’re a part of the team, be prepared to do your part. Find your strength and find out what you really bring to the table. If you can come to appreciate your own talent and your own place in the scheme of things, you’ll never ashamed to sign his/her name to the work you’ve done.

Bear in mind that for the media agency, commitment also means never saying “that’s not my job description.” It used to not be in media’s job description to lead behavioral studies or handle account management duties for clients. Now, going above and beyond previous roles has given us a weightier and more impressive job description as a company than we’ve ever had.

Be a diplomat
A true diplomat earns respect and nurtures his or her credibility and does not alienate people. They understand that allowing people graceful “outs” is good practice, because it doesn’t cost anything to be courteous. I can’t stress the importance of diplomacy in the media agency industry enough, in that it’s partnership that is our key to progress as an advertising function.

Look at what vendor relationships can yield when diplomacy is applied to the relationship. Sure, there are many example of great media investment that happened as a result of a media agency accommodated by a vendor willing to try something new. But sometimes, media vendors will develop the idea first and bring it to you first because they know you value what they bring to the table.

And it’s always been plain to see that the very best client relationships are built on mutual respect. Anyone who’s spent a considerable amount of time at a media agency—or any advertising agency—knows what exciting things can happen when client and agency act as valued partners. In this respect, the graceful "outs" are important because we’re taking a lot of risks together. We remember, but we forgive, because building the future requires risk and experimentation.

In short, tomorrow’s pioneers will recognize that the personal virtues and behavioral disciplines that have yielded great things in the present are the sort of things that prime organizations for success in the years to come. Embrace these sorts of ethical and collaborative traits, and watch how many media innovators end up following your lead.

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John Muszynski is the CEO of Starcom USA. He brings 23 years of industry experience and sharp strategic and negotiation skills, to his new position. You might not be familiar with John, but his work affects everything we see and hear in the ad world, which makes his voice one we should pay attention to.

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